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Ireland’s new abortion law may be named after Savita Halappanavar

Together For Yes, an umbrella group representing pro-repeal organisations, called on the government to start immediately working on legislation.

world Updated: May 28, 2018 07:22 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Savita Halappanavar,abortion law,Ireland
Messages are left at a memorial to Savita Halappanavar a day after an Abortion Referendum to liberalise abortion laws was passed by popular vote, in Dublin, Ireland May 27, 2018. (Reuters Photo)

Activists in Ireland are calling for the country’s new pro-choice law to be named after Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian dentist whose death in 2012 galvanised the ‘Yes’ campaign and who became the face of the movement ahead of Friday’s historic referendum.

As a result of the nearly 70-30 decision, the 8th amendment of Ireland’s Constitution will be repealed and replaced with an “enabling provision for the regulation of termination of pregnancy”.

Leading Ireland-based campaigners said they will support a move to have the new law named after Savita, whose Karnataka-based father, Andanappa Yalagi, has called for it to be referred to as “Savita’s Law”. Yalagi told the Irish Times: “We have one last request, that the new law, that it is called ‘Savita’s Law’. It should be named for her.”

Together For Yes, an umbrella group representing pro-repeal organisations, said at a news conference in Dublin that it would support naming the new law after Savita.

The government did not immediately comment on this demand.

The group also called on the government to start immediately working on legislation.

Orla O’Connor, chair of the campaign, said: “The people have spoken. We were here to repeal the 8th (amendment) and we did.”

Moving tributes were paid at a memorial to Halappanavar in Dublin after the referendum resulted in a resounding “Yes” vote, reflecting major changes in the Catholic country that until recently resisted reforms such as same-sex marriage.

Eulogies to Savita included messages such as: “Sorry we were too late. But we are here now, we didn’t forget you”, and “I’m so deeply sorry you had to suffer. You have changed our history and our destiny.”

Halappanavar, who moved to Ireland with her husband Praveen, died of sepsis in Galway in 2012 after being denied an abortion during a protracted miscarriage. Irish law imposed a near-total ban on abortion, forcing thousands to fly to Britain and other countries to terminate pregnancies, because the eighth amendment to Ireland’s Constitution, introduced in 1983, “acknowledges the right to life of the unborn”.

Prime Minster Leo Varadkar, whose election in June 2017 was also hailed as a sign of major social change in Ireland, called the Yes vote a “quiet revolution”.

First Published: May 28, 2018 07:21 IST