Law expert: Legal principle 'clear' on abortion

Dr Gerry Whyte, Professor of Law at Trinity College Dublin, has said the legal principle is clear on abortions where it is deemed necessary to save the life of a mother.

He made the comment amid the news that Savita Halappanavar died after she was refused an abortion.

The dentist, aged 31, was 17 weeks pregnant when she died after suffering a miscarriage and septicaemia.

Dr Whyte claimed that the law as it stands provides for abortions, but only in cases where it is deemed necessary to save the life of a mother:

Dr Whyte said: "The legal principle is clear, in other words, if there was a real and substantial risk to the mother's life and where termination of the pregnancy was necessary to avoid that risk, then she would have been entitled to an abortion.

"Now clearly, the case raises issues that I couldn't comment on about medical judgements, about whether or not termination of the pregnancy would have saved her life or not.

"I am not in a position to comment on that but the legal principle is fairly clear."

Health chiefs have launched investigations following the death of Savita in University Hospital Galway.

The woman’s husband Praveen Halappanavar, 34, claimed she had complained of being in agonising pain.

He has said that doctors refused to carry out a medical termination because the foetus’s heartbeat was present.

Mr Halappanavar has claimed that following several requests by his late wife for a termination, they were told: “This is a Catholic country.”

Mrs Halappanavar, understood to be from India but who had been living in Ireland, died after developing septicaemia – an infection in the blood – on October 28.

Mrs Halappanavar’s family will be interviewed as part of the review.

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