11/16/2012, 00.00
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Church attacked over denied abortion in Ireland

by Nirmala Carvalho
Savita Halappanavar's husband accuses the doctors of not terminating the 17-week pregnancy because Ireland "is a Catholic country." His wife was admitted to hospital because she had started to miscarry, but the doctors allegedly waited for the latter to finish before intervening. Now two investigations are underway. The "Catholic Church is against abortion," Carmelite clergyman says, but allows it "when the life of the mother is in danger." Now we have to wait to get "the real picture".

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The death of Indian Savita Halappanavar (pictured) in Ireland from blood poisoning after doctors allegedly refused to perform an abortion has generated uproar in India's media. According to the husband of the 31-year-old dentist, who was 17-week pregnant, doctors refused to perform the abortion because "This is a Catholic country," thus causing his wife's death.

Both inside and outside Ireland (where abortion is illegal except when the mother's life is threatened), the case has revived the debate over abortion. In view of the situation, Catholics in India, and elsewhere in the world, are calling for calm, urging people not to see this "tragic death" as an example of (Christian) "religious fundamentalism" or even "racism" against a person from India.

Currently, two investigations are underway in the Irish Republic to determine the facts.

According to preliminary findings, Savita Halappanavar was admitted to Galway Hospital with severe back pain resulting from the start of a miscarriage.

When both she and her husband asked for the pregnancy to be terminated, doctors apparently decided to wait to see the natural progression of the situation because the "foetus's heart was still beating."

Eventually, the child died on 23 October, and the doctors removed the foetus. Five days later, Savita died from septicaemia, blood poisoning, as indicated by the autopsy.

Although a full report on the case is still pending, pro-abortion activists have called on the Catholic Church to "change its stance on women's right over their bodies" and be in favour of "humanity". Others have accused the Church of exerting "influence on the Irish constitution," this in a country that is 84 per cent Catholic.

For Fr Shaji George Kochuthara, a Carmelite who teaches Moral Theology at the Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, the Pontifical Athenaeum of Philosophy, Theology and Canon Law, greater objectivity is needed.

At present, "I am unable to give a clear answer, since only from the newspaper reports we cannot understand clearly the real picture: what was the condition of the mother, whether the doctors made a wrong diagnosis and assessment, etc."

The clergyman, who edits the theological journal Asian Horizons and is a member of the regional committee (Asian region) of the Catholic Theological Ethics in the World Church, urges caution so as not to confuse fundamental Catholic principles with this incident.

"Clearly, the Catholic Church is against abortion," he said. "But when the life of the mother is in danger, the Church allows for the right decision, applying the principle of double effect. I do not understand why this did not happen in this case".

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