DUBLIN: The parents of the woman who died after being refused an abortion in a Galway hospital have blamed Ireland's abortion laws for her death.
Their accusation comes as a legal expert in Ireland said it would have been lawful to offer Savita Halappanavar a termination that she and her husband believed would have saved her life.
Protests over her death and the near-total ban on abortion in Ireland are growing. Demonstrations took place on Thursday night in Belfast and on Friday in Derry, and a major pro-choice rally is being organised for Dublin on Saturday.
Vigil for change … protesters turned out in Belfast on Thursday to mourn Savita Halappanars and challenge Ireland's abortion laws. Photo: AP
Mrs Halappanavar's mother challenged Irish authorities to explain why, in her view, her daughter was allowed to die.
''In an attempt to save a four-month-old foetus they killed my … daughter. How is that fair? You tell me,'' A. Mahadevi told several Indian television stations.
''How many more cases will there be? The rules should be changed as per the requirement of Hindus. We are Hindus, not Christians.''
Mrs Halappanavar's husband, Paveen, has claimed that when the couple asked for a termination, fearing for Savita's life, they were told: ''This is a Catholic country.'' He said doctors knew his wife was miscarrying within hours of her being taken to hospital.
The 31-year-old dentist died of blood poisoning on October 27 in University Hospital Galway despite asking repeatedly for her 17-week-long pregnancy to be terminated.
Her husband said that while staff had said the baby would not survive, they refused to carry out an abortion because they had detected a foetal heartbeat.
Dr Gerry Whyte, an associate professor at Trinity College Dublin, claimed the law as it stands provides for abortions, but only in cases where it is deemed necessary to save the life of a mother. He said: "The legal principle is clear; in other words, if there was a real and substantial risk to the mother's life and where termination of the pregnancy was necessary to avoid that risk, then she would have been entitled to an abortion.''
An expert report on abortion was handed to the Irish government on the day the story of Mrs Halappanavar's death broke.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Eamon Gilmore, told the Dail (parliament) on Thursday the time was right to introduce guidelines on abortion, two decades after the case of a 14-year-old rape victim who was allowed, after much controversy, to terminate her pregnancy.
''I do not think we, as a country, should allow a situation where women's lives are put at risk in this way,'' he said. ''We must deal with the issue and bring legal clarity to it.''
Irish anti-abortion groups continue to insist that the Republic's laws were not responsible for Mrs Halappanavar's death.
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