‘We Did It For Her’: Savita Halappanavar's Death Remembered As Ireland Votes Yes To Abortion

Sarah Ann Harris
A woman kneels infront of a mural of Savita Halappanavar in Dublin

IRELAND - As many Irish people celebrate what appears to be a landslide victory for pro-choice campaigners in Ireland’s abortion referendum, tributes were paid to a woman whose death has haunted the country since 2012. 

Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old Indian dentist, died of sepsis when she was refused an abortion during a protracted miscarriage. She had travelled to hospital complaining of back pain when she was 17 weeks pregnant, and was told by staff that she was going to lose the child. 

But because there was a foetal heartbeat, they were barred by law – governed by the eighth amendment of the constitution – from terminating the pregnancy, forcing to her endure a week-long miscarriage. She suffered an infection and later went into septic shock, resulting in her death.

On Saturday, as it emerged that the country had overwhelming voted to repeal the amendment, which will pave the way for the government to relax the laws on abortion, many women were remembering Savita and her legacy. 

A mural bearing her image in the busy Portobello district of Dublin was adorned with notes, flowers and tributes as people flocked to pay their respects. 

Jill Jordan, 38, who was there with her baby daughter Ivy, told HuffPost UK: “It’s not yet official but I’m feeling sheer relief.

“It means we can go into the future knowing that the people of Ireland actually trust us and realise women are not shameful objects.

“The result means we won’t be exporting women for abortions, it gets rid of that hypocrisy. It just adds another layer of distress in crisis.”

She patted her daughter, adding: “She doesn’t know it yet but we did this for her.”

Jill Jordan and baby Ivy pay their tributes at the mural

Speaking to the Irish Times, Savita’s father, Andanappa Yalagi, said he hoped the new legislation, promised to be enacted before the end of the year by the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, should be called “Savita’s law”. 

Speaking from the family home in Belgaum, Karnataka in south west India, he said the family was “really, really happy” the Irish people were on course to deliver a strong ‘Yes’ in the abortion referendum.

“I want to thank you so much. I want to say ‘Thank you’ to our brothers and sisters in Ireland for voting Yes. It is very important. There has been really a lot, too much struggle for the Irish ladies.”

Anne Marie Roche, 37, said: “Savita and I were pregnant at the same time. When she died I wasn’t able to march. Now I have the strength, I wanted to come and pay tribute to her.

“She should be at home with her five-year-old like I am. She should never have been made a martyr in this country.”

Tributes left at the mural in Dublin

Ali, who asked for her surname not to be published, laid flowers at the makeshift shrine. She said: “This is a celebration but it’s bittersweet. We failed Savita. Ireland failed Savita. But hopefully we won’t let what happened to her happen to anyone else.”

Other tributes read: “I voted for you Savita, I’m sorry we failed you” and “If I have a daughter I will name her Savita after you”.

A message left at the mural for Savita Halappanavar

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