Why The Irish Want To Name Their Abortion Law After A Woman Of Indian Origin

Doctors had told Savita Halappanavar that she was not at risk and denied aborting her pregnancy because "Ireland is a Catholic country"

On May 25, 2018, more than two-thirds of voters in Ireland voted in a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment of the Irish constitution, liberalising the country’s abortion laws which were among the strictest in Europe. The vote motions to replace protection for life of the unborn with a clause permitting legislation regulating the termination of pregnancy. This would give relief to thousands of women who used to fly to Britain to terminate their pregnancies.

And now, the campaigners are demanding to name the new law as ‘Savita’s law’.

Who was Savita Halappanavar?
Savita was a 31-year-old dentist from Karnataka who moved to Ireland with her husband Praveen. In 2012, when she was 17 weeks pregnant with her first baby, she requested for a termination to her pregnancy as a miscarriage seemed inevitable. The doctors advised her about the Irish law and a midwife manager said that they couldn’t perform the abortion as she was not at risk and because “Ireland is a Catholic country”. She developed signs of infection and a few days after delivering a stillborn girl, she succumbed to her sepsis.

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Savita’s death led to several protests across the country, with several thousand protesters participating in candle-light marches. The hospital where she had been admitted was the subject of several investigations. Savita’s death elicited a strong response in India as well, with the then Minister of External Affairs Salman Khurshid summoning the Indian ambassador to Ireland

Rajeev Chandrashekhar, a Rajya Sabha MP, also said,

“The death of Savita Halappanavar should be pursued by family and Govt of India as a case of human rights violation and murder. Instead of simply protesting, cases should be filed against the Govt. of Ireland and its leadership at the International Court of justice and United Nations Commission for Human Rights (UNHCR). This should move beyond protesting to where people are brought to account!”

In the aftermath of her death, the government of Ireland introduced a bill to define the circumstances in which abortions can be legally performed and six years after her death, the Irish abortion laws were repealed.

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Abortion laws in India
Abortion in India is permissible up to 20 weeks only if there is a risk to the pregnant mother or if the unborn child is determined to suffer from physical or mental abnormalities upon birth.