White flowers and ribbons, symbolising the Hindu colour of mourning, were handed out at a poignant vigil held for 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar at Derry’s Guildhall on Friday.
The Indian born dentist died at University College Hospital in Galway on October 28, one week after presenting with a miscarriage. Her husband Praveen has said she asked several times over a three-day period that the pregnancy be terminated but that because of the presence of a foetal heartbeat, her request was refused.
A crowd of around 50 attended the rally which wasn’t attended by members of the main political parties. A minute’s silence was held shortly after the vigil began.
Ms. Halappanavar’s death has sparked outrage North and South of the border and prompted calls for abortion legislation on the island to be given more clarity.
At Friday’s demonstration, speaking on behalf of Alliance for Choice, local pro choice activist Goretti Horgan said it was important to show support for the Halappanavar family.
Addressing a crowd of around 50, Ms. Horgan said:
“We are here today to mourn the death of a young woman who should still be alive and we stand in solidarity with her family and her husband who has asked for action to ensure she is the last woman who dies because of uncertain laws. When she was told that doctors couldn’t intervene the reason given was because she was in a Catholic country and even though she told them she was Hindu, it made no difference.”
Ms. Horgan continued:
“Every year, women leave this city, who are very ill and have to travel to terminate. In Northern Ireland we have a similar situation to the South, there is no clarity on the law here either and doctors have to look over their shoulders and wonder what the law allows them to do. The only time they can be sure a woman’s life was at risk is if she dies. Savita did die and she wanted the right to choose but they wouldn’t listen to her voice.”
Friday’s vigil was attended by a number of local mothers, some of whom addressed the crowd.
Derry woman and Alliance for Choice member Tina McLaughlin said: “I’m a woman of childbearing age and I have a daughter and I don’t want men in the churches and in the Dail and Stormont making choices about what we do with our bodies, it’s about time we were able to make our own choices.”
Local woman Anita Villa said: “I was absolutely horrified when I read this story. It’s completely barbaric and the fact that it happened in the South doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen here.”
Derry mother and grandmother Pamela Nixon said: “Shame on you Ireland. My heart goes out to that poor girl’s family.
Closing the vigil, Ms. Horgan said she couldn’t believe that after so many years of campaigning for women being given the right to choose, the debate was still ongoing.
“We need to put pressure on our politicians,” she said. “We need to make them braver.” Local members of Alliance for Choice took part in a vigil in Dublin yesterday.