Savita Halappanavar

Savita Halappanavar

December 3, 2012

Expressing anguish and sorrow over the death of a pregnant woman in an Irish hospital, the country’s Catholic bishops said that pregnant women must receive all treatment to save their lives, even if it results in the unintended death of an unborn child.

The statement Nov. 19 came three weeks after the deaths of Savita Halappanavar, 31, who died after a miscarriage, and her unborn child.

Halappanavar died after hospital medical staff determined they could not end the child’s life because they could detect a fetal heart beat, even as the woman’s husband, Praveen, urged them to save his wife’s life.

Halappanaver’s death Oct. 28 at University Hospital Galway has led to an outpouring of public anger.

Thousands of people have taken to the streets calling for Ireland’s constitutional ban on abortion to be overturned.

In its statement, the Standing Committee of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference described the case as “a devastating personal tragedy” for the Halappanavar family and acknowledged that the circumstances of her death had “stunned our country.”

The statement sought to clarify Church teaching on the need for medical intervention to save the life of a mother.

The bishops said they believe Ireland’s medical guidelines contain adequate ethical provisions to allow medical staff to intervene as long as necessary steps have been taken to save both mother and unborn child.

The bishops insisted that the Catholic Church has never taught that the life of a child in the womb should be preferred to that of a mother.