After Irish pro-abortion advocates used Savita Halappanavar's death to urge changes to the country’s pro-life laws, the reporter who broke the story now admits that the facts may have been “muddled,” including claims that the 31-year-old Indian dentist requested an abortion.
The story of Halappanavar’s death spread worldwide, with pro-abortion advocates claiming that Ireland’s abortion law—which says that abortions are illegal unless the mother’s life is in danger—led to Halappanavar’s death. Thousands of protesters filled the streets calling to legalize abortion.
But in an interview on Newstalk radio last week, Irish Times reporter Kitty Holland distanced herself from any claims that an abortion would have saved Halappanavar and said she wasn’t certain that Halappanavar even asked for one.
Holland said that in her original news-breaking story she was reporting Halappanavar’s husband’s recollection of events and readers inferred what they did. A few days later she wrote a second story where she stated that “the fact that Savita had been refused a termination was a factor in her death has yet to be established.”
Later the interviewer brought up discrepancies in interviews with Halappanavar’s husband, Praveen, about exactly when his wife was given antibiotics, and Holland said “All one can surmise is that his recollection of events—the actual timeline and days—may be a little muddled … we only have Praveen and his solicitor’s take on what was in or not in the notes.”
When asked if she was confident that a termination was requested, Holland responded, “Oh, I'm not satisfied of anything. I'm satisfied of what he told me, but I await as much as anyone else the inquiry and the findings.”
“I can't tell for certain—who knows what will come out in that inquiry?” she continued. “They may come back and say she came in with a disease she caught from something outside the hospital before she even arrived in, and there was no request for termination.”
The hospital and government have launched investigations into the death. Meanwhile Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar told RTÉ News that any future legislation legalizing abortion could be considered unconstitutional and may result in a referendum. Although there are currently no plans to have a referendum on abortion, Varadkar said it may be unavoidable.
Irish pro-life group Life Institute said Holland’s statements are “extraordinary admittances” given the long-ranged consequences of story’s reporting in Ireland and around the world.
"… Holland and the rest of the Irish and international journalists never referred to any 'muddled' recollections or to the possibility that there 'was not request for a termination' when abortion campaigners were shrieking that Savita had died because she couldn't get an abortion," Niamh UÍ Bhriain said in a statement. "This has been the most cynical and deplorable exploitation of a tragedy that I have ever witnessed in my lifetime."