Ellis Island No More


Irish New Yorkers joined in the global push for abortion reform in Ireland. After Savita Halappanavar, 31, died this October in an Irish hospital which refused her an abortion, the world weighed in on Irish law. And New Yorkers were no exception.

According to an Irish Voice poll, 36 out of 50 Irish New Yorkers surveyed believe the European country should allow the procedure in a “limited” fashion.

Halappanavar died October 28th at University Hospital Galway from septicaemia, or when toxic bacteria gets into the bloodstream, and E. coli poisoning. She was 17 weeks pregnant and upon arriving at the hospital on October 21st, Halappanavar was informed she was miscarrying. Even though she lost the baby, doctors were required by law to wait for the fetal heart beat to stop before they could remove the womb, amounting to three days of “agony” for the no-longer mother.

In response to her requests, Halappanavar, a Hindi dentist, was told “this is a Catholic country.”Although more investigation is needed, many believe Halappanavar could have survived if she received an abortion immediately. Her husband, Praveen, 34, described Halappanavar’s condition during this period in an interview with the Irish Times:

“That evening she developed shakes and shivering and she was vomiting. She went to use the toilet and she collapsed. There were big alarms and a doctor took bloods and started her on antibiotics.”

“The next morning I said she was so sick and asked again that they just end it, but they said they couldn’t.”

Later that day, the fetal heartbeat stopped and doctors removed the remains. But Halappanavar’s state worsened over the following couple of days. She was moved to the intensive care unit before her heart, liver and lungs stopped functioning. “She was critically ill. That night, we lost her,” said Halappanavar’s husband. Two investigations are currently underway, an internal investigation by the hospital and one by Ireland’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE), for the full facts on the case.

Many pro-choice advocates have used the incident to spotlight Ireland’s anti-abortion statues. Currently, Ireland does not allow abortion unless the mother’s life is at risk, according to the New York Times. However, the exception to the law has been bogged down in red tape for close to a decade. The European Court of Human Rights ordered Ireland to clarify the law in 2010, something the government has “repeatedly postponed.”

Jane Mahon, an Irish architect in New York, weighed in with her thoughts on the global attention to the Irish Central.

‘I don’t really agree with abortion but to let a woman die in a hospital like that is not right either. I think maybe it should be allowed in certain cases like rape and if keeping the baby is harmful to the mother, like in the case of Savita. I think it’s all making Ireland look very bad.”

And New York based Feministe blogger, Jill Filipovic, also had feelings on the Irish government.

“Women do die because of pregnancy-related complications where literally the only cure is to remove the fetus,” she said. “And structuring pregnancy care according to the rules of the Catholic Church is bad for women.”

Filipovic made further parallels between the laws that affected Halappanavar to those proposed by the GOP in her own post last month.


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