“Thou Shalt Not Kill” – The Tragedy Named Savita Halappanavar

 Savita Halappanavar, an Indian origin dentist, died in a hospital in Galway city, Ireland last month from complications when her abortion was delayed after she had been miscarrying for several days. She was 27.

Quite appalling! Are these people civilized? It appears that the doctors did not do anything because there was foetal heartbeat. Someone who hasn’t even been born becomes more sacred than the one who suffered herself to death? The parents would have mourned the loss of the baby but could have had another one but here the entire story just ended forcibly and tragically.
Now follows what the religions have to say on this:

Early Christian Tradition

‘Judeo-Christian tradition of thousands of years has always valued human life, including unborn human life. The Bible repeatedly refers to children before birth as simply very small/young children. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus and John the Baptist ‘greet’ one another whilst they are still in the wombs of their mothers. Verse 41 of the first chapter says: “It happened, when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.’

The Catholic Church

The Catholic Church opposes abortion because it believes that life is sacred and inviolable.

The Orthodox Churches

Generally, the Orthodox Churches forbid abortion as going against the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’. The Russian Orthodox Church condemned abortion in its The Church and the Nation published in 2000.

Many Protestant and Evangelical Christians are against abortion. In Northern Ireland, Catholics and Protestants have united against abortion. However, some denominations are more pro-abortion. The Church of England states that the unborn child is alive and created by God. The 1993 General Synod stated that “the number of abortions carried out since the passage of the Abortion Act 1967 is unacceptably high.” However, the Church of England also believes that abortion is sometimes morally acceptable such as when a baby is suffering from a serious disability.


Islam teaches that life begins at conception and is created by God. The unborn child has certain rights such as the right to care, protection and life. Abortion on any grounds is forbidden in the Islamic holy book Al’Quran. “Do not kill or take a human life which God has declared to be sacred.”


The Torah or Jewish law forbids the taking of innocent life and stresses that human beings are made in the image of God. Maimonides, a twelfth century interpreter of Jewish law declared: “A descendent of Noah who kills any human being, even a foetus in its mother’s womb, is to be put to death.” The only exception was if the mother’s life was in danger. However, even though traditional Judaism condemns abortion, there has been considerable argument within the Jewish community since the 1960s about whether abortion is permissible.


In Buddhism there is no central authority on ethical matters but the Dalai Lama has spoken in favour of abortion under certain circumstances. In 1993 he said: “Of course, abortion, from a Buddhist viewpoint, is an act of killing and is negative, generally speaking. But it depends on the circumstances. If the unborn child will be retarded or if the birth will create serious problems for the parent, these are cases where there can be an exception.” (Quoted by Clive Erricker inBuddhism, Hodder & Stoughton, 1995 (page 119))


Hindu scriptures refer to abortion as garbha-batta (womb killing) and the Atharva Veda describes abortionists as the greatest of sinners. Gandhi, perhaps the most respected Hindu of the twentieth century, said: “It seems to me clear as daylight that abortion would be a crime.”

Atheists and agnostics for life

Many atheists and agnostics view abortion as a violation of human rights and hold pro-life opinions for this reason. As one pro-life atheist who once had an abortion commented: “for the atheist who believes that when you die, your life is over… there will be no comforting of this being by a heavenly father, angels or relatives after a torturous death; there will be no mere re-incarnational transfer. Thousands of times each day unique, never-to-be again, individual beings have their one and only chance at life terminated.”
The problem with all religions is that none of them have been updated. Why religions alone? Hippocrates, too, had held views against abortions. But should we keep our views bogged down by dogmas handed down to us centuries ago? It should change along with the time.

A beating heart cannot be the alpha or omega of life. Ask that to any brain-dead person put onto a ventilator and other life supports! In case of the unborn foetus, the yardstick is not the beating heart, which can be detected as early as in the 11th week, but the question is of viability. Viability, by definition, denotes ability to survive independently, outside the mother’s womb, and comes on after 20 weeks of gestation or after the weight of 500 gms is attained. Mere presence of a beating heart means nothing. By caring about one heartbeat, they overlooked the other and lost both in the bargain, thereby breaking the basic thing a physician is trained for, i.e. saving lives.

The patient had come to them crying out for help. But they had failed in their basic duty.

In India the abortion related deaths run high…unacceptably high! There are two main reasons for this. The first is poor patient education, where the woman seeks abortions from quacks, midwives and other non-qualified persons. Sometimes they are performed in places that do not have the basic facilities of life support. Thus, sepsis and haemorrhage related complications follow easily. The second reason is that these days orally active Prostaglandins, which are supposed to induce abortion, are available. The deplorable side-show is that these drugs are sold OTC (Over The Counter) in many places although these drugs are strictly prescription products. But who will act against these unscrupulous pharmacists? These drugs are to be administered in the correct schedules and in controlled environments. But that too is not followed in many cases. As a consequence, the users of these drugs often turn up bled white!

But all this is so avoidable! Very much avoidable if women get correct health guidance and counselling and be educated enough to understand their body and its needs. Decision to abortion and conception should be left on the woman.


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