Savita Halappanavar died last month in Ireland after she was denied an abortion while miscarrying her pregnancy. She was 17 weeks pregnant when she arrived at University Hospital Galway complaining of severe back pain. Hospital staff determined she was miscarrying, however doctors refused to remove the pregnancy until three days later. After the pregnancy was removed, Savita was transferred to intensive care where she died three days later of what was determined to be septicaemia (similar to blood poisoning).
Praveen Halappanavar, Savita's husband, told the Irish Times that she had asked for an abortion multiple times while she was miscarrying, but was told that the hospital could not do anything until the fetal heartbeat stopped. Savita experienced vomiting, shivers, shakes, and even physically collapsed in the three days before the fetal heartbeat stopped. When Savita asked if the hospital could induce labor to end the pregnancy, a hospital employee told the family that Ireland is a Catholic country and "as long as there's a foetal [sic] heartbeat we can't do anything."
In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights determined that Ireland had to have a system in place to grant women an abortion in accordance with their rights established by the government. In Ireland, abortion is legal "when there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother." However, many hospitals have been hesitant to terminate pregnancies in these situations because the statute is vague regarding specific guidelines for when the procedure is permissible. Fiona de Londres, a law professor at Durham University England told Bloomberg "[Savita's death] clearly underlines the need for a change in the abortion laws. It is a ludicrous situation. There is a clear need for legal guidelines to be introduced so that doctors know precisely when they are legally entitled to provide an abortion when requested."
University Hospital Galway has launched an internal investigation into Savita's death, and the Health Service Executive, Ireland's executive health board, is also launching an investigation. Pro-choice activists across Ireland and the U.K. are planning protests to challenge the restrictive abortion laws in Ireland.
Praveen Halappanavar accompanied his wife's remains to India for her funeral and cremation on November 3rd, 2012. News of her death made international news when her community cancelled the city's Hindu Diwali festival, which Savita had helped organize.
Media Resources: BBC News 11/14/12; Bloomberg 11/14/12; Irish Times 11/14/12; Washington Post 11/14/12
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .