Ireland to clarify abortion rules after Indian woman's death

Savita death

Ireland's government pledged on Thursday to clarify its abortion laws after an Indian woman who was refused a termination died from blood poisoning in an Irish hospital.

Thousands took to the streets to protest on Wednesday after news broke of the death of Savita Halappanavar of septicaemia following a miscarriage 17 weeks into her pregnancy.

Activists in the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country, which has some of the world's most restrictive laws on abortion, say the refusal by doctors to terminate the pregnancy earlier may have contributed to her death.

I was deeply disturbed yesterday by what Savita's husband said. I don't think as a country we should allow a situation where women's rights are put at risk in this way, Deputy Prime Minister Eamon Gilmore told parliament on Thursday.

There is no question of equivocation. We need to bring legal clarity to this issue and that is what we are going to do.

Irish law does not specify under what circumstances the threat to the life or health of the mother is high enough to justify a termination, leaving doctors to decide. Critics say this means doctors' personal beliefs can play a role.

Halappanavar was admitted to hospital in severe pain on Oct. 21 and asked for a termination after doctors told her the baby would not survive, according to her husband Praveen.

The foetus was surgically removed when its heartbeat stopped days later, but her family believes the delay contributed to the blood poisoning that killed Halappanavar on Oct. 28.

Praveen said he would wait for the results of an investigation before deciding whether to sue, but that Ireland's Roman Catholic tradition appeared to have been a factor in the decision to deny a termination.

I am still in shock. It is hard to believe that religion can mean somebody's life, Praveen Halappanavar told Reuters. He said he planned to return to Ireland from India, where he travelled with his wife's body.

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