Abortion debate persists in Ireland

Nov. 23, 2012 at 5:28 PM
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DUBLIN, Ireland, Nov. 23 (UPI) -- The medical records of an India-born dentist who died in Ireland during a miscarriage don't show her requests for an abortion, a lawyer for her husband says.

Dr. Savita Halappanavar asked doctors at a hospital in Galway to terminate her pregnancy after they told her the fetus wasn't viable, her husband says. He said they were told that could only be done when the fetus had no heartbeat.

Medical records turned over to Praveen Halappanavar include notes on requests for tea and extra blankets but there are no notes for Oct. 22, the day the Halappanavar's requested an abortion, the Irish Independent reported. There are notes for Oct. 23 but they don't include a reference to a second requested to terminate the abortion, the newspaper said.

Gerard O'Donnell, who is representing Praveen Halappanavar, said the Indian ambassador will ask for an independent investigation, The New York Times reported Friday. Halappanavar has said he won't deal with the Irish Health Service Executive.

"I have seen the way my wife was treated in the hospital, so I have no confidence that the HSE will do justice," he told RTE, the Irish national TV channel, Wednesday. "Basically, I don't have any confidence in the HSE."

Irish Minister for Health James Reilly denied the absence of notes on Savita Halappanavar's request for an abortion mean the HSE inquiry is a shambles. He said the missing notes are "a concern and this is a substantive matter for the investigation," and he would welcome an inquiry into the matter by the Health Information and Quality Authority.

"I would hope to have a full report before Christmas and the HIQA report as well," Reilly said.

Savita Halappanavar's death has focused attention on Ireland's abortion laws. The Irish Supreme Court ruled in 1992 abortions can be performed if there is a "real and substantial risk" to the mother's life but the Parliament has never enacted laws that would protect doctors who perform such procedures.

Robert Dowds, a Labor member of Parliament, said Wednesday during a debate Ireland's proximity to Britain has allowed the country to evade the issue.

"The reality is that if Britain wasn't on our doorstep, we would have had to introduce abortion legislation years ago to avoid women dying in back-street abortions," he said.

A resolution asking the government to enforce the Irish Supreme Court decision failed 88-53.

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