6 Things I learned marching to the Vigil for Savita Hallapanavar.
Savita died of septicemia in Galway University hospital after suffering a prolonged miscarriage over 3 days. After 1 day she requested the pregnancy be terminated but as a fetal heartbeat was detected, this request was refused. This reflects Ireland’s legal limbo over what to do in a case such as this- Doctors are reported to have told Savita and her husband that nothing could be done while the fetus still had a heartbeat and that ‘this is a catholic country.’ about 10-15,000 people marched and held a vigil today in Dublin to express outrage at her needless death, and to pressure the government into legislating for the X case. The X case was a supreme court ruling that entitles a woman to a termination if there is a real and substantial risk to her life. Here are some things I learned today
1- That Pathetic fallacy is a real thing. Just as Paula Meehan read out the final verse of her poem ‘The statue of the Virgin at Granard’ (Which is heartbreaking and fantastic and found here. Warning- it is incredibly sad. Much as I love it I find it hard to read) It began to rain over the crowd assembled. When Sinead Kennedy gave the signal and the slow march to Government buildings began, the sky cleared again. I have never been more humbled in my life than standing there, listening to that final, bitter, heart breaking verse.
2- Pink Highlighter is surprisingly waterproof. My poster was made in ten minutes at 3:30 in my friend’s flat on Gardiner Street. It was crafted from 8 sheets of white A4 printer paper stuck with blue tack to a piece of cardboard taken from the box my friend’s desk came in. The felt tip markers I used were not so waterproof as highlighter and bled in the rain. the effect was quite striking in the end, making the words ‘NEVER AGAIN’ weep.
3- There will always be shouty people outside the GPO. Best counter protester of the day goes to the incredibly angry man shouting ‘Speaking for those who can’t for THEMSELVES!’ while brandishing the box for a Kenwood food processor. We really wanted his eyes to meet those of the Scottish-accented evangelical preacher with a megaphone. Their passion for each other would burn in eternity. I think the oddest comment of the day came from a woman on the 9 o’clock news speaking on behalf of the IONA institute , a conservative catholic organisation. She said pro life campaigners felt ‘excluded’ from the vigils being held over the country as they were organised by Pro-choice groups and attended mostly by pro-choice supporters. All I can say to that is- Good. Yes. Feel excluded because this island is leaving you behind. This entire tragedy is sat firmly in the legal grey area that pro life campaigners refuse to admit exists.
4- Get a nation angry enough, and ten thousand people will walk the streets. The figure I estimate for the march is anywhere between 10 and 15 thousand people- Not as high as the 20,000 claimed by organizers but certainly not the 6,000 reported by RTÉ news. On the two occassions I’ve gone out to protest or march for Choice- both the March for Choice two months ago and Wednesday’s vigil- I found myself bumping into a good 40% of my social circle. Tonight I only saw maybe 2 or 3 (Excluding the gang of Labour Youth heads I bumped into). It was a massive march, numbers be dammed.
5- Solidarity comes at the most unexpected of moments. After the march, I stuck my sign under my oxter and walked to Pearse street to catch a train home. It had been a long day of sadness and anger and so I was holding the sign’s front against my side – I didn’t want to get into any debate with anyone on the way home. I noticed to my horror a middle aged woman (probably about 50) looking at the sign, just visible sticking out. I didn’t know how she was going to react- I expected her to be conservatively minded, like other women of her age I’ve encountered. She smiled, and said ‘Aren’t you great making a sign?’
She went on to tell me how horrified she’d been reading about Savita Hallapanavar, how she felt spurred into action. We chatted about right to termination, how we felt about it, chatted so politely about it. It was a great moment of cross-generational solidarity. 2 women separated by 30 years bonded by common purpose. It was a lovely moment that taught me never to underestimate the women behind us.
6- Stand in one place long enough in wet canvas trainers dotted with holes and your feet will go numb. I was back in Raheny before I had sensation again.
When I got home, my mother said ‘well done.’ It warmed my heart
Niamh ‘Never again’ Keoghan