In Britain, women have the right to decide whether or not they want to continue or terminate a pregnancy up to 24 weeks. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Ireland. On the 28th of October 2012, Savita Halappanavar died from E-Coli and septicaemia p …

Samantha Ritchie

In Britain, women have the right to decide whether or not they want to continue or terminate a pregnancy up to 24 weeks. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Ireland. On the 28th of October 2012, Savita Halappanavar died from E-Coli and septicaemia poisoning of the blood after being denied a termination of her pregnancy.

Savita Halappanavar attended the University Hospital Galway (UHG) on the 21st of October 2012. While at the hospital she was told that she would miscarry her child. For days after Savita Halappanavar was in excruciating pain urging doctors to end the pregnancy, but unfortunately as the fetus still had a heart beat, the doctors refused to end the pregnancy.  Savita’s ordeal highlights why legislation needs to change in Ireland.

In 2009, the European Union declared that an absolute ban on abortion in Ireland is a breach of women’s human rights.Europe ruled that if there were exceptional and rare circumstances in which it would risk the child’s life if the woman continued her pregnancy she should be permitted to terminate. It states that “rare complications can arise where therapeutic intervention (including termination of a pregnancy) is required at a stage when, due to extreme immaturity of the baby, there may be little or no hope of the baby surviving.” This piece of legislation is extremely vague and begs the question that at what point is a fetus experiencing ‘extreme immaturity?’

Savita was 17 weeks pregnant.  Through modern technology you can begin to hear the heart beat of a fetus between 10 – 12 weeks. But, it is not uncommon for a woman not to hear the heart beat at this point. The fetus would not survive from 17 weeks as it is no where near developed to function as a being. Savita was told that she would miscarry the fetus and it had no hope in surviving yet, doctors continued to make decisions over her body and dictate how her pregnancy was going to end, and it certainly wasn’t a termination. Furthermore, when Savita pleaded with the hospital she was allegedly told “this is a Catholic country.”

In Britain, over three quarters of the public support a women’s right to make her own decision when it comes to abortion. However, in Britain, abortion is not available on the request of the women. If a woman decides to terminate her pregnancy she must persuade two doctors to agree to her decision on the basis of restrictive legal criteria. Worryingly, this allows doctors to veto, delay or obstruct a woman who wants to terminate her pregnancy.

Having a child is a big decision for any women and this decision is not taken lightly by anyone. The topic of abortion is an extremely emotive subject for many different groups within society. But, if a woman’s or baby’s health is at risk is it morally right to continue the pregnancy? Savita was told by a doctor that she was going to miscarry her child due to medical circumstances. Yet, she was left for days in agonizing pain and eventually died due to other people making the decision over her body.


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Samantha Ritchie