April 9, 2013 — Ireland this week will begin an inquest into the death of Savita Halappanavar in October 2012 after she was denied an abortion at a hospital in the country, The Guardian reports (McDonald, The Guardian, 4/8).
Although Halappanavar was miscarrying and in severe pain when she arrived at the hospital, the hospital refused to provide an abortion because a fetal heartbeat was detectable. She died of septicemia a week later.
Although Ireland's Supreme Court in 1992 ruled that abortion should be permitted when a woman's life is at risk, successive governments have failed to pass legislation to clarify the ruling. In 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ordered Ireland to specify what the Supreme Court's ruling means in practice (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/19/12).
More than 50 health experts have provided statements in the case and Irish officials have said the investigation will be made public. In addition, 16 staff members who treated Halappanavar at the hospital are expected to testify.
The hospital's quality of care is expected to be a key factor in the inquiry after a draft review of the case found that the staff attributed Halappanavar's symptoms to cold temperatures, rather than a life-threatening infection (CNN-IBN, 4/8).
Ireland To Release New Abortion Rules
Meanwhile, Irish government officials have vowed to release new abortion regulations in July to clarify the country's laws, the Irish Independent reports.
The regulations will provide clear procedures for providing health care to women who are entitled to a lawful abortion, but they will not make abortions legal if they are not medically necessary.
They also will provide doctors with a way to defend themselves against criminal prosecution (Telford, Irish Independent, 4/7).