Although she made her name as an actor, Emma Watson has also been making a sizeable impact this year as an activist and agent of change, building on her record as an outspoken feminist who famously launched the ‘HeForShe’ campaign at the UN in 2014.
An advocate on issues ranging from violence against women to sustainability, she guest-edited the first-ever issue of Vogue (Australia) completely dedicated to sustainability, and catalyzed the UK Time’s Up network and the Justice and Equality Fund.
The 28-year-old also recently chaired a landmark philanthropic summit in London, having personally donated $5 million to gender equality and women’s rights causes over the last 12 months.
Significantly, in May, she tweeted a message of support to the people voting in Ireland’s abortion referendum, framing their choice as a “vote for women’s rights [and] equality.”
PORTER invited Watson to write a letter in honor of 31-year-old, Indian-born dentist Savita Halappanavar, whose tragic – and preventable – death following a septic miscarriage in 2012 was the catalyst for Ireland’s historic referendum, in which over 65% voted to repeal the country’s eighth amendment. The 1982 law gives an unborn fetus the same protection as its mother, making it nearly impossible for women to have an abortion.
An inquiry showed that there had been 13 opportunities to save Halappanavar’s life over the seven days she was under medical supervision, and that she would not have died if she had been allowed to abort the 17-week-old fetus. The Irish government expects to introduce new legislation by the end of the year that covers unrestricted abortions for up to 12 weeks, with exceptions for pregnancies up to 24 weeks if the woman’s health is at risk. The new legislation has already been dubbed ‘Savita’s law’.
Here is Emma Watson’s letter:
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,
A call to action
“So Ireland repealed the eighth – what’s next? There is still more work to be done. Free, safe, legal and local abortion care is needed across the globe. People needing abortions in Ireland will continue to be forced to travel to England, or access abortion pills online, until legislation is passed. Please consider supporting these abortion funds that provide confidential, practical and financial support to people in Ireland and around the world: Abortion Support Network (UK/IE) and Women Help Women (Global).”
– Emma Watson
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