Read the letter Emma Watson wrote to Savita Halappanavar
In 2018, actress and human rights activist Emma Watson wrote a touching tribute to Savita Halappanavar. On the tenth anniversary of Savita's death, we're looking back on those words again.
The letter was published in Porter magazine in September of 2018 and honours Savita Halappanavar, who died aged 31 during a preventable septic miscarriage at University Hospital Galway in 2012 and galvanized over 65% of us to vote to repeal the eighth amendment.
Emma Watson’s letter was a call for “reproductive justice” around the world. Writing with “love and solidarity”, she hoped that Savita’s death would lead to improved women’s healthcare across the globe.
“Dear Dr Savita Halappanavar,” the letter begins. “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.”
“It is rare that justice truly prevails for those whose deaths come to symbolize structural inequality,” she wrote. “Rarer still is a historic feminist victory that emboldens the fight for reproductive justice everywhere.”
“I watch the video of you dancing in Galway and am moved to tears by your thousand-watt smile…”
Emma goes on to share anecdotes from Savita’s family and friends, saying, “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.”
“For you – and those forced to travel to the UK to access safe, legal abortion – justice was hard-won.”
While Savita’s death continues to be a huge loss to her family and community, Emma says some good has come from it. “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’,” she writes. “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.”
Emma acknowledges Savita’s death was a “wake-up call” to our nation, writing, “For you – and those forced to travel to the UK to access safe, legal abortion – justice was hard-won.” She added the restrictive abortion laws around the world to punish and endanger girls, women, and pregnant people, and how “Northern Ireland’s abortion law predates the lightbulb.”
“In your memory,” the letter to Savita concludes, “and towards our liberation, we continue the fight for reproductive justice.”
It was a great honour to be asked by @PORTERmagazine to pay the deepest respect to the legacy of Dr Savita Halappanavar, whose death powered the determination of activists to change Irish abortion laws & fight for reproductive justice all over the world. https://t.co/KZWRpp7btO pic.twitter.com/yLDXgcHKyh
— Emma Watson (@EmmaWatson) September 29, 2018
Photography by @emmawatson.