Savita Halappanavar, 31, went to Galway University Hospital on Oct. 21 complaining about intense back pain. According to CNN, the doctors found that she was having a miscarriage but denied an abortion, stating, "Sorry, can't help you. It's a Catholic country. Can't help you. It's a Catholic team." Later, the fetal heartbeat faded and Halappanavar died of blood poisoning.
According to Irish Times reporter Kitty Holland, "Doctors at Galway University Hospital said that as long as the fetal heartbeat could be felt, the law prevented them from ending the pregnancy." This law and its direct infliction on Halappanavar's life has caused controversy around the world. In London, an abortion rights demonstration took place in front of the Irish Embassy Wednesday evening, while pro-choice supporters in the United States are outraged.
This isn't the first time Ireland has ran into a controversy such as this one. According to the Washington Post, a similar incident occurred in 1992 when "a 14-year-old girl, raped and made pregnant by a neighbor, was at first forbidden to travel to England for a legal abortion, the Supreme Court ruled the procedure should be legalized when continuing the pregnancy presents a "real and substantial risk" to a mother's life, but not her health."
"The current situation is like a sword of Damocles hanging over us," Dr. Peter Boylan of the Irish Institute of Obstetricians and Gynecologists told the Associated Press on Thursday. "If we do something with a good intention, but it turns out to be illegal, the consequences are extremely serious for medical practitioners."
Investigations are currently being conducted in Ireland for this incident and to avoid future incidents such as this one.