Ireland to draft law for life-saving abortions, including cases of suicide threats
Demonstrators from India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) shout slogans against the Irish government for the death of Indian national Savita Halappanavar, who died in Ireland after doctors allegedly refused her an abortion, in front of the Embassy of Ireland in New Delhi on November 16, 2012. / RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images
DUBLIN Ireland's government says it will draft a new law spelling out the right of women to receive abortions in cases where the pregnancy poses a risk to their lives - including from a woman's own threats to commit suicide.
For two decades, successive governments have resisted passing any law in support of a 1992 Supreme Court judgment that such abortions should be legal in Ireland.
Catholic conservatives particularly oppose the suicide-threat justification, arguing it could be used to expand access to abortion beyond relatively rare cases where a pregnancy endangers a woman's life.
Tuesday's announcement follows international uproar over the October death of a miscarrying Indian woman in an Irish hospital. Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian dentist, died Oct. 28 while hospitalized in Galway.
Her widower, Praveen Halappanavar, said she was denied a prompt termination because the fetus had a heartbeat.
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His wife was 17 weeks pregnant with what would have been their first child when she was admitted to Galway's hospital Oct. 21 suffering from severe pain. Doctors quickly established she was miscarrying, with her cervix already dilated and amniotic fluid leaking.
But for three days, the husband said, doctors refused their requests for a termination because the 17-week-old fetus still had a heartbeat.
Praveen Halappanavar said one of the doctors insisted they couldn't remove a living fetus because Ireland "is a Catholic country." He said five hospital officials and a family friend witnessed this Oct. 24 comment at his wife's bedside.
After the fetus died Oct. 25, its remains were surgically removed, but Savita Halappanavar's health rapidly faded as internal infections spread and her internal organs gradually failed. A coroner determined she died from blood poisoning and e.coli bacteria potentially contracted at the hospital.
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