Dr. Savita Halappanavar, a dentist, died on October 28, 2012, at University Hospital in Galway Ireland. She passed away from a septic miscarriage after she had previously been denied an abortion. Her death became a catalyst for the country's historic abortion referendum, which passed by popular vote this past May and asks the government to legalize the procedure across the majority Catholic nation. The legislature, however, still needs to draft and pass the laws.
Actress Emma Watson penned a posthumous open letter to Dr. Halappanavar for Porter Magazine, lending her voice to growing chorus of support for legislative action.
The full text reads:
You didn’t want to become the face of a movement; you wanted a procedure that would have saved your life. When news of your death broke in 2012, the urgent call to action from Irish activists reverberated around the world – repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution. Time and again, when our local and global communities collectively mourn a tragic death due to social injustice, we pay tribute, mobilize and proclaim: rest in power. A promise to the departed and a rallying call to society, we chant: never again. But it is rare that justice truly prevails for those whose deaths come to symbolize structural inequality. Rarer still is a historic feminist victory that emboldens the fight for reproductive justice everywhere.
She goes on to give some context of the woman Halappanavar was:
Your family and friends were gracious and galvanizing in their sharing of your memory. They told us you were passionate and vivacious, a natural-born leader. I heard that at Diwali in 2010 you won dancer of the night, going on to choreograph routines with children in your community. I watch the video of you dancing in Galway’s 2011 St Patrick’s Day parade and am moved to tears by your thousand-watt smile and palpable enthusiasm. Sharing their mourning and hope with the world, your family publicly supported the Together for Yes campaign. Celebrating repeal, your father expressed his 'gratitude to the people of Ireland.' In reciprocity, I heard Ireland’s ‘repealers’ say that they owe your family a great debt. A note on your memorial in Dublin read, 'Because you slept, many of us woke.' That the eighth amendment enabled valuing the life of an unborn fetus over a living woman was a wake-up call to a nation. For you, and those forced to travel to the UK to access safe, legal abortion, justice was hard-won. From Argentina to Poland, restrictive abortion laws punish and endanger girls, women and pregnant people. Still, Northern Ireland’s abortion law predates the lightbulb. In your memory, and towards our liberation, we continue the fight for reproductive justice.
With all my love and solidarity,
Watson is perhaps best known for her breakout role as the beloved character Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter franchise. Like the character she played, she prioritized education, balancing her life as an actress with attending Brown University, graduating in 2014. Since then, on top of a career as one of the industry's most sought after actresses and models, she has become an active voice for social justice, becoming one of the most high profile names speaking out on behalf of women's rights everywhere.
People found it sad that Dr. Halappanavar was only being recognized in death.
Others thanked Watson for her words.
Thank you, Emma Watson, for your activism.
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