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Mother's Death Prompts Abortion Debate in Ireland

A 17-week pregnant woman who died in an Irish hospital late last month is at the center of a debate over whether the Catholic country's anti-abortion laws put women's lives in danger. Savita Halappanavar checked into the hospital complaining of back pain, but was soon told she was having a miscarriage. Despite her considerable physical pain, she was denied assistance that would have amounted to an abortion. She died 3 days later of a blood infection. From

"Doctors at Galway University Hospital said that as long as the fetal heartbeat could be felt, the law prevented them from ending the pregnancy, Holland said. Halappanavar died of septicemia, or a blood infection, after three days in the hospital.

"Tuesday morning, came back and said, 'Sorry, can't help you. It's a Catholic country. Can't help you. It's a Catholic team.' So, Savita said that she was not a Catholic. She is Hindu, so why impose the law of the land on her?" her husband said.

The death led to protests, and top Irish lawmakers are asking whether the law needs to be changed.

In Ireland, abortion is legal if the mother's life is at risk, which is different from her health being at risk, Holland said.

The hospital expressed sympathy to Halappanavar's husband, but noted in a statement that "the facts of this tragic case have yet to be established."

Image: Empty hospital bed, via Shutterstock