Ireland, we have been told over recent weeks, is one of the the safest countries in the world to be pregnant and have a baby. According to figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) for 2009, there were four maternal deaths per 100,000 live and still births.

However, experts here now say that figure is an underestimate and the rate is double that.

The World Health Organisation (WHO)defines a maternal death as: “The death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management but not from accidental or incidental causes.”

According to figures in the Confidential Maternal Death Enquiry (MDE) in Ireland, Report for the Triennium 2009–2011, the maternal death rate here is eight per 100,000. Dr Michael O’Hare, consultant obstetrician at Daisy Hill hospital in Newry, Co Tyrone and chairman of the Maternal Death Enquiry group, says the higher rate comes from far more thorough data gathering than that gleaned solely from the civil register of deaths.


The Irish Catholic Bishops have seen fit to clarify the church’s view on gynecology given Savita Halappanavar’s death from sepsis at 17 weeks in her pregnancy and the concern that evacuating her uterus was delayed because the fetus still had a heart beat. The full statement is here, but this is the excerpt I find most troubling:

- Whereas abortion is the direct and intentional destruction of an unborn baby and is gravely immoral in all circumstances, this is different from medical treatments which do not directly and intentionally seek to end the life of the unborn baby. Current law and medical guidelines in Ireland allow nurses and doctors in Irish hospitals to apply this vital distinction in practice while upholding the equal right to life of both a mother and her unborn baby.

I spent quite sometime trying to understand how one could possibly translate this statement into medical care. I’ve been a doctor for 22 years and an OB/GYN for 17 years and I admit that I am at a bit of a loss. My three interpretations are as follows.

  • Terminating a pregnancy is “gravely immoral in all circumstances.” All circumstances includes 17 weeks and ruptured membranes. Unless I misunderstand the meaning of “all,” then Irish Catholic Bishops also view ending a pregnancy at 17 weeks with ruptured membranes and sepsis, either by induction of labor or the surgical dilation and evaluation (D & E), to be “gravely immoral.” They must also view ending a pregnancy for a woman who previously had postpartum cardiomyopathy and a 50% risk of death in her pregnancy as “gravely immoral.” So if you have a medical condition that is rapidly deteriorating because of your pregnancy, too bad for you if you live in Ireland. Because the mother and unborn baby have equal rights to life, Irish law spares women the anguish of choosing their own life. Neither can be first, so both must die.

Full article by Dr Jen Gunter here
The Master of the National Maternity Hospital is a woman under pressure. When I arrive at the agreed time for an interview, I am told at the front desk of the antiquated building on Holles Street that there are others waiting ahead of me. The “others” sitting in the small entrance hall waiting for Dr Rhona Mahony include a significant one – the Minister for State at the Department of Health, Alex White.

When Dr Mahony arrives about 10 minutes later to greet White, an apologetic secretary says that she is not sure how long I’ll have to wait as the master also has to go down to theatre.

Being the head obstetrician at a hospital with 700 staff and where about 27 babies are born each day is an onerous responsibility. She wears the stress lightly, although with the country convulsed over the death of Savita Halappanavar and the issues arising from that, everybody working at the coalface of the maternity services must be particularly deeply affected.

Full article by Sheila Wayman here
TIMELINE: This is the story of one woman’s death in an Irish hospital, based on the account given by her husband and friends

Savita Halappanavar was admitted to Galway University Hospital with back pain. She was 17 weeks pregnant. Seven days later she was dead. The hospital has said it cannot comment on individual cases and in relation to Ms Halappanavar, it must await the outcome of official investigations.

October 20th 

It’s a Saturday night, and Savita Halappanavar (31) and her husband Praveen (34) are holding a small get-together at their home in the Roscam area of Galway. It’s both a farewell dinner for her parents who are returning to India soon and an opportunity to announce to friends they are expecting a baby. Savita is 17 weeks pregnant. “Savita was very excited, very happy,” recalls Praveen. “All our close friends came to congratulate us.”



Updated with advice on how to complain

As the calls reported on today seem not to fall within the political communication exception- not coming from any recognised political party, candidate or candidate for election- each call complained of could potentially attract an individual criminal conviction and fine. Only calls which prompt a complaint can attract any conviction.

Complaints to the Data Protection Commissioner can be made on-line for free.


A number of people have complained after receiving unsolicited calls regarding abortion in Ireland tonight. The calls, which were first mentioned on Twitter earlier this evening, claim to quote Eamon O’Dwyer, professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynaecology at NUI Galway. The call goes on to say that Irish doctors do not put mothers’ lives at risk and mentions the “tragic loss of a young woman in Galway”, alluding to the case of Savita Halappanavar.

It says that Ireland’s abortion ban does not stop doctors from saving women’s lives and that Ireland is one of the safest places in the world to have a baby. When the number 01-4402522 is called, it also asks the person receiving the message to leave a message on “whether we should continue to protect mother and child under our current pro-life laws, or legislate for abortion based under the British model or  any thoughts  you have if you are unsure”. People who received the phone calls claim they were asked to press numbers to vote on different subjects.

Listen to the call here

One user of Twitter advised those who received calls ” should notify the DPC. Use of autodiallers is governed under SI336.” The Data Protection Commissioner’s website can be found here.

The calls come after an estimated two thousand people protested outside of The Dáil tonight calling for legislation on abortion in Ireland following the case of Savita Halappanavar.

If you get a message like this, please contact us on the site or on our Facebook page.
REPORTS HAVE BEEN appearing online of automated calls being made to Irish phones on the topic of abortion.

The call, from a Dublin number, says it has a message from a medical and obstetrics expert saying that Irish doctors do not put mothers’ lives at risk and are always obliged to intervene to save mothers’ lives, even if that results in the unfortunate death of an unborn child.

The message also mentions the tragic loss of a young woman in Galway – although it does not mention Savita Halappanavar by name – and follows that by saying “claims that doctors cannot intervene to save mothers who are in danger is untrue”.

It says that the ban on abortion does not prevent doctors acting to save women’s lives, and Ireland is one of the safest places in the world to have a baby. According to people who have received the call, the pre-recorded message asks the person answering the call to press a button to give an indication of their views on abortion in Ireland.

When the phone number is rung, people are invited to leave their thoughts on “whether we should continue to protect mother and child under our current pro-life laws, or legislate for abortion based under the British model or [leave] any thoughts  you have if you are unsure”.

A number of Twitter users said they have received a similar unsolicited call, with one user saying her landline number was unlisted.

Source on the