After my last post about Savita, I emailed T. Thorn Coyle to ask for her help in finding ways to respond to this tragedy. I felt that something needed to be done, besides writing and prayer, but I didn’t know what.
She had some really good suggestions for organizing a response.
One was to lobby at the local Irish Consulate for changes in Ireland’s legislation regarding abortion. (You can find a list of Irish embassies and consulates abroad here.) There is an Honourary Consul in my town, so I’m going to see if I can make an appointment to speak directly to him. I will also be sending the letter below, which you may take, tweak, and send to your own Irish Consul. (You may want to do a lot of tweaking, as my letter is specific to Canada and me — there is a fact sheet about U.S. relations with Ireland here. But the letter below should give you some inspiration at least.)
Dear Mr. Cheevers:
Canada and Ireland have had friendly relations for years, and many Canadians think kindly of Ireland. However, with the news of Savita Halappanavar’s death, a wake up call has sounded across the nation.
I, like many Canadians, had no idea that abortion was illegal in Ireland. I suppose for me it was a personal oversight — I’m of Irish descent and I worship Irish gods, and had planned for a long time to make both a personal and a religious pilgrimage to Éire. I never imagined that the place I’d been fantasizing about visiting for so long, the place that looked so heavenly to me, would have such disregard for the lives of women, trans men, and genderqueer assigned-female-at-birth folk.
I will not be visiting Ireland until the law is changed. Not only can I not do so in good conscience, but I must think about my own physical safety — and visiting a country that does not believe in my right to my own body is putting myself in danger of serious illness or, worse, death.
I urge you to speak with the Taoiseach and the members of Oireachtas and tell them — this needs to change. Abortion must be made legal in Ireland. Don’t let Savita Halappanavar’s death become a senseless tragedy. Ireland looks very bad on the world stage right now because of this. That can change, but it starts with you.
Justice for Savita — change the abortion laws.
The other idea Thorn gave me was to let Irish tourism boards know that I wouldn’t be visiting Ireland until a change was made, and that I’d be organizing my friends around that.
Here is the letter I’ve drafted to the Irish tourism boards. Feel free to take it, tweak it, and send it off yourself. (Make sure to choose one of the boards to address it to; don’t sent it off with the slash. That’s only there to indicate whom you should address each letter to.)
Dear Tourism Ireland/Fáilte Ireland:
I find myself quite distressed writing this. Recently I heard the story of Savita Halappanavar dying in Ireland because she was refused medical care. This led me to research Ireland’s laws regarding abortion, and I found that it is illegal — but that five referendums on it have been held in the past 30 years.
It is time for a change. It is time to make abortion legal. I have had plans to visit Ireland since I was an adolescent, but those plans have changed. I cannot in good conscience support the tourism of a country that condemns women to die, nor can I risk my own health travelling to a country where the law does not regard me as more of a person than a zygote, or blastocyst, or embryo, or fetus.
I will not be visiting Ireland until the law is changed, and I will be organizing the people I know around this. Let your lawmakers know — their abortion legislation is hurting tourism.
Tourism Ireland is the main corporation behind marketing Ireland overseas. Their contact information is here. I suggest not only sending the letter to their corporate offices in Ireland, but also to overseas offices that are local to you. You can add a bit to the letter about how the legislation in Ireland is hurting tourism from your country specifically, if you wish.
Fáilte Ireland is the National Tourism Development Authority, and it would be good to get in touch with them as well. Their contact information is here; I think Complaints may be the best department, but one might also wish to try Reception. (Edit, as of Nov. 26th: they only have contact forms, which require you to select a region that’s within Ireland. I just selected Dublin, and then added a bit within my letter saying I was in Canada, but their regional menu didn’t give me that option. Hopefully the letter will still get through to the appropriate channels.)
I urge you to not only send your letter via email, but also via regular post if you have the capability to do so (I know money is tight these days). Let’s flood their offices with responses — let them know Ireland has lost a substantial part of its tourism business because of this legislation.
Those are things that we can do to support the pro-choice movement Ireland. Pressure from overseas as well as pressure within their own country may effect some positive change — one can only hope. (Please note, my heart and my sympathies are with the Irish people during this time, and I lend my spirit to the Irish pro-choice movement. I do not blame the Irish people for what happened. I do, specifically, blame the medical staff who refused Savita life-saving treatment, and the politicians who have not changed the law despite having five referendums in 30 years, and the Catholic anti-choice ethos. It’s obvious that many Irish folk are ready for a change, and it’s a shame the government isn’t listening. I hope that by writing to them, we can let them know the world is watching, and supporting the pro-choice movement in Ireland.)
You can also look at Choice Ireland, the online hub for the pro-choice movement in Ireland. Ask them specifically what you can do to get involved. Don’t let this blog be your last stop for reading about this — I’m not in Ireland. I’m of Irish descent, but that doesn’t give me licence to speak to the Irish people’s experience. I only speak to my own experience, my own reaction to Savita’s death, and my own deep need to take action of some sort.
My fellow activists, during this I also ask: remember self-care. It’s just as important as fighting the good fight. Don’t let yourself burn out on this; breaks are necessary. Thorn reminded me of this too, and I’m glad she did. I have a tendency to fling myself into the fight until I’m so battered I’m no good to anyone, least of all myself. We must do what we can. No one has any right to ask any more of us.
I’ll be splitting my energies between fighting for Ireland and fighting for my own home country. Conservative MPs in Canada’s parliament have brought forth a new anti-choice motion — M408. You can read more about it here.
If you want to help fight for pro-choice activists in Canada as well as Ireland, the same tactics outlined above are a good start. Write to Canadian tourism boards and let them know that if M408 passes, Canada will lose your business. This will have a large impact coming from U.S. residents — we rely on a lot of tourism from our southern neighbours. You can also write to Canadian MPs and urge them to vote NO on M408 — especially the MPs who voted in favor of our last anti-choice motion, M312 (possibly easier to read list here).
You can also ask the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada how you can help.
Finally, for the knitters and crocheters in the audience — Radical Handmaids are calling on pro-choice knitters to send knitted/crocheted wombs to them so they can send them to the 91 MPs who voted yes on M312. Deadline is January 2013. (Pattern here.)
And if you see me lambasting anti-choice trolls on Twitter with my vicious sarcasm…feel free to join in there, too.
- Father of Savita Halappanavar wants to see change in Irish abortion law (irishcentral.com)
- Tragic Savita’s husband calls on Irish government to change the law (irishcentral.com)
- Savita’s husband objects to Galway doctors’ role in inquiry on tragic death (independent.ie)
- Never Again: A response to the death of Savita Halappanavar (stillnotshakespeare.wordpress.com)
- So Much for the “Life of the Mother”: The Death of Savita Halappanavar (persephonemagazine.com)
- Cecile Richards: Savita’s Death Was Not an Isolated Incident (huffingtonpost.com)
- Savita Halappanavar’s medically unnecessary death | Jill Filipovic for Feministe (guardian.co.uk)
- RIP Savita (auroralapetite.wordpress.com)