Ireland's First Legal Abortion Saved A Dying Woman's Life

Ireland's first legal abortion took place in a Dublin hospital, the Irish Times reported Friday. The procedure marks the first pregnancy termination carried out under Ireland's new abortion law, which modified Ireland's total ban on the procedure to allow for legal abortion in cases when it is necessary to save a woman's life.

And that's exactly what happened Thursday night. The National Maternity Hospital in Dublin performed an abortion for a dying woman. The woman's membrane had ruptured for more than 24 hours, and she ran a high risk of sepsis.

The woman, whose twin fetuses had no chance of survival outside the womb, has made a good recovery after being given antibiotic treatment and undergoing the termination several weeks ago.

Doctors said the case bore a number of similarities to Savita Halappanavar, the woman who died after being denied an abortion at a Galway hospital last year. Medical providers feared they could be liable to Irish criminal law if they performed the procedure. Halappanavar was 17 weeks pregnant and even though hers was a case of "inevitable miscarriage," doctors refused to terminate her pregnancy until fetal heartbeat officially stopped three days later. By then, it was too late.

In accordance with the new legislation — which marks the first revision of the law since 1867 — the woman's obstetrician and another medical professional certified there was a real and substantial risk the mother's life that could be averted only by carrying out an abortion.

"Even before the passage of the legislation, [the National Maternity Hospital] would have carried out terminations in cases like this, where the prognosis for the pregnancy was very poor," a senior hospital source said Thursday night. "What’s changed is that we can do our work in the best interests of patients without fear of a possible Medical Council case."

There are now 25 hospitals authorized to perform legal abortions without fear of criminal repercussions.

(Image via kfdoyle on Flickr.)