When Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar breathed her last in 2012, questions were raised over the dogmatic anti-abortion law prevalent in a so-called progressive European country like Ireland. The 31-year-old died of sepsis after being denied an abortion during a miscarriage. Six years later, Ireland has voted in favour of “legalising” the abortion. The father of Halappanavar, whose heart is still heavy over her daughter’s demise, said that they have finally got justice for Savita. He also made a fervent appeal that the impending legislation should be called as “Savita’s law”.
What’s ‘Savita’s law’? How did it all begin?
After the then external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin raised concern over the issue, Irish authorities ordered a probe. An independent inquiry into Savita’s treatment found there had been an “over-emphasis on the need not to intervene until the foetal heart had stopped”, as well as poor patient monitoring and risk assessment. The probe strongly recommended that the Irish parliament consider changing the law, and “any necessary constitutional change”. Savita’s husband, Praveen Halappanavar, had said that he and his wife had repeatedly asked for the pregnancy to be terminated after her admission to hospital, but they had been told: “This is a Catholic country”. Savita’s sudden demise is believed to have acted as a catalyst for the movement to repeal the eighth amendment.
Since 1983, the Eighth Amendment had forced women seeking to terminate pregnancies to go abroad for abortions, bear children conceived through rape or incest, or take risky illegal measures at home. It has to be understood that repealing of the eighth amendment would pave the way for new legislation to allow for the termination of pregnancies in the predominantly Catholic country.
The Eighth Amendment grants an equal right to life to the mother and unborn is now set to be replaced. In the referendum held on Friday and results announced last night, people in Ireland voted overwhelmingly to overturn the abortion ban by 66.4 per cent to 33.6 per cent. Hundreds of People chanted Savita’s name soon after the outcome of the referendum was announced.
Political backing over Church denial
Indian-origin Prime Minister of Ireland Leo Varadkar, who campaigned in favour of liberalisation, termed the referendum as “a historic day for Ireland,” and that a “quiet revolution” had taken place. Varadkar told people at Dublin Castle that the result showed the Irish public “trust and respect women to make their own decision and choices”. Meanwhile, a report in the Irish Times reported that the country’s powerful Cabinet will on Tuesday consider a request from the Minister for Health to draft the Heads of a Bill to implement the decision of the people. Health Minister Simon Harris said he expected it to be published by the summer recess and passed by the end of the year. There is a strong mandate to implement the decision of the people as soon as possible, the minister added.
However, Irish Catholics were disappointed with the result of the landmark referendum calling it a reflection of the weakening of the Church. There was no mention of the referendum during the sermon at St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, but it was weighing heavily on the minds of some worshippers as they left the Mass in central Dublin, according to a report.