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Will Ireland Change Restrictive Abortion Law? Karnataka Woman’s Death Becomes Symbol of Hope

The 31-year-old dentist, who was 17 weeks pregnant with her first child, went to the University Hospital Galway on 21 October 2012, complaining of severe back pain.

Aishwarya Kumar | News18.com@aishwaryak03

Updated:May 23, 2018, 10:29 AM IST
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Will Ireland Change Restrictive Abortion Law? Karnataka Woman’s Death Becomes Symbol of Hope
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New Delhi: Once considered the most Catholic country in the world, Ireland is now at the cusp of a change that is set to challenge its very foundation. On May 25, Irish voters will decide whether they want to repeal an Amendment in their Constitution that protects the right to life of an unborn child. Ireland, so far, has never had an abortion on its soil.

The push for referendum gained momentum after the horrific death of 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar. The 31-year-old dentist, who was 17 weeks pregnant with her first child, went to the University Hospital Galway on 21 October 2012, complaining of severe back pain. Examination showed that she was miscarrying. Her family begged the hospital to terminate the pregnancy, but the hospital refused since “Ireland is a catholic country.”

Halappanavar soon began to develop signs of sepsis, an infection in the bloodstream, and her condition only worsened. A week later, she died on 28 October due to cardiac arrest caused by sepsis.

Over the last few days leading up to the referendum, her face has become a prominent sight on Irish roads now. Social media is flooded with tweets with many saying that people are travelling from London to vote in favour of the repeal, which is being spearheaded by the Yes campaign group, Rosa.

Interestingly, now the ‘No’ campaign group is also using her death to put forth their argument, saying that she died not because of the Constitution but because of ‘neglect.’ Things have, however, taken a turn as the doctor who led the inquiry into Halappanavar’s death has called for a ‘Yes’ vote to safeguard “women’s rights and health.” Professor Sabaratnam Arulkumaran was quoted in reports as saying that “if you don’t support legal abortion, then you support illegal abortion.”

Halppanavar’s family, based in Karnataka, has supported the ‘Yes’ campaign using their daughter’s photo. In an interview to Irish Times, Andanappa Yalagi, Halappanavar’s father, said that he would be closely watching the vote. “My daughter lost her life because of this abortion law. It’s been six years and the law has still not been changed. I request for all Irish people to vote ‘Yes’ for this law to change,” he told Irish Times.

Ireland has, over the last few years, seen massive societal changes. Three years ago, the country voted in favour of same sex marriage and became the first country in the world to do it by popular vote. Later, Leo Varadkar was voted to power as PM—the country’s youngest ever PM, the first from an ethnic minority background and also the first one to come as gay. All eyes are now on May 25 later this week.

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