The voice on the robocalls that began in late November quoted a veteran Galway obstetrician, Eamon O’Dwyer, saying, “I want to reassure you that Irish doctors do not put mothers’ lives at risk and we are always obliged to intervene to save mothers’ lives, even if that results in the unfortunate death of an unborn child. . . . Claims that doctors can’t intervene to save mothers who are in danger are untrue.”
“Ireland’s ban on abortions does not prevent doctors fighting to save women’s lives,” the voice on the call said.
There is no evidence that O’Dwyer had any personal role in arranging the robocalls.
The relationships between Irish and American abortion activists, while long-standing, are controversial in Ireland. Groups on both sides of the debate often accuse each other of doing the bidding of American allies and taking substantial sums of money from them.
Disclosure requirements are modest in Ireland, making it difficult to definitively track the flow of political money or other assistance, though Irish antiabortion activists have gone on fundraising tours in the United States, according to news reports.
The controversy over Halappanavar’s death, which happened on Oct. 28, began with a story two weeks later in the Irish Times.
Her husband was quoted in the story as saying that doctors at University Hospital Galway had refused her requests for an abortion after she checked into the hospital for complications related to a miscarriage after 17 weeks of pregnancy. The doctors said that because Ireland is “a Catholic country,” they could not remove the fetus while a heartbeat could still be detected, according to the story.
“Savita was really in agony,” her husband quoted as saying. “She was very upset, but she accepted she was losing the baby.”
Halappanavar died a few days later of septicemia, a type of blood infection. Medical authorities in Ireland have debated whether an abortion would have saved her life and whether the nation’s abortion laws limited the freedom of doctors to act to protect her health. Thousands of Irish women travel overseas for abortions, mostly to Britain.
Coverage of Halappanavar’s death prompted demonstrations in Ireland and India, and pressure is building to make an explicit exception for cases in which abortion may save a woman’s life.
The robocalls, meanwhile, slowed dramatically after Irish authorities followed up on an initial round of complaints. But in recent days, authorities say a different round of robocalls have started.
Julie Tate contributed to this report.