What an incredibly tragic story.
Savita Halappanavar, a woman from India living with her husband in Ireland, was admitted to a hospital in Galway in intense pain. She had been pregnant, and was in the process of having a miscarriage, but the fetus's heartbeat had not yet stopped.
Hospital personnel told her that because "Ireland is a Catholic country" they could not perform an abortion, even though the fetus was never going to live and her own life was in danger.
After a couple days of extreme suffering for Ms Halappanavar, the fetus's heartbeat finally stopped and its remains were removed from her uterus. Unfortunately, this was too late for Ms Halappanavar; she had contracted a systemic infection, suffered organ failure and died in the hospital's ICU.
This is obviously not the typical situation for abortion. It does illustrate the point that there are times when a woman's life will be at risk without an abortion. The response by more moderate anti-abortion activists is to include an exception in laws banning abortion for cases where the woman's life is at risk.
But these exceptions may not be adequate. Irish law already has such an exception, but it is so vaguely written that, as in the Galway hospital case, doctors and nurses are afraid or unwilling to act.
Sources: BBC news, Los Angeles Times