Savita Halappanavar’s Death Led To The Change In Abortion Law In Ireland

Who was Savita?

I am quoting the following lines from the preview of the book, Savita – The tragedy that shook a nation by Kitty Holland:

“Seventeen weeks pregnant and facing a miscarriage, Savita Halappanavar and her husband Praveen walked into an Irish maternity ward in October 2012. Unwittingly, the couple also walked into that deeply controversial arena in which Ireland’s legislative position on abortion remained unresolved. A week later, Savita was dead from septicaemia. Reports of her death and of the refusal to allow Savita a termination of her pregnancy sent shockwaves across Ireland and around the world. Once again the subject of abortion was catapulted to the very top of the agenda in Ireland. With the pro-life and pro-choice camps claiming the moral high ground, both sides in the bitterly contested battle sought to appropriate Savita’s story and her image.” 

I had shared a video recently on my page about how Irish citizens all over the world are voting for change. Irish nationals who were not in Ireland, and unable to travel, were even willing to sponsor tickets for someone else who could travel, but could not afford it. It was a beautiful moment to see people (women and men) bringing about a change for the benefit of women.

I also watched videos of women saying that they are ashamed that Savita had to go through something like this in their country. They felt for her.  It took six years but they managed to bring about the change.  There were protests and vigils, with banners such as ‘No more shame’, ‘My body, my choice’.

I cannot imagine what Savita and her family went through. She was not from Ireland. She was living there because her husband was working there. They were expecting their first child. She was 31. She died because the hospital denied her an abortion as the fetus still had a heartbeat. In an interview, her mother had said, that to save a 17 week baby they killed her 31 year old baby. She died a painful death. Doctors could have saved her. But the law denied the doctors the right to protect her.

After a landmark voting, the 8th amendment of Ireland’s Constitution will be repealed and replaced with an “enabling provision for the regulation of termination of pregnancy”. 

Savita’s family and many Ireland based campaigners wish that the law should be named  ‘Savita’s Law’.

Every year, so many women from Ireland travel to Britain to get an abortion. One woman was holding a banner that said, ‘Our country killer her. But she saved our lives’.

Few thoughts on this:

India has  better laws than Ireland when it comes to abortion.  I have written about Indian abortion laws in an article on Women’s Web. Ireland had one of the most conservative laws on abortion in the world which they are changing now. I respect the citizens of this country and the lawmakers for taking this step. There may be been many more who became victims to this draconian law. Savita’s death came to light because it was the death of a foreign national and therefore received a lot of media attention. But this tragedy shook them. They wanted to make it right. They voted for it.

How many women from foreign countries get raped and murdered in India? A Lithuanian woman was recently found murdered in Kerala after being sexually assaulted.  I do not want to get into the details of how barbarically she was killed. It was horrific. She had come to India for ayurvedic treatment. A Swiss couple was attacked near Agra, leaving them severely wounded. These are the ones I have read about in the news recently.  Just google ‘tourist killed in Goa’ and see how many results we get.

What do we do about it. Have our laws changed?   Ireland can say, ‘No more shame.’ ‘Never again’.  They are capable of change. But we are not.   We will continue to feel ashamed.

Some people are  saying that they are ‘pro life’ and against abortion. A lot of them are women. I am shocked to see how any woman can say something like this.  I am seeing blanket statements such as  ‘I am pro life! ‘ ‘I am against abortion! ‘ How can her mother kill her child’ etc. These statements are judgmental, insensitive and in cases like Savita’s extremely stupid.   Why should anybody get to decide what another woman does with her body? I don’t understand why some people feel they are the moral police. Do they think that a woman is simply a baby machine who was born to successfully deliver babies even if it means putting her own life at risk? Don’t even get me started on the argument about thinking before getting pregnant etc. Let me remind the moral police that it takes two people to create a life (and therefore a responsibility of two people), but it is only one person, the woman who carries the child inside her body, and she is therefore the owner and decision-maker of that life.

I don’t like to say things like, ‘Her soul will now be at peace’ but if there is  such a thing as  peace after death, I pray and hope that Savita has attained it.

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