Ireland probes woman's abortion refusal death

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Irish authorities launched an investigation on Wednesday into the death of a woman whose family say she was refused an abortion despite serious risk to her own life.

Savita Halappanavar, who is originally from India, repeatedly asked University Hospital Galway in western Ireland to terminate her pregnancy because she had severe back pain and was miscarrying, her family said.

But staff had told his wife could not have an abortion because Ireland was a Catholic country and the foetus was still alive, her husband Praveen told the Irish Times. She was 17 weeks pregnant, when she approached doctors.

"Savita said: 'I am neither Irish nor Catholic' but they said there was nothing they could do,'" the newspaper quoted her husband as saying.

The 31-year-old dentist died of septicaemia, or blood poisoning, on October 28.

Abortion is illegal in the Republic of Ireland except when it is necessary to save the life of the mother.

Ireland's Health Service Executive has launched an investigation into Halappanavar's case.

The hospital said in a statement that a review into Halappanavar's death had not yet started as it was waiting to consult with the Halappanavar family, who are in India for her funeral.

The European Court of Human Rights in December 2010 condemned Ireland for obliging a woman suffering from cancer and who feared a pregnancy would worsen her health to have an abortion abroad.