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Unwell pregnant women entitled to second opinion: Ireland

December 03, 2012 18:15 IST

Amid the row over the death of an Indian dentist in Ireland, the Irish government has told the Council of Europe that any seriously ill woman who is pregnant and whose request for a termination is refused is entitled to a second medical opinion.

The woman would also have the right to apply to the high court for orders directing the necessary treatment to be provided, it said.

Savita Halappanavar, 31, died on October 28 at the Galway University Hospital. She had been 17 weeks pregnant and was found to be miscarrying.

Her husband Praveen has said she asked repeatedly for a termination of the pregnancy but was refused. She was told the foetal heartbeat was still present and an abortion could not be performed as Ireland was a Catholic country.

According to the Irish Times, the interim scenarios which apply pending full implementation of the ABC judgment of the European Court of Human Rights are laid out in an action plan submitted by the government to the council last Friday.

The A,B and C cases are landmark cases of the European Court of Human Rights on the right to privacy. It held that there is no right for women to an abortion, although it found that Ireland had violated the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to provide an accessible and effective procedure by which a woman could have established whether she qualifies for a legal abortion under current Irish law.

The plan lists the actions already taken to fulfill the judgment and outlines the options available to a woman who found herself in the same circumstances as Ms C in the judgment.

In 2010, the court decided Ireland was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of Ms C, a Lithuanian national living in Ireland who had been treated for cancer.

She became unintentionally pregnant in 2005 but was unable to find a doctor willing to determine whether her life would be at risk if she continued to term, so she travelled to England for an abortion.

The council is supervising the execution of this judgment by Ireland, which has filed two earlier action plans on the progress made.

The government said it recognises that legislation requires it to take due account of the principles of European Court of Human Rights judgments.

"While the government accepts and understands that the scenarios described above were not deemed to meet the requirements of the convention, they are available to women in the same situation as Ms C pending full implementation of the judgment," it said.

The plan commits the government to discuss the report of the expert group on abortion in the Dáil (Parliament) in December.

It says the government will make a decision by December 20, the end of the Dáil session, on the option to be pursued to implement the judgment.

A further action plan will be filed by February 8 next year.

H S Rao
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