The debate over legalising abortion in Ireland has flared after the government confirmed a woman in the midst of a miscarriage was refused an abortion and died in hospital from blood poisoning.
Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said he was awaiting findings from three investigations into the death of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian who was 17 weeks pregnant.
Her case highlighted the legal limbo in which pregnant women facing severe health problems can find themselves in predominantly Catholic Ireland.
Ireland's constitution bans abortion, but a 1992 supreme court ruling found the procedure should be legalised when continuing the pregnancy puts the woman's life at risk.
Five governments since have refused to pass a law resolving the confusion, leaving Irish hospitals reluctant to terminate pregnancies except in the most obviously life-threatening circumstances.
The vast bulk of Irish women wanting abortions, an estimated 4000 a year, travel next door to England, where abortion has been legal on demand since 1967.
But that option is difficult, if not impossible, for women in failing health.
Halappanavar's husband, Praveen, said doctors at University Hospital Galway in western Ireland determined she was miscarrying within hours of her October 21 hospitalisation for severe pain.
He said over the next three days, doctors refused their requests for an abortion to combat her surging pain and fading health.
The hospital described its own investigation into the death, and a parallel probe by the government's health service executive, as "standard practice" whenever a pregnant woman dies in a hospital.
"Savita was really in agony. She was very upset, but she accepted she was losing the baby," Praveen Halappanavar told The Irish Times from Belgaum, southwest India.
"When the consultant came on the ward rounds on Monday morning, Savita asked if they could not save the baby, could they induce to end the pregnancy? The consultant said: 'As long as there is a fetal heartbeat, we can't do anything.'
"Again on Tuesday morning ... the consultant said it was the law, that this is a Catholic country. Savita said: 'I am neither Irish nor Catholic' but they said there was nothing they could do."
He said his wife collapsed in a restroom that night, but doctors wouldn't terminate the fetus because its heart was still beating.
The fetus died the following day and its remains were surgically removed.
By the Saturday, Savita's heart, kidneys and liver had stopped working. She was pronounced dead early on October 28.
The couple had settled in Galway in 2008.
Details of her death emerged on Tuesday in Galway after the Indian community cancelled the city's annual Diwali festival. Savita Halappanavar had been one of the main organisers.
Opposition politicians appealed on Wednesday for Kenny's government to introduce legislation immediately to make the 1992 supreme court judgment statutory law.
Legal and political analysts broadly agree that no Irish government since 1992 has needed public approval to pass a law that backs the supreme court ruling.
They say governments have been reluctant to be seen legalising even limited access to abortion in a country that is more than 80 per cent Catholic.