Hundreds of protesters, carrying banners embossed with Savita Halappanavar’s picture, on Saturday marched through Dublin and held a candlelit vigil outside the Irish Parliament in memory of the young Indian dentist who died after being refused a potentially life-saving abortion by doctors at a government hospital.
In a symbolic move, they gathered at the Garden of Remembrance dedicated to the memory of Irish freedom fighters, and walked to the parliament building with banners saying, “Never Again”, “No More Tragedies” and “Abortion Rights Now”.
Several thousand people were reported to be attending vigils in cities across Ireland, including Galway where Savita and her husband Praveen Halappanavar lived for four years. A vigil was also held at the Irish embassy in London.
Members from the Indian community gathered outside Galway University hospital where Savita died on October 28, and held a silent prayer for her. They believed that she might have been still alive if she had been treated in India.
“There is a feeling of helplessness and frustration,” India’s Ambassador to Ireland Debashish Chakravarti told The Hindu.
Mr.Chakravarti said that he told the Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore when he met him on Friday that India hoped such a tragedy would not be allowed to happen again.
Organisers of the march called Savita’s death “an avoidable, tragic and heartbreaking story” as the Irish Government faced mounting pressure over the country’s archaic abortion law which, campaigners said, must be brought in line with international human rights laws. “The international human rights law is clear about the right of a woman to access a safe and legal abortion where her life is at risk,” said Colm O’Gorman, Amnesty’s Executive Director in Ireland, describing Savita’s death as a wake-up call for the government.
The campaign group, Abortion Support Network, which organised the march said Savita’s death illustrated the danger of restricting access to abortion even in life-threatening situations, it said.
“The avoidable, disgusting, tragic, heart-breaking story of Savita Halappanavar is what happens,” said the Network’s director Mara Clarke.
Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE), investigating into Savita’s death, said it was in touch with her husband’s lawyers.
Mr.Halppanavar had told the Irish Times from India that he had not heard from the HSE or anyone else in the Irish government and was "very worried" about the nature of the investigation.