No other woman should die like this, says bereaved husband

The Halappanavar and Yalgi families are heartbroken after Savita, wife of Praveen Halappanavar, died at the University Hospital Galway in Ireland on October 28 because abortion is illegal in Ireland, a Catholic country.

They are not contemplating legal action against the hospital or its staff but want to make common cause with all the social activists and organisations that have launched a massive campaign demanding justice and modification of the Irish laws on abortion.

“I am returning to Galway and will continue to keep the pressure on the Irish government with the support of social groups there to modify the law so that no other woman dies because of a religious law,” Praveen Halappanavar said here on Thursday. The Government of India will also be pressured to prevail upon the Irish government to amend the law to legitimise termination of pregnancy if the life of the mother is at risk, he said.

The Prime Minister of Ireland, Enda Kenny, has already assured Parliament that he will look into the matter.

Doctors at the University Hospital had refused to terminate the pregnancy even though Savita was miscarrying and the foetus could not be saved, stating that “this is a Catholic country.” The doctors had maintained that the foetus still had a heartbeat and they could not abort it.

Savita (31), a dentist, and the daughter of Akkamahadevi and Andenappa S. Yalgi, a retired Executive Engineer who worked for the Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Ltd., married Praveen, an engineer from Haveri in north Karnataka, on April 19, 2008.

After about two months, she moved to Galway to join her husband, who works at a company named Boston Scientific.

Rejoicing on learning that she was pregnant, Savita and Praveen prayed for a baby girl. However, on October 21, 17 weeks into her pregnancy, Savita was admitted at the University Hospital with severe backache. She was not straightaway informed by the doctors that she was miscarrying.

Mr. Halappanavar said his in-laws were with them in Galway on a three-month holiday and were to return to India as their visa was to expire on October 23. The Yalgis returned to Belgaum on October 23. “I repeatedly requested the doctors to terminate the pregnancy and save my wife as she was miscarrying and there was no chance of saving the foetus, in vain. The doctors, till the last moment, maintained that everything was fine and her condition was normal till she was taken back to the ICU. The doctors said that the foetus had been removed and she was critically ill. Thereafter things never improved,” Praveen said.

He said that though the hospital had ordered an investigation in addition to the one by an external agency, no law should come in the way of saving a life. The attitude of officials at the Indian Embassy in Ireland also baffled him, since they did not to come to his help after Savita’s death, saying that Monday was a government holiday.

The Yalgis, who lost their only daughter, the youngest of their three children, said they were wronged by the unjust laws of Ireland. “Injustice has been done to us, but it should not happen to any other woman hereafter.” Savita’s body was brought to her hometown Belgaum on November 3 and buried the same day at the Sadashivnagar graveyard here.

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