Emma Watson writes powerful open letter to the woman whose death led to Ireland’s abortion referendum

Emma Watson

Harry Potter star Emma Watson has penned a powerful open letter to Savita Halappanavar – the Indian woman whose death changed abortion law in Ireland.

Halappanavar’s death was both tragic and preventable. She died after suffering a septic miscarriage in 2012.

An inquiry into her death revealed that she would have lived if she had been allowed to abort her 17 week old foetus.

Emma Watson

There had been a total of 13 opportunities to save her life during the course of the seven days she was under medical supervision.

Halappanavar’s case led to the Irish referendum in 2016, which saw 65% of people vote to repeal the eighth amendment – a law which gave an unborn foetus the same protection as its mother.

The law meant that it was virtually impossible for a mother to get an abortion in Ireland, even if their lives were at risk. Many women were forced to head across the Irish sea to have an abortion in an often unfamiliar UK city.
Now Watson has been invited to write about Halappanavar for website PORTER.

She decided to write in the form of an open letter and told Halappanavar that her death had led to change.
Here is Watson’s letter:

Dear Dr Savita Halappanavar,
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.

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,
Emma x

Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling