Consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, who chaired the Government-backed inquiry into Ms Halappanavar’s 2012 death, made the comments with just four days left of the referendum campaign.
Speaking before tonight’s live TV debate, which will feature Health Minister Simon Harris and Love Both’s Cora Sherlock, Prof Arulkumaran said Ms Halappanavar died because of the Eighth Amendment.
“When there were signs of sepsis with Savita at 18 weeks, in the UK we would have terminated,” he said.
But the problem was they were listening to the foetal heart beat and what was holding them back was the Eighth Amendment.
Prof Arulkumaran has flown from India to Dublin to attend an Irish Family Planning Association referendum yes vote event today.
“The world is going to say we [Ireland] are not compassionate and do not respect women [if there is a no vote],” he added.
The comments are likely to play a crucial role in tonight’s referendum debate, which will see Mr Harris and Ms Sherlock go head to head after weeks of acrimony.
RTÉ officials confirmed the duo will appear alongside pro-life Sinn Féin TD Peadar Toibin and consultant obstetrician Mary Higgins during a debate officials insist will have a far tamer audience than last week.
Meanwhile, Tánaiste Simon Coveney yesterday said he believes 12-week abortion access laws can be passed by December after reports claiming otherwise.
“The Irish Examiner probably got that story wrong, in terms of how they spun it,” Mr Coveney said.
“What I said was, ‘look, in order to get that legislation passed, we need the support of the opposition, and it always takes time to get legislation through’.
“But I also said I thought we would get the support of the opposition, so I do think it’s possible to get this legislation passed before the end of the year.
“But regardless of when the exact date for passing legislation is, the important thing is that we will be changing legislation, if people vote yes on Friday, to deal with the complexity and importance of this issue — both protecting women in a much more comprehensive, and much more compassionate way, with a doctor-led system — but also recognising the magnitude of the decision to terminate a pregnancy, and the responsibility that the State has towards the unborn.”
Figures released yesterday showed 3.2m people are registered to vote — including up to 125,000 potential new voters.