an open letter to Praveen Halappanavar

Dear Mr Halappanavar:

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for your loss, for your beautiful wife and your hope for a child.

I’m sorry there are people in Ireland so blind to human suffering that they don’t understand why what happened was wrong.

I’m sorry that doctors are too afraid of the law to stand up for a woman’s life. I’m sorry that the doctors you dealt with treated you the way they did. That was wrong, inexcusably so.

I’m sorry we’ve elected cowards more interested in staying out of political hot water than in massive, massively important, issues like a woman’s right to choose. I voted for this government in the hopes that they were the pro-choice option. I hoped that they’d legislate on X and give us our Eighth Amendment referendum. I’m ashamed for my country of what happened in the Dáil yesterday. I’ll contact my TDs. I’ll ask them to say that they’re sorry too.

I’m sorry you and Savita have become figureheads for a movement, positions for which you did not volunteer. The movement is a good thing, don’t get me wrong. It was about time Irish feminists and pro-choice advocates got a rocket lit under us. Nevertheless, it must be so difficult to play out private grief and deal with public interest at the same time. You’re a strong man. I admire you.

I’m sorry that Ireland has treated you the way it has. I’m sorry that this is your impression of our country. It has failed you. It’s not right.

I’m sorry that “in the interests of balance” the media are wheeling out anti-choice cretins who would leave this sorry tale to play out again and again. In the interests of balance, we should stand every lawmaker hiding behind the Constitution and afraid of electoral castigation up in front of the nation and make them listen to women telling their stories. Twelve women a day fly to Great Britain to procure terminations, because they’re not sick enough to fight for one here. Unwanted pregnancy, spanning a spectrum of emotions from discomfort to violation, is apparently not enough. You have to be dying. Even then… seemingly, not enough. I’m sorry you have to listen to these people.

I’m sorry that the doctors brushed you off in the name of Catholicism. I want them to take out their Bibles and show me the bit where it says that saving a woman’s life is wrong. I’ve read a lot of it. I don’t think that’s there.

I’m sorry that somewhere along the line being a Catholic country became an excuse to be un-Christian in our acts. I don’t believe in God, but I was taught a lot about the Christian God as a child. He never sounded like someone who would treat people in grief or in danger the way you have been treated here.

I’m sorry that the God that lives in Ireland is a selfish old man, who looks out only for the welfare of selfish old men like him.

I’m sorry that I can’t even express how wrong this all has been. How inexcusable. How heartbreaking your loss must be. What a rotten stain on our society this sick Catholic hangover is. The audacity of trying to argue any logic or reason into refusing your wife her termination to save her life.

We will fix this. I promise. We will fix it so that no-one suffers like your family ever again.

Until then, I’m just so very, very sorry.


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