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March planned to remember Savita on the 10-year anniversary of her death

Savita Halappanavar died in October 2012, and her tragic death led to a raft of investigations and an outcry across Ireland.

A MARCH WILL take place in Dublin on Saturday 29 October to commemorate Savita Halappanavar, who died 10 years ago this month.

The march, organised by the National Women’s Council of Ireland and the socialist feminist group ROSA, will leave from the Garden of Remembrance at 1pm, travelling to the Dáil. 

The idea of the march was first mooted at ROSA’s Bread and Roses Festival, where the NWCI said it was “enthusiastically endorsed”. The aim of the march is to commemorate Savita, but also to say “never again”, the organisers say.

Savita Halappanavar died on 28 October 2012 at University Hospital Galway. Her death left a major mark on Irish society and the healthcare system, as well as leading to major changes in the country’s provision of abortion. 

The cause of Savita’s death was recorded as severe sepsis, E.coli in the bloodstream and a miscarriage at 17 weeks. 

Her story first became public when her husband Praveen spoke to the Irish Times about his wife’s death, saying that Savita had been “denied a termination” in hospital. The article outlined how two investigations were underway into her death, and the story went on to be reported across the Irish media as well as making headlines globally.

Her story was discussed in the Dáil and reporters spoke further to Praveen. Calls were made for changes to Ireland’s abortion laws – this was a number of years before the Eighth Amendment was repealed. 

Vigils and protests took place across Ireland, with people saying that “never again” should a woman die in the same circumstances as Savita. 

90281275 Praveen and Savita Halappanavar Photocall Ireland Photocall Ireland

At the inquest into Savita’s death, the coroner was critical of the obvious systems failures in the hospital’s care of Savita, as well as the inclusion of backdated entries in her medical records.

The 11-person jury returned a unanimous verdict of medical misadventure.

The HSE’s investigation outlined how there was a “lack of recognition of the gravity of the situation and of the increasing risk to the mother which led to passive approaches and delays in aggressive treatment”.

The investigators warned that similar incidents could happen again if clarity as to the law and national guidelines remained absent.

A HIQA investigation also detailed failures in the care provided to the Indian-born dentist, including failure to act or escalate concerns to an appropriately qualified clinician when there were signs of clinical deterioration. Following the publication of the Hiqa report, University Hospital Galway apologised to Praveen Halappanavar.

In 2013, President Michael D Higgins signed the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 into law on 30 July 2013. This gave women access to an abortion where there is a real and substantial risk to her life, including risk of suicide.

This was followed by a Citizen’s Assembly and then a committee on the Eighth Amendment of the constitution, which in turn eventually led to the referendum on repealing the Eighth Amendment.

Despite the Eighth Amendment being repealed, the organisers of the forthcoming march say there are still some issues remaining with provision of termination in Ireland, particularly around people having to travel abroad.

“Repeal and the subsequent abortion law has been a seminal achievement, but limits in the law and access are leaving people behind. 375 people had to travel for abortions to England and Wales in 2019; only one in 10 GPs are providing abortion services and only 10 of the 19 maternity hospitals,” said the organisers of the forthcoming march.

- With reporting by Sinéad O’Carroll 

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