Continued from page 1

Prime Minister Enda Kenny said he was awaiting findings from three investigations into the death of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian woman 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 officially bans abortion, but a 1992 Supreme Court ruling found the procedure should be legalized for situations when the woman’s life is at risk from continuing the pregnancy.

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 bulk of Irish women wanting abortions, an estimated 4,000 per year, simply 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.

Mrs. Halappanavar’s widower, Praveen, said doctors at University Hospital Galway in western Ireland determined she was miscarrying within hours of her hospitalization for severe pain on Oct. 21.

He said over the next three days, doctors refused their requests for an abortion to combat her surging pain and fading health.

The hospital declined to say whether doctors believed Mrs. Halappanavar’s blood poisoning could have been reversed had she received an abortion rather than waiting for the fetus to die on its own.

SYRIA

Israel: Rebels take villages near Golan Heights frontier

JERUSALEM — Syrian rebels have taken control of nearly all villages near the frontier with the Israel-held Golan Heights, Israel’s defense minister said Wednesday, adding that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces were “displaying ever-diminishing efficiency.”

Fighting in the area this past week already has drawn Israeli retaliatory fire into Syria twice after apparently stray mortar shells flew into Israel-held territory.

That raised fears that Syria’s civil war could take a new and even more dangerous twist, widening further into an armed conflict with the region’s strongest military power.

“Almost all of the villages, from the foot of this ridge to the very top, are already in the hands of the Syrian rebels,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday during a tour of the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau that Israel captured from Syria in 1967 and later annexed. “The Syrian army is displaying ever-diminishing efficiency.”

Mr. Barak said Israel will remain “vigilant and alert.”

Story Continues →