The Irish Church on Monday broke its silence over the controversy surrounding the country’s abortion law in the wake of Savita Halappanavar’s death with the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin calling it a “terrible disaster” as 53 members of the European Parliament, in a strongly-worded letter to Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny, demanded immediate legislation to allow abortion in cases where the mother’s life is in danger
Addressing mass goers, the Archbishop said: “Here’s a family that six weeks ago was going into what should have been one of the happiest moments of their lives — the birth of a new child. Now the whole thing has collapsed into a terrible disaster . . . you just don’t know how the father is standing up to such a terrible disaster.”
The Irish Times reported that when asked about the silence of church figures, including himself, so far, he said they did not know the facts of the case.
“I don’t know the details of what happened,” he said.
The Archbishop rejected criticism that Ireland was not a safe place for pregnant women and said he was “a little distressed at some of the reaction.” Despite international outrage, he was “not ashamed to be Irish”, he said.
“The facts show us we have, in fact, one of the lowest levels of maternal mortality in the world, which means that whatever practices we have are producing the results that we should respect . . . and respect the commitment of our doctors, nurses, midwives and others who put them into practice every day with very positive results,” he said.
The MEPs, representing 15 countries of the European Union, called Ms. Halappanavar a “victim” of lack of clarity in the existing Irish law and urged Ireland’s Health Service Executive to “immediately issue a directive allowing for immediate terminations of unviable foetuses to save women from severe pain and protect their health and life.”
“Ms. Halappanavar is now the victim of this inaction,” they said.
The sharply-worded letter pointed out that Ireland had failed to legislate despite a ruling of its Supreme Court that abortion should be permitted in life-threatening cases, and the findings of the European Court of Human Rights that its current practices breached women’s rights.
Ms. Halappanavar’s husband Praveen Halappanavar , reportedly back from India, has been sent a copy of the draft terms of reference for the internal inquiry to be conducted by University Hospital Galway into her death.