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Thousands march for abortion rights in Ireland

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2012-11-19

Thousands in Dublin marched for abortion rights this weekend, following the October death of an Indian dentist in Ireland who died of blood poisoning after doctors allegedly denied her an abortion, even though she was in the midst of a miscarriage.

Thousands of people marched Saturday through the streets of Dublin, demanding abortion rights and paying tribute to the Indian dentist who died on Oct. 28 in an Irish hospital after allegedly being denied an abortion.

Speakers from Irish socialist parties, women’s groups and abortion rights activists addressed the crowd from atop a flat-bed truck. They decried the fact that two decades had passed without any political decision to define when hospitals were allowed to perform abortions.

Pro-choice organizers of the march in the Irish capital said as many as 10,000 showed up for the event, which ended with a candlelight vigil outside the office of Prime Minister Enda Kenny.

Marchers, many of them mothers and daughters walking side by side, chanted “Never again!” and held pictures of Savita Halappanavar.

The 31-year-old resident of the city of Galway, who was 17 weeks pregnant with her first child, was hospitalized in mid-October with severe pain at the start of a miscarriage.

She died days later of blood poisoning, and after repeatedly being denied requests for an abortion by doctors, her husband Praveen has said.

Shock in Galway

In Galway on Ireland's west coast, where the Halappanavars settled in 2008, hundreds of people carrying candles took to the city's Eyre Square on Saturday.

“I came here out of anger, sadness and disappointment. My own mother died in similar circumstances 50 years ago," Margaret Geraghty told the AFP news agency, while holding a lit candle.

“This whole week has been a memory of that. I just can't believe this can still happen in today's world. I'm just glad Praveen had the bravery to tell the world about this.”

Halappanavar’s death has highlighted Ireland’s long struggle to come to grips with abortion.

Abortion is illegal in the predominantly Roman Catholic country, except when it is necessary to save a mother’s life.

But successive governments have refused to pass legislation spelling out the rules governing that general principle, leaving the decision up to individual doctors in an environment of secrecy.

Probe pending

Meanwhile, the Indian government cranked up the pressure on Dublin over Halappanavar’s death, while outraged demonstrators staged protests outside the Irish embassy in India on Friday.

India's ambassador to Ireland met Irish authorities on Friday to seek assurances of a transparent investigation into the incident.

“It is a sad issue,” Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said in a televised interview. “They have a legal framework that is rooted in religion. But there can’t be a bigger goal in religion than to save the life of a mother.”

According to the Indian daily The Hindu, Halappanavar’s father has asked Ireland’s prime minister to change the abortion laws to prevent others from meeting his daughter's fate.

Her family also said that it was considering legal action against the hospital and that no health or government officials had been in touch with them to express any remorse, the Hindu reported.

Halappanavar’s husband took her body back to India for a Hindu funeral service and cremation on November 3 but intends to return to his job as a medical devices engineer at Boston Scientific in Galway.

(France 24 with wires)

Date created : 2012-11-18

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