The coroner in the case of Savita Halappanavar, a pregnant women who died after being denied an abortion at an Irish hospital, has asked for the midwife involved to be identified.
The request comes on the second day of the inquest into the death of the 31-year-old Indian woman, a who died on Oct. 28 of blood poisoning after being refused a procedure to terminate her pregnancy even though she suffered a miscarriage. As local news sources report, Halappanavar's friend, Mrudula Vasealli, earlier testified that the midwife told her "We don't do that here, dear. It's a Catholic thing."
Though abortion is prohibited under Ireland's constitution, the Associated Press notes a 1992 Supreme Court ruling held that the practice should be legalized when the mother's life is at risk.
According to Declan Buckley, the senior counsel who represents Galway University Hospital, there is no record of any such conversation between Vasealli and the midwife, and the hospital could provide only its "best guess" at who the midwife in question might be, Ireland's RTÉ news reports. Buckley narrowed the potential midwives down to clinical midwife manager Ann Maria Burke and student midwife Elaine Finnucane, both present in the hospital on Oct. 23, 2012, when Halappanavar was denied an abortion. Though both women already made statements, the coroner has requested that they give further evidence in the inquiry.
Praveen Halappanavar, the woman's husband, testified Monday, stating that they had made three requests to terminate the pregnancy. He also claimed that Dr. Katherine Astbury, who consulted on the case, refused to perform the procedure, reportedly explaining that "this is a Catholic country." Astbury denies making such a statement.
According to Astbury's lawyer, the doctor maintains it was Ireland's "legal position" that did not permit her to terminate the pregnancy, Irish Central reports.
Halappanavar was first admitted to Galway University Hospital on Oct. 21 at 17 weeks pregnant. She was initially treated for back pain and discharged, but she returned to the hospital hours later, at which time doctors said she was having a miscarriage. The Irish Times writes that Halappanavar's membranes had ruptured and her pregnancy was said to no longer be viable.
Halappanavar died from sepsis one week after being admitted. At the time, the hospital refused to state whether Halappanavar's conditions could have been helped if she had had the termination procedure.
Following the widespread media attention for Halappanavar's untimely death, the Irish government announced in December that it would introduce legislation to redefine the legal status of abortion with "clarity and certainty," primarily so doctors can perform a termination of pregnancy in cases where the mother's life is at risk.
The Halappanavar inquest will continue this week, with at least 16 hospital staff and experts expected to make statements.