Interest in Savita Halappanavar’s story won’t wane any time soon - if the trend of vigils cropping up worldwide is anything to go by.

After rallies in the UK and Ireland, New York is the latest in a line of cities where anyone moved by the tragedy of her death has gathered to show solidarity with her family.

“This isn’t just an Irish issue - international awareness exists around this human rights issue,” Max McGuinness, a Dublin-born Columbia University PhD student and one of the two vigil organisers tells The Irish Times.

Surrounded by dozens of like-minded people at a candlelit ceremony on the lawn outside Columbia University’s Barnard College, McGuinness says the goal was also to protest at the circumstances leading up to Ms Halappanavar’s death.

“It seems to be a direct consequence of the failure of consecutive Irish governments since the X case to produce a legal framework that would protect pregnant women’s rights,” McGuinness says.

“A show of global support is vital,” adds Barnard Professor Belinda McKeown, who organised the vigil with McGuinness. “The Irish Government needs to be reminded the world is taking this story seriously, and with the right kind of pressure they may finally act, ” she says, adding how Barnard College, traditionally a female-only campus, was the perfect setting to spotlight women’s rights being undermined by a lack of clarity on abortion in Ireland’s Constitution.


By now news of Savita Halappanavar's senseless death has traveled around the world, drawing attention to Ireland's near-total ban on abortion and the horrific consequences of such policies. This is not a stand-alone case. Every 90 seconds a woman dies from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, totaling more than 350,000 deaths worldwide each year. Nearly all of these deaths occur in developing countries, where access to modern medical care is scarce.

What makes Savita's story so shocking is that she died in a modern hospital in a developed European country. We health advocates spend a lot of time and energy fighting for the kind of access Savita (almost) had. Hers was a planned pregnancy. She herself was a medical professional, a dentist, who recognized the warning signs of pregnancy complications. When she felt severe pains, she and her husband didn't have to travel far to reach a clean, modern hospital where her health problems were quickly diagnosed. And when she learned that she was miscarrying and that her life was in danger, she asked her doctor about her options and requested that her pregnancy be ended before it killed her.

Lack of access to medical care did not kill Savita -- politics did.

Full article here

'Just a few months after Irish doctors reaffirmed Ireland's abortion ban by determining that in zero cases an abortion would be medically necessary to save the life of the mother, 31-year-old Hindu dentist Savita Halappanavar died tragically after miscarrying 17 weeks into her pregnancy when doctors refused to abort the fetus. She spent three days in agonizing pain, asking for the abortion that could save her life, but each time the doctors refused, telling her, "Sorry, this is a Catholic country." Savita was not Catholic. There was nothing her doctors could've done to save the fetus. But an abortion would have saved her life.'

Full article here.

Miscarrying women who went to Britain for medical terminations as they were refused in Ireland have spoken in heartbreaking detail about what they endured.

On RTÉ Radio’s Liveline, five women who faced similar situations to Savita Halappanavar explained the reality of a grey legal area. All callers were 15-20 weeks’ pregnant when the incidents occurred in hospitals from 1997 to 2004. 

Medical Council guidelines and all sides of the debate accept there is a clear argument to help miscarrying women pass the foetus if their health is at risk in the very early stages of pregnancy. However, the women claimed they were advised to "read between the lines" and travel to clinics in Britain. 

One woman, Jennifer, said that in 2003 when she was 16 weeks’ pregnant, she started bleeding and went to her local hospital. 

"All the nurses inside [the unit] just started crying uncontrollably. They said there was no hope for the baby and they couldn’t understand I hadn’t miscarried. 

"There was no ... fluid [around the foetus], he had one kidney, fluid on his brain. But there was a heartbeat. They kept listening." 

Full article here