In what very well may catalyze a radical change to the Republic of Ireland's particularly onerous restrictions on abortion, thousands of protesters marched through the streets of Dublin on Saturday night to pay tribute to a woman who died in October after being refused an abortion at Ireland's University Hospital Galway.
On October 21, Savita Halappanavar, 31, was admitted to University Hospital Galway complaining, according to CNN, of back pain. She was 17 weeks pregnant at the time. Doctors examined her, informed her that she was, in fact, having a miscarriage, but denied her an abortion, according to Halappanavar's husband. After two and a half days of agonizing pain, Halappanavar died in the hospital of septicemia.
Abortion laws in the Republic of Ireland are notoriously strict, and a pregnancy can only be terminated in "exceptional" circumstances, as in, when the mother's life is in jeopardy. At least, that's what the Irish Supreme Court ruled two decades ago, but since that ruling has never been enacted into law, doctors and patients are often mired in a bureaucratic grey area as to when an abortion can and can't be performed.
Dublin protesters chanted "never again, never again" while marching to government buildings and holding a candlelight vigil in the Irish capital. Similar vigils were held in Galway, and outside the Irish embassy in London. Halappanavar's death may, at the very least, galvanize politicians (Gerry Adams, leader of Ireland's Sinn Fein party has already spoken out) to push for bona fide government legislation on abortion, so that women in Halappanavar's precarious position have more protection under the law. Meanwhile, Irish opposition lawmaker Micheál Martin has called for an independent inquiry with personnel from outside the country to participate on a "panel of inquiry" to "establish the full circumstances" of Halappanavar's death lest we all be too hasty in championing a woman's right to choose what happens with her own body.