Saturday 17 November 2012

A very sinister hijacking of Savita Halappanavar's death

A guest blog from the unstoppable Farzana: dedicated to the memory of Savita Halappanavar
“Bigotry tries to keep truth safe in its hands with a grip that kills it” Rabindranath Tagore, (1861 – 1941)

When I read Praveen’s (Savita’s widower) account of the agony his wife was in and the reaction of the consultant when Savita asked for the pregnancy to be induced (as the fetus was unviable) I was angry and humiliated for the Halappanavars who were told “This is a Catholic country.”  A few tweeters noted the inherent racism within that response, @sunny_hundal for one, @SamAmbreen for two - and a whole host of others. However, when this was pointed out during the night and the next day, a very typical response came from certain people who refused to acknowledge that that statement could be perceived as being racist. We were accused of being “over-sensitive”, “reading too much into it” etc...

What I would say to those people is this: imagine you were Savita and Praveen. Savita was in agony by the time her cervix had dilated and both she and her husband were undoubtedly traumatised and upset that they were to lose their first child, thousands of miles away from home, away from the comfort of the familiar. Now imagine, as foreign, non-Irish, non-Catholic people that the medical intervention you have requested in good faith is effectively rejected and done so in a sneering condescending manner. Imagine if your daily lived reality is one of “being the other”.

If you haven’t experienced racism in its obnoxious and subtle forms then one could see how you might not relate to how those of us similar to the Halappanavars would legitimately react. Being generous, I will give you the benefit of the doubt. Being miserly; I would say this: if you do not know what it is like to be of non-white skin colour, if you do not know what it is like to be judged for worshipping God in a different form, if you don’t have the same ethno-linguistic or cultural norms or values as the majority, if you are made to feel as if your non-white skin colour, your different form of worshipping God, your different ethno-linguistic-cultural norms are INFERIOR; then you do not know what it was like for Savita and Praveen at that time. You get me bredrens?

Predictably, a small but highly vocal racist group of anti-choice odds and sods have attempted to hijack the death of Savita and gone to town with some very strange views: views which fetishise the fetus but hate the brown mother.

One of the earliest tweets I spotted stated this: “The baby Savita (rip) lost was female. Many Indian people abort female babies. 2 facts”. In fact, according to her brother she had ‘always wanted to have a girl.’

My head sort of exploded about this time. I had a sinking feeling that the most uninformed anti-choicers would use the ethnicity of Savita as a tool in their disastrous counter campaign against a very angry and grief-stricken pro-choice movement.

Claims about Indians and sex-selective abortions are a cheap way to attack Savita’s Indian heritage, MY heritage, as one which is violently disproportionate in favour of men. However, if you consider that India (1966 & 1980), Sri Lanka (1960* the first female head of a modern post-colonial state), Pakistan (1988 and 1993), and Bangladesh - the “Battling Begums”  (1991, 2001, 1996, 2009) all have had female heads of state far earlier than any western country did (including the UK with Thatcher in 1979 and Mary Robinson in Ireland in 1990), you have to wonder – for countries which are portrayed as being so patriarchal and male dominated – we didn’t too badly did we bredrens? The most disturbing commentary on Savita’s death however has come from a well known active hardline anti-choice racist/White Nationalist. a link to his view that ‘Indian people are a bit slow and backward' is here.

First of all his views hardly make any logical sense. To claim that Indians are “slow and backward” when India is 10th largest economy in the world, 3rd for purchasing power, exports worth $299.4 billion. He then goes on to argue if Indians don’t like the way things are done in Ireland, then they “should go back to their smelly overpopulated country.” Overpopulated? Hang on – in the same diatribe, he argues that there is “no justification to allow the murdering of unborn babies.” I would also have to say, bredren, plenty of Irish people leave Ireland too to look for jobs abroad...and to get away from racist bumbaholes like you.

Another tweeter – a silly little boy who clearly doesn’t get out much, doesn’t read a quality newspaper or listen to the news – claimed that:  “That Muslim girl died, she was refused an abortion, am not racist but I f-ing hate smelly rag heads.” After I had picked myself up off the floor laughing hard at his “That Muslim girl,” (Savita was HINDU), I again felt the unease that racists, stupids and anti-choicers make for an explosive amount of stupidly uninformed bigoted views. That Savita was Indian, means that her ethnicity WILL be a factor in their frothy mouthed bigotry. I actually tweeted back “you do realise the woman who you implied as being a smelly rag head was in fact Hindu and not Muslim? PS I'm a smelly rag head.” I await his response, if any.

