Emma Watson Pens Moving Open Letter To Doctor Who Died After Being Denied An Abortion

Dr. Savita Halappanavar's death spurred a united national call for Ireland to overturn its decades-old abortion ban.

Emma Watson is once again standing up for women's rights. The actress and well-known activist recently penned an open letter to Dr. Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist who was denied an abortion and died after suffering a septic miscarriage in Ireland in 2012.

"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," the letter, published in Porter magazine, starts.

Halappanavar was diagnosed as having a miscarriage 17 weeks into her pregnancy. According to The Irish Times, doctors at Galway University Hospital, where Halappanavar was admitted, denied her repeated requests for an abortion because they detected a fetal heartbeat. The young doctor grew increasingly ill over the next few days and eventually went into a coma. By the time medics transferred her to intensive care, she was suffering from septic shock and multiple organ failure. Halappanavar died of cardiac arrest on Oct. 28, seven days after first entering the hospital.


An inquiry into the death later showed that there were at least 13 different opportunities to save Halappanavar's life during the week she stayed at the hospital. According to Porter magazine, it also concluded that Halappanavar's death could have been avoided had she been granted her request for an abortion.

Her death sparked a national outcry for reform and is widely considered the catalyst for Ireland finally overturning its 35-year abortion ban in September 2018. "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," Watson wrote in her letter.

She goes on to say, "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."

Watson also makes a point of paying tribute to Halappanavar's family and their memories of her. "[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," she wrote.

The actress closes her letter to Halappanavar by reminding readers there is still work to be done to achieve reproductive freedom around the world. "In your memory, and towards our liberation, we continue the fight for reproductive justice," she concludes.

In addition to penning the moving letter, Watson also included a separate call for further action. "Free, safe, legal and local abortion care is needed across the globe," she wrote, also adding, "People needing abortions in Ireland will continue to be forced to travel to England, or access abortion pills online, until legislation is passed." The actress suggested donating to Abortion Support Network (UK/IE) and Women Help Women (Global), both organizations that provide confidential and financial support to residents of Ireland and other countries.

Cover image via Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com.


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