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Massive majority amongst Irish to make abortions legal: here's all you need to know about the case of the Indian dentist which led to this

Binjal Shah
29th May 2018
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For the historic vote that led to a landslide victory, Irish natives flew back to their homeland from all over the world. Together, overwhelmingly, they voted “yes” in favour of repealing the archaic and oftentimes fatal eighth amendment, which prohibited abortion – a law that has no place in the 21st century where pro-choice women campaigners all over the world are settling for nothing lesser than complete autonomy over their bodies.

A memorial erected in the name of Savita Halappanavar, the woman whose death upon being denied an abortion sparked a nationwide movement | Image courtesy: Getty Images

When the new law comes into effect, abortions will be allowed up to 12 weeks in – and in certain special circumstances, like cases of fatal foetal abnormality, or a risk to the mother’s life or health – terminations can also be performed on 23-week pregnancies.

Furthermore, this new law, which, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar aims to set in motion by the end of this year, may be named after Savita Halappanavar, the Indian dentist who became the symbol of this revolution when she died after being denied an abortion.

Andanappa Yalagi, Savita’s father, seeks this tribute considering that this conversation gained maximum mileage in the aftermath of the medical misadventure their family was a victim of. Finally feeling as though the country had done right by his daughter and that justice had been delivered, he told the the Irish Times , “We’ve got justice for Savita and what happened to her will not happen to any other family now. I have no words to express my gratitude to the people of Ireland at this historic moment. We have one last request, that the new law, that it is called ‘Savita’s law’. It should be named for her.”

Savita Halappanavar’s medical misadventure played out over a span of seven days – ending in her heartbreaking demise. The 31-year-old dentist went to the University Hospital Galway with her husband when she was 17-weeks-pregnant, when she felt that something was amiss. Even though the medical staff there determined that a miscarriage was inevitable, they repeatedly refused to terminate her pregnancy, which was swiftly gaining toxicity and causing sepsis in her body – in spite of the requests of the couple. This snowballed into an infection as a result of ruptured membranes – something the medics failed to detect and mitigate, eventually sending her into septic shock and cardiac arrest a week later.

In the inquiry that followed, it was concluded that the “over-emphasis on the need not to intervene until the foetal heart had stopped” is what led to the mishap, even as Praveen Halappanavar revealed to the media that they were told “this is a Catholic country,” every time they requested an abortion.

This incident sparked nationwide protests – in the form of candlelit vigils and various pro-choice groups springing into action, demanding an amendment to the law that disallows women to procure legal abortions.

At a press conference in Dublin on Sunday, Together For Yes, an umbrella body for organisations lobbying to repeal the eighth, is also supporting Andanappa Yalagi’s wish to have the new law named after Savita Halappanavar.

The prime minister, Leo Varadkar, said he wanted the new law to be enacted by the end of the year, following due procedure to change the amendment. The Irish government will present this legislation in front of their lower house, that is, the Dáil. In that regard, article 40.3.3 of their constitution, will now contain a clause that reads: “Provision may be made by law for the regulation of termination of pregnancy.”

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