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Home / World News / We owe Savita a great debt, say Ireland abortion campaigners

We owe Savita a great debt, say Ireland abortion campaigners

Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar’s death in 2012 galvanised Ireland’s anti-abortion campaign.

world Updated: May 29, 2018 00:04 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Dublin: Candle and flowers are placed in front of a mural of Savita Halappanavar in Dublin, Ireland on May 26, 2018.
Dublin: Candle and flowers are placed in front of a mural of Savita Halappanavar in Dublin, Ireland on May 26, 2018.(AP)

Savita Halappanavar, the Indian dentist whose death in 2012 galvanised Ireland’s anti-abortion campaign, continues to draw people to her memorial in Dublin, with campaigners saying the country owes her a “great debt”.

Supporting a call by her Belgaum-based father, Andanappa Yalagi, that the new abortion law after Friday’s referendum should be named after her, umbrella campaign group Together For Yes has confirmed its support for calling it “Savita’s law”.

Asked if Together for Yes supported the call, the group’s co-director Gráinne Griffin told a news conference: “Yes, in terms of Savita and her family, I think our country owes them a great debt. We were so honoured and so touched by the support that they lent to the campaign over the course of it.

“I was really glad to see her father say that they felt that they had justice for their daughter,” she added.

Savita’s smiling face became an enduring image of the Yes campaign, as Irish news organisations detailed how the death of the 31-year-old dentist provided a fillip to efforts to repeal the law.

The referendum resulted in an overwhelming vote in favour of repealing the eighth amendment of Ireland’s Constitution, which gives equal rights to an unborn child even if the mother faces a threat to her life during pregnancy.

Visitors to Savita’s memorial posted moving tributes to her, placed flowers, stood silently and hugged each other.

Sean Drugan and his six-year-old son taped a note to the wall that read: “Today your pain, your death has brought this country together, together for yes, together for looking after each other, our own, our others.”

Asked what had led to his gesture, Drugan told The Guardian: “Sometimes it takes someone from a different culture to change their adoptive country. Your memory will not be forgotten.”

Niamh Ní Chonchubhair said: “Savita was the moment where we all woke up to the urgency of this…Savita’s passing was unnecessary but people were OK with it and that was what started this. I hope six years on it means something.”

Ireland’s health minister Simon Harris said he would seek cabinet backing on Tuesday to draft legislation that would allow abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, subject to medical advice and a cooling off period, and up to 24 weeks in exceptional circumstances.

He indicated the new legal framework will be drafted over the summer and is set to be tabled in Parliament in the autumn, with the aim that the legislation will be passed by the end of the year, reports from Dublin said.

Ireland’s Indian-origin Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who backed the Yes campaign, had a word for those who voted No: “I would like to reassure you that Ireland is still be the same country today as it was before, just a little more tolerant, open and respectful.”

For decades, he said the country had “hidden our conscience behind the Constitution” but voters had said “no more”. He added, “No more doctors telling their patients there is nothing that can be done for them in their own country.

“No more lonely journeys across the Irish Sea. No more stigma. The veil of secrecy is lifted. No more isolation. The burden of shame is gone.”