A woman holds a picture of Savita Halappanava at a Belfast vigil. Mrs Halappanava died after being refused an abortion at an Irish hospital. Photo: AP/Peter Morrison
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.
Mrs Halappanavar's mother challenged the 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, the pair 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 to have her 17-week-long pregnancy terminated.
Her husband said that while staff told the couple that the baby would not survive, they refused to carry out an abortion because they had detected a foetal heartbeat.
Mrs Halappanavar's father, Andanappa Yalagi, alleged that the combination of medical negligence and Irish abortion laws led to his daughter's death.
A spokesman for India's ministry of external affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, also confirmed in a Twitter post that the Indian embassy in Dublin was "following the matter".
The death of Mrs Halappanavar, who was originally from south-west India and settled in Ireland with her husband in 2008, has become a major news story on the sub-continent. The Times of India led its online coverage on Thursday with the headline: "Ireland murders pregnant Indian dentist".
Dr Gerry Whyte, an associate professor at Trinity College Dublin, claimed that 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.
"Now clearly the case raises issues that I couldn't comment on about medical judgments, about whether or not termination of the pregnancy would have saved her life or not."
Ireland's deputy prime minister, Eamon Gilmore, confirmed on Thursday that he and Ireland's head of state, Enda Kenny, would be receiving copies of the expert report into abortion, which by a coincidence was handed to the government on the day the story of Halappanavar's death broke. Gilmore said it was "deeply disturbing" hearing Mrs Halappanavar's husband's account of her death.
Mr Gilmore told the Dail (parliament) that the time was now right to introduce guidelines on abortion two decades after the "X case", which centred on a 14-year-old rape victim who was allowed after much controversy to terminate her pregnancy.
"We all need to be clear on this issue. It is 20 years since the Supreme Court made its finding in the X case. It is time to bring legal clarity to the issue. It was to that end that we set up the expert group and we will now deal with the recommendations in the report made to us," he said.
Gilmore stressed that for more than 25 years he has been campaigning for abortion reform in Ireland.
"Although we will not know the full details until the investigation has been completed, we have heard what Savita's husband said yesterday and as legislators we have a duty and responsibility to respond, act and deal with the issue."
He added: "I do not think we, as a country, should allow a situation where women's lives are put at risk in this way. 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 Halappanavar's death.
Niamh Ui Bhriain, of the Life Institute, said: "It is very sad to see abortion campaigners rush to exploit this case to further their own agenda. The tragic loss of Savita Halappanavar's life was not caused by Ireland's ban on abortion. We need to ensure that mothers and babies are best protected; and abortion is not part of best medical practice. It is medieval medicine."
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