Actor Emma Watson writes open letter to ‘passionate, vivacious leader’ Savita Halappanavar

‘Harry Potter’ actor writes: ‘In your memory, we continue the fight for reproductive justice’

Actor Emma Watson: ‘You didn’t want to become the face of a movement,’ she writes. Photograph: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

The English actor Emma Watson, best known for playing Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, has written an open letter honouring Savita Halappanavar.

The 28-year-old actor, who is also an advocate for women’s rights and reproductive justice, was asked by fashion magazine Porter to write a letter in honour of the 31-year-old, Indian-born dentist Savita Halappanavar, “whose tragic - and preventable – death following a septic miscarriage in 2012 was the catalyst for Ireland’s historic referendum, in which over 65% voted to legalize abortion”.

Porter describes itself as a “game-changing new fashion magazine” for the “stylish, intelligent woman of now”.

Watson addresses her forthright and emotionally strong letter “Dear Dr Savita Halappanavar”, writing: “You didn’t want to become the face of a movement; you wanted a procedure that would have saved your life. When news of your death broke in 2012, the urgent call to action from Irish activists reverberated around the world – repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution.


“Time and again, when our local and global communities collectively mourn a tragic death due to social injustice, we pay tribute, mobilize and proclaim: rest in power. A promise to the departed and a rallying call to society, we chant: never again.

“But it is rare that justice truly prevails for those whose deaths come to symbolize structural inequality. Rarer still is a historic feminist victory that emboldens the fight for reproductive justice everywhere.”

Messages are left at a memorial to Savita Halappanavar a day after an Abortion Referendum to liberalise abortion laws was passed by popular vote, in Dublin, Ireland May 27, 2018. Photograph: Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Savita Halappanavar and Praveen Halappanavar at their home in Galway, October 2012, shortly before her death

The actor, who won fame and acclaim playing Hermione Granger for 10 years, went on to star in films such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, My Week with Marilyn and Beauty and the Beast. She has also worked with People Tree, a label promoting fair trade, has been the face of Burberry and on the cover of Vogue, and has starred in Lancôme ads.

In 2014 she graduated in English from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Watson is an active member of the UK Time’s Up collective, is a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador, and is involved in the HeForShe campaign, calling on men to encourage and support gender equality.

Porter describes Watson as “making a sizeable impact this year as an activist and agent of change, building on her record as an outspoken feminist who famously launched the ‘HeForShe’ campaign at the UN in 2014”.

When her open letter appeared in the Incredible Women issue of Porter, Watson tweeted: “It was a great honour to be asked by @PORTERmagazine to pay the deepest respect to the legacy of Dr Savita Halappanavar, whose death powered the determination of activists to change Irish abortion laws & fight for reproductive justice all over the world.”

In May this year Watson tweeted a message supporting people voting in the Irish abortion referendum, a “vote for women’s rights [and] equality”.

Watson’s open letter describes how Halappanavar’s family and friends shared memories of her – “passionate and vivacious, a natural-born leader” – and she specifically mentions Halappanavar’s dancing: “I watch the video of you dancing in Galway’s 2011 St Patrick’s Day parade and am moved to tears by your thousand-watt smile and palpable enthusiasm”.

The letter says: “Sharing their mourning and hope with the world, your family publicly supported the Together for Yes campaign. Celebrating repeal, your father expressed his “gratitude to the people of Ireland”. In reciprocity, I heard Ireland’s ‘repealers’ say that they owe your family a great debt.”

She mentions a note on a memorial in Dublin, which read, “Because you slept, many of us woke”, saying “ That the eighth amendment enabled valuing the life of an unborn fetus over a living woman was a wake-up call to a nation.”

Watson cites abortion restrictive laws in countries including Argentina to Poland, where “laws punish and endanger girls, women and pregnant people”, and says Northern Ireland’s abortion law “predates the lightbulb”.

She ends the letter: “In your memory, and towards our liberation, we continue the fight for reproductive justice. With all my love and solidarity, Emma x.”

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey

Deirdre Falvey is a features and arts writer at The Irish Times