Vigil marking the 10-year anniversary of Savita Halappanavar to take place in Galway

A vigil marking the 10-year anniversary of the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar is set to take place in Galway this Friday. 

The vigil organised by Galway Pro-Choice will take place on 28 October at 8pm on Churchyard Street.

31-year-old Ms Halappanavar, was 17 weeks pregnant when she arrived at Galway University Hospital in October 2012. She complained of severe back pain and was informed that she was suffering a miscarriage a short while later. She was admitted to the hospital for monitoring. 

Over the next two days, Savita continuously asked for her pregnancy to be terminated but was refused as a fetal heartbeat was present. On one occasion she was told by a nurse that the termination could not take place as Ireland is “a Catholic country”. 

As well as this, some fatal signs were ignored and appropriate medical care was not provided. She delivered a stillborn female fetus on 24 October. Ms Halappanavar was initially transferred to the high dependency unit, then to the intensive care unit, where on 28 October she passed away from septic shock. 

Numerous inquiries took place, which found her death was a result of mismanaged miscarriage. It also confirmed that had Ireland’s legal context regarding abortion been different, it could have saved her life. 

Her death sparked discussion in Ireland and around the world. This was largely due as her premature death was, and still is seen as an unnecessary tragedy; a devastating consequence of Ireland’s outdated abortion laws. 

Savita’s story became a major argument for the Repeal the 8th referendum campaign in 2018. Pro-choice campaigners pointed it out as something that could never and should never be allowed to happen again.

Galway Pulse spoke to Sharon Nolan, who was the co-convenier of the Galway Together For Yes campaign back in 2018, said “the death of Savita Halappanvar in 2022 in UHG was a national tragedy, especially as it was a preventable scenario. She had the misfortune of living in a country where her life-saving care was denied.”

The Galway vigil is one of many nationwide events taking place to mark the decade-long anniversary. A march organised by Rosa, a socialist feminist movement, will take place in Dublin on Saturday, 29 October. While marking the anniversary, the march will also call for major reforms to our current abortion legislation. 

The HSE published research findings in July which brought to light many different difficulties that women seeking abortions in Ireland face. This included the mandatory three-day wait period between asking for an abortion and accessing the necessary medication; the 12-week cut-off point for abortion on request, and the provision that two doctors must certify that a fetus with a fatal anomaly will die within 28 days, for the mother to qualify for a termination. 

In regards to the abortion care currently being given, Nolan thinks “Ireland still has a long way to go.”

”Only half our maternity hospital will provide abortion services, and only about 10% of GPs openly accept referrals from patients who may seek these services.”

Another matter she addresses is the lack of abortion care in rural areas and the three day wait between consultations. “Pregnant people are still being forced to travel for hours from rural regions for abortion care. The unnecessary 3 day waiting period complicated this further, and disproportionately harms marginalised pregnant peopled.”

The legislation is currently being reviewed by barrister Marie O’Shea, and her report is due before the end of the year.

Nolan stressed that “we cannot afford complacency, because we’ve seen how easily these rights can be lost, and we know all too well about how difficult they are to win.”

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