herald

Thursday 15 November 2018

Savita's tragedy brought back my abortion battle

A WOMAN who took the Irish Government to court over the right to have an abortion has said the case of Savita Halappanavar's death "sent a shiver down her spine".

Deirdre Conroy was speaking as she revealed publicly for the first time she was the woman behind the D v Ireland action.

Ms Conroy was 39 when she became pregnant with twins in 2001 but, months later, she was informed one of the foetuses had died and the other would not survive outside the womb.

Today, she said she decided to go public after Savita's (pictured left with husband Praveen) tragic death and the controversy over abortion legislation in this country.

"The last straw for me was when I saw what happened to Savita Halappanavar," Ms Conroy said.

She was abroad when she heard the news and initially thought it related to "some town in India called Galway".

"The shiver ran through me when I realised it was like everything I had gone through from hearing the tragic news to making a decision to leave the jurisdiction ... to four years of taking that case to its limit was for nothing," Ms Conroy said.

Painful

Of her own experience, she said it was "terribly painful and terribly bewildering".

Ms Conroy said she has requested to make a submission to the Oireachtas Health Committee, which is reviewing the Heads of Bill on the new abortion legislation.

She added she doesn't align herself to any party or either side in the debate.

She wants the State to make provision for abortion in the case of fatal foetus abnormalities. When she was initially told she was expecting twins, she was delighted as she wanted more children.

But tests taken 14 weeks later showed one of the foetuses had died and the second had Edwards' Syndrome, causing multiple organs not to develop.

Induced

On hearing the devastating news, Ms Conroy said assumed there would be a "sympathetic arrangement" in which delivery could be induced.

But this wasn't the case and she had to travel to Belfast, where the birth was induced.

Deirdre and her partner later buried the child after a funeral service. "I did see him. I wanted to acknowledge his life," she told the Today with Pat Kenny radio programme.

She took a case to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing she had the right to be treated in the Republic.

The Irish state contended if she had sought recourse in the domestic courts while pregnant it was highly likely the matter would have been viewed sympathetically, despite the Constitutional provision on the right to life of the unborn.

On the basis of this argument, the European court dismissed her case in June 2006.

"I will never know if I had gone public and been a much more vociferous on my own behalf how it would have gone," she said.

hnews@herald.ie

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