Savita Halappanavar and the long shadow of the X-Case

  • Savita Halappanavar, a pregnant woman who begged for an abortion in Ireland, has died after doctors refused, telling her: “This is a Catholic country.”
  • The “X Case” was a 1992 Irish Supreme Court case which established the right of Irish women to an abortion if a pregnant woman’s life was at risk because of pregnancy, including the risk of suicide.

The following from The Irish Times:

 Savita Halappanavar (31), a dentist, presented with back pain at the hospital on October 21st, was found to be miscarrying, and died of septicaemia a week later. Her husband, Praveen Halappanavar (34), an engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway, says she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated. He says that, having been told she was miscarrying, and after one day in severe pain, Ms Halappanavar asked for a medical termination. This was refused, he says, because the foetal heartbeat was still present and they were told, “this is a Catholic country”.

More links here

 A report in The Guardian says: The death intensified pressure on Ireland’s Fine Gael-Labour coalition to legislate and create specific guidelines for medical staff on when abortions can be carried out. At present, abortions are permitted only if there is a “real and substantive” threat to a woman’s life.

The following at Crooked Timber:

In 1992 I was in my second year of college at UCC. Beginning early in that year a string of social and political crises and scandals broke that, in retrospect, marked the beginning of the end of the public power of the Catholic Church in Ireland, especially with respect to sexuality. I’ve written before about how the events of that year are a kind of bookend to the autumn of 1979, when the Pope came to Ireland and the country was filled with a revivalist fervor focused on the country’s youth. Chief amongst the social crises of 1992 was the X-case. A fourteen year-old girl, pregnant as the result of rape by a neighbor, sought to leave the country to have an abortion in England, as thousands of Irish women did and still do. Her parents asked the police whether it would be possible to collect any DNA evidence during this process, which brought the matter to the Attorney General’s attention. He sought, and was granted, a court injunction preventing her from traveling for the abortion under Article 40.3.3 of the Irish constitution, which had been passed in 1983 as the “Pro-Life amendment” and which prohibited abortion in Ireland.

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