Savita’s death was horrible enough. Praveen, her husband, will arrive back in Ireland to fight for justice for his wife. A fitting legacy to Savita’s memory would be if Ireland would just reconsider their current legislation and make the necessary changes to ensure that no woman: whether white, brown, Catholic or non-Catholic is ever told “This is a Catholic country” as justification to deny a life- saving medical intervention.

Pro-choice is more pro-life than the anti-choicers would have you believe. Reclaim the term, we OWN it.

Updated: For London based people, there will be a protest outside the Irish embassy on Saturday 17th November 4pm onwards, for further details:

Thursday 15 November 2012

Protest the death of Savita Halappanavar


Protest the death of Savita Halappanavar in Ireland


To: Taoiseach Enda Kenny (Irish Prime Minister)
cc: Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore (Irish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs)


Copy also to the Irish Embassy in your country. Find contact details here

Re: Death of Savita Halappanavar in Galway

Honourable Taoiseach,

We are writing to you to express our concern about the recent death of Savita Halappanavar, who was repeatedly denied an abortion in Galway. This tragic case demonstrates once again that the prohibition of abortion in Ireland is not just undermining the autonomy of the women across the country, it is leading to unacceptable suffering and even death.

Savita Halappanavar made repeated requests for an abortion after presenting at University Hospital Galway on 21 October while miscarrying during the 17th week of her pregnancy. Her requests were refused, and she died one week later after several days in agonising pain and distress.

The situation of Savita Halappanavar provides the clearest possible evidence that laws that permit abortion only to save the life of a woman, such as the Irish law, are clinically unworkable and ethically unacceptable. There are numerous clinical situations in which a serious risk posed to a pregnant woman's health may become a risk to her life, and delaying emergency action only increases that risk. There is only one way to know if a woman's life is at risk: wait until she has died. Medical practitioners must be empowered by law to intervene on the grounds of risk to life and health, rather than wait for a situation to deteriorate.

You will be aware that the European Court of Human Rights, as well as a number of United Nations human rights bodies, have called upon the Irish government to bring its abortion law in line with international human rights standards. Had these calls been heeded before now, the death of Savita Halappanavar would have been prevented.

With the death of Savita Halappanavar, Ireland joins the ranks of countries worldwide where abortion is denied to women and leads to their deaths.

We call on your government to take urgent and decisive steps to reform the legislation that led to the death of Savita Halappanavar. Until the Irish legal system is reformed the lives, health and autonomy of women across Ireland are in jeopardy.

Yours faithfully,


Friday 2 November 2012

Happy birthday to us!

Dust off the party poppers, EFC is 20 years old this year!

We were founded back in 1992 as a result of a lack of good quality educational resources on pregnancy and abortion. Teachers were finding that despite the topic of abortion being on many syllabi, there was very little support in terms of teaching it in a sensible and balanced way. Sure, the old anti-choice stalwarts SPUC and Life had been around for a good 20 years, but their offerings tended to be (and still are) partially inaccurate, biased and often insensitive to young people's experiences of pregnancy. A group of sexual health professionals therefore got together to form 'Education For Choice' and ensure that young people could learn the facts about abortion.

Over the past 20 years we're stayed true to our mission - to provide young people with reliable information about pregnancy options. We've done this directly, by providing workshops in schools, colleges and youth centres, but also by producing resources and training up professionals who work with young people. We reckon we’ve reached around 1.8 million young people through this work. Not bad for a tiny project with limited resources eh?

Our 20 years of experience means that we are experts on young people and abortion and are often contacted by the press to provide information and comment. Recent years have seen us work to expose rogue crisis pregnancy centres offering inaccurate information, and highlight the problem of anti-choice speakers giving misinformation to young people in schools. No one else in the UK is doing this vital and unique work.

We’re proud of what we’ve achieved, but while sex education remains a patchy subject and anti-abortion groups continue to mislead young people about their health and wellbeing we think it’s important that EFC continues to shout loud for young people’s right to good education.

We’re asking you to support our work by giving us £20 for our 20 years. Or a monthly donation – even a small amount will make a real difference. To spice things up we’ll be posting some classic tunes from 1992 to now, culminating in our birthday extravaganza in London on 22nd November. We’d love to see you there.

If you believe young people deserve to be give the facts about pregnancy and abortion, then please give what you can to support EFC’s work.