An Indian family in Ireland is outraged after a pregnant woman died when a hospital refused to perform an abortion on her.

Savita Halappanavar died in a Galway hospital on October 28, following repeated requests to terminate her 17-week pregnancy, citing severe back pains and the likelihood of miscarriage.

The Irish Times reported that Savita, a 31-year-old dentist, died from septicaemia (the existence of pathogenic organisms in the bloodstream).

Abortion is largely banned in overwhelmingly Catholic Ireland.

BBC reported that the hospital rejected the abortion request due to the existence of a fetal heartbeat.

Savita's husband, Praveen Halappanavar, 34, told BBC his wife would still be alive had the abortion been carried out.

"It was her first baby, first pregnancy and you know she was on top of the world basically," he said.

"She was so happy and everything was going well, she was so excited. On [that] Saturday night everything changed, she started experiencing back pain so we called into the hospital, the university hospital."

He added that the staff at University Hospital Galway refused to induce termination over religious grounds.

"They said unfortunately she can't because it's a Catholic country," he said.

"Savita said to her she is not Catholic, she is Hindu, and why impose the law on her? But [the lady staff member] said 'I'm sorry, unfortunately it's a Catholic country' and it's the law that they can't abort when the foetus is live."

Savita has since been cremated in her native India.

The hospital said it will conduct an internal probe into the woman's death. The Irish The Health Service Executive will perform a separate investigation.

Ireland is one of the few remaining European Union members where abortions are almost impossible to get. Moreover, the laws in Ireland do not specify under what circumstances abortions can be carried out – although current guidelines indicate termination is proper if the mother's life is at risk.