Skip to main content

Husband testifies his wife died after abortion was denied in Ireland

By Laura Smith-Spark and Peter Taggart, CNN
April 8, 2013 -- Updated 1436 GMT (2236 HKT)
Marchers remember Savita Halappanavar at a demonstration in Dublin, Ireland, on November 17, 2012.
Marchers remember Savita Halappanavar at a demonstration in Dublin, Ireland, on November 17, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Indian dentist was denied abortion for her miscarrying fetus, her widower says
  • Praveen Halappanavar says he hopes the inquest will get to the truth of his wife's death
  • Savita Halappanavar died October 28 of blood poisoning, aged 31
  • The Irish government is to introduce new abortion laws by the summer

(CNN) -- The husband of an Indian dentist whose death sparked anger over Ireland's abortion laws told an inquest on Monday that her requests for a termination for her miscarrying fetus had been denied.

Praveen Halappanavar told the hearing in Galway that he was told that because Ireland is a Catholic country, an abortion could not be done while the fetus was still alive.

He was one of the first witnesses to give evidence at the inquest, which is expected to last several days.

The death of Savita Halappanavar at University Hospital Galway on October 28 prompted anger in Ireland and elsewhere and sparked demands for Ireland to introduce new abortion laws.

Doctors and nurses from the Galway hospital are also due to testify at the inquest.

Praveen Halappanavar said as he arrived at the courthouse that he hoped the inquest would get to the truth.

He has previously said that his wife was advised her unborn baby would likely die, and that she was in extreme pain.

Savita, 31, went into the hospital on October 21, complaining of back pain. She was 17 weeks pregnant at the time.

Three days after the request for a termination was made, the fetus died and was removed. Four days later, Savita died of a blood infection.

The coroner, Dr. Ciaran McLoughlin, opened the hearing with a promise to Halappanavar to help find out what happened to his wife.

An inquest by a coroner is standard procedure in cases of sudden, unexplained or unnatural deaths in Ireland.

Opinion: If Ireland had abortion rights

Strict laws

The couple, who married in India, had moved to Ireland four years before Savita's death and were excited to be starting a family, Praveen Halappanavar told CNN last year.

He said the family was left stunned and grief-stricken by her death.

"Every single person in the family asked me, 'How could this happen in a place like Ireland in the 21st century?' -- because it was just so simple," he said.

"When they knew the baby was not going to survive, why not think about the bigger life, which was the mother, my wife, Savita? And they didn't."

A number of inquiries were set up by Irish authorities after Halappanavar died, including one by the Health Service Executive.

The Health Service Executive report has not yet been published but details of the draft text have been leaked to the Irish media.

The Irish government plans to introduce new abortion legislation by the summer.

Minister of Health James Reilly announced late last year that the proposed changes would clarify that abortions are permissible when the life -- but not just the health -- of the mother is at risk.

That would bring the country's laws in line with a 1992 Irish Supreme Court ruling that established a woman's right to abortion when her life is at risk, including by suicide.

CNN's Nic Robertson contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1521 GMT (2321 HKT)
The first human trial of an experimental Ebola vaccine has produced promising results, U.S. scientists said.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1415 GMT (2215 HKT)
Darren Wilson, the police officer who fatally shot unarmed black teen in August abandoned home after address made public.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 2236 GMT (0636 HKT)
HBO -- backing a documentary based on "Going Clear," a book about Scientology and Hollywood -- isn't taking any chances with legal side.
November 26, 2014 -- Updated 1935 GMT (0335 HKT)
Grandmaster Nguyen Van Chieu has devoted his adult life to spreading the word about Vietnames martial art, Vovinam.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1136 GMT (1936 HKT)
England cricketer Nick Compton shares insight into "drive and courage" it takes to face fears as top batsman.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 0059 GMT (0859 HKT)
Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson says he was just doing his "job right" when he shot and killed black teenager Michael Brown.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
The interior of the Formosa Boulevard Mass Rapid Transit Station in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan.
Stunning stations where your first priority won't be finding the nearest exit.
November 25, 2014 -- Updated 2318 GMT (0718 HKT)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says women's "nature is different," sparking fury.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 1043 GMT (1843 HKT)
A 30-year-old woman has been charged with attempting to kill a baby police say spent five days down a drain before being discovered by cyclists.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 0121 GMT (0921 HKT)
If it wasn't for a comic's skit, Bill Cosby would still be America's favorite father, says expert.
November 24, 2014 -- Updated 0051 GMT (0851 HKT)
Where do hip young things hang out in Taiwan?
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Obama orders the most sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration in decades, prioritizing the deportation of "felons, not families."
November 18, 2014 -- Updated 2106 GMT (0506 HKT)
Fighters loyal to ISIS are now in control of Derna, a city on Libya's Mediterranean coast.
November 21, 2014 -- Updated 2319 GMT (0719 HKT)
China and likely other countries have the capacity to shut down the U.S. power grid, says the NSA.
November 19, 2014 -- Updated 1945 GMT (0345 HKT)
The founder of a U.S. nonprofit that works with returning soldiers is named CNN's Hero of the Year.
November 27, 2014 -- Updated 1703 GMT (0103 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT