'Savita's Law': Repeal Campaigners Call For Ireland's Abortion Legislation To Be Named After Expectant Mother

Jasmin Gray and PA
A young woman walks past art work featuring Savita Halappanavar 

Pro-choice campaigners have backed calls for Ireland’s new abortion laws to be named after a tragic expectant mother who died after being refused a termination.

The Together for Yes coalition said the gesture would recognise the “great debt” the Irish people owed to Savita Halappanavar, the 31-year-old Indian dentist who died in a Galway hospital after doctors refused to perform an abortion as she miscarried.

They supported a call from Halappanvar’s father Andanappa Yalagi for the abortion reforms to be named Savita’s Law as they urged the Government to expedite legislation in the wake of the landslide referendum vote to end the state’s near blanket ban.

Together for Yes said the Government should reconsider its proposed end of year schedule for passing the legislation and called for a special summer sitting of the Dail and Seanad to ensure new laws were brought in as soon as possible. 

Halappanvar’s death in 2012 has become emblematic for advocates of abortion reform in Ireland.

As people continued to lay flowers and messages at an impromptu shrine to her in south Dublin on Sunday, Together for Yes co-director Grainne Griffin said the coalition would support new legislation being called Savita’s Law.

“In terms of Savita and her family I think our country owes them a great debt and we were so honoured and so touched by the support that they lent to the campaign over the course of it,” she said.

“I was really glad to see her father say that yesterday they felt they had justice for their daughter.”

The three co-directors of Together For Yes hold a final press conference after Friday's referendum 

Those campaigning for liberalisation secured a stunning victory on Saturday, after it was confirmed that 66.4% of voters in Friday’s referendum backed repeal of the controversial Eighth Amendment of the constitution, which bans abortion in all but exceptional circumstances.

Ireland’s health minister Simon Harris will seek cabinet backing on Tuesday to draft legislation that would allow abortions within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, subject to medical advice and a cooling-off period, and up to 24 weeks in exceptional circumstances.

He has indicated the new legal framework will be drafted over the summer and is set to be tabled in the Dublin parliament in the autumn, with aim for the legislation to be passed by the end of the year.

Together for Yes co-director Orla O’Connor urged a more ambitious timescale.

Opposition parties Sinn Fein and Labour have called on the Government to aim to pass the law before the Irish parliament’s summer recess.

“I certainly think that all of our TDs and senators should really consider a special sitting so that it can be progressed through the summer,” said O’Connor.

She added: “After this phenomenal vote to remove the Eighth Amendment we now need to move very quickly to introducing and progressing the legislation.

“We are calling on the Government to now start the process next week. The people have spoken, they have spoken very loudly and we now need to see this legislation happen quickly because as we know today, as we are here, there are women who are planning their journeys and who are having to travel to access abortion outside of Ireland.”

The referendum vote did not set new laws in itself – rather, it gave politicians the freedom to do so unhindered by a constitutional prohibition.

The Government made clear ahead of the referendum campaign the type of abortion regime it would seek to introduce if the Eighth Amendment was consigned to the history books.

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