Since ascending to global stardom playing Hermione in the Harry Potter films, Emma Watson has become a leading activist for numerous global issues. Her zealous activism and impassioned advocacy of human rights saw her appointed a UN Women Goodwill ambassador in 2014, and a spokesperson for the UN campaign HeForShe – which campaigns for men to take a greater role in advocating gender equality.
In this capacity she has long been vocal about the need for the provision of safe access to abortions in countries that currently do not legislate for them.
She had previously spoken out numerous times in support of the Repeal campaign here in Ireland in the build up to the referendum on the 25th May this year. The referendum saw a 67% result in favour of having the 8th Amendment removed from the Irish constitution and for legislation governing the safe and legal provision of abortions to be instated.
Now, some four months later, Emma Watson has written a letter for Porter Magazine in honour of Dr Savita Halappanavar, the Irish dentist who died due to a septic miscarriage in University Hospital Galway in 2012 – an event which drew national focus to the rapidly growing calls for the removal of the 8th Amendment from the constitution.
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
The letter, which can be read below, both honours Savita and also reminds us that there are still a myriad of countries which still retain similarly antiquated legislation prohibiting, or significantly limiting, access to abortions – including Northern Ireland.
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. 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. Time and again, when our local and global communities collectively mourn a tragic death due to social injustice, we pay tribute, mobilize and proclaim: rest in power. A promise to the departed and a rallying call to society, we chant: never again. But 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.
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. 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”. 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.” That the eighth amendment enabled valuing the life of an unborn fetus over a living woman was a wake-up call to a nation. For you, and those forced to travel to the UK to access safe, legal abortion, justice was hard-won. From Argentina to Poland, restrictive abortion laws punish and endanger girls, women and pregnant people. Still, Northern Ireland’s abortion law predates the lightbulb. In your memory, and towards our liberation, we continue the fight for reproductive justice.
With all my love and solidarity,