Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Tragic Death of Mrs Halappanavar

Yesterday SPUC issued a press statement on the news of the death of Savita Halappanavar (pictured) in the University Hospital Galway. This is the statement. I will add my own comments below. 

Savita Halappanavar death tragic but abortion doesn’t save women’s lives

SPUC has responded to claims that Savita Halappanavar’s death was due to a hospital's refusal to abort her unborn child by inducing labour. According to reports, Mrs Halappanavar was 17 weeks’ pregnant when she came to the hospital in Galway. She miscarried and later died from septicaemia. The case is currently subject to investigations.

Paul Tully, SPUC’s general secretary, told the media earlier today:

“The full details of this case are not yet known, so we must await the investigations which have been launched before we can make definitive comments. What we do know is that miscarriage and infection can be managed by proper medical treatment. Abortion is not medicine - it does not treat or cure any pathology."
Leading obstetricians with extensive experience in dealing with these situations have found that they can be successfully managed without abortion, while sometimes the pregnancy can be saved. This was recently confirmed at a symposium in Dublin by Dr Byron Calhoun, a US obstetrician.

Mr Tully also said:

“It is not ethical to induce delivery of an unborn child if there is no prospect of the child surviving outside the womb. At 17 weeks’ pregnancy Mrs Halappanavar’s child was clearly not viable outside the womb, as there is no scientific evidence that unborn children are capable of surviving outside the womb at such a young age. Rather than removing the protection of the womb from unborn children, the ethical response to emergency situations in pregnancy is medical treatment of the mother for the conditions causing the emergency. In the case of infection, this is usually timely administration of antibiotics. It is also not ethical to end the life of an unborn child, via induction or any other means, where the child is terminally-ill.

What is rarely reported are the many cases of women who have died from infection or other causes because of supposedly safe and legal abortions. Manon Jones, Jessie-Maye Barlow and Emma Beck would all be alive today if they had not been subjected to abortions in Britain. The Republic of Ireland has the world’s best record in maternal health, without recourse to abortion. By contrast, Great Britain and the United States, with their high abortion rates, have poor maternal health records. It is therefore entirely spurious to argue that Ireland should legislate for abortion in order to save women’s lives.”


What I would add to this statement is regardless of the different positions taken on abortion we can all recognise the death of Mrs Halappanavar and her baby as a tragic loss and we can sympathise with her husband and family. During pregnancy women have the right to expect the best healthcare available for themselves and their babies. The Irish Republic has an outstanding record of providing the highest levels of pregnancy care in the world and in fact has a much lower rate for maternal mortality than the UK. The Republic has a rate of only 6 deaths per 100,000 compared with the UK rate of 10. 

It is far to early to know whether Mrs Haapannavar received the medical care she had every right to expect. It is possible her doctors made all the right decisions and were simply unable to save her. The identification in the autopsy of E coli ESBL, which is resistant to penicillins, could indicate that the antibiotic treatment she was given was simply ineffective. We will only know if this is the case when the investigation has been completed. What we do know is that septicaemia can  occur not only after miscarriage but childbirth and also abortion. In fact at least three women in Britain who died following abortion were killed by septicaemia. It is one of the major risks associated with RU4 86 abortions. The type which the Marie Stopes International intends to commit in its Belfast abortion facility. 

It is entirely cynical for politicians and advocates of abortion on demand to use the death of Mrs Halappanavar to push their own agenda. If liberal abortion laws improved maternal mortality rates, then England should have the best maternal mortality rate in Europe. Instead both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland without liberal abortion have much better records. The full facts have yet to become clear but there is no evidence Mrs Halapannavar's death was a result of the Republic's ban on abortion.

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