THE BLOG
11/19/2012 12:06 pm ET | Updated Jan 19, 2013

Savita Halappanavar Should Be Alive Today

Savita Halappanavar is dead because bad laws and ideology -- and a breathtaking disregard for women's humanity -- stood in the way of sound medical practice. Savita Halappanavar is dead because the tragically expiring heartbeat of her fetus was deemed more valuable than that of a living, breathing woman. And while it was doctors at University Hospital Galway who refused to perform the abortion that would have saved Savita's life, the circumstances of this outrageous loss are hardly unique to Ireland. Savita's death serves as the most raw of reminders that the global war against women's fundamental human rights rages on. And even though our country spoke loudly for women's rights on election day, that war does rage on right here at home.

As Jodi Jacobson wrote in a recent editorial, it is not a question of if the circumstances that killed Savita could ever coalesce here. They already have. From the headline-grabbing comments (and voting records) of extremists like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, to the brazen (and often successful) attacks on Planned Parenthood, to the shuttering of women's health clinics in small towns across the country, the assault on women's basic reproductive rights is hardly a stealth war.

And this effort to restrict women's legal access to contraception and abortion did not end with Barack Obama's reelection -- or Akin and Mourdock's defeats -- on November 6. It is a dangerous legacy that carries into the 113th Congress, through men like former vice presidential candidate and Representative Paul Ryan and the eleven anti-abortion representatives reelected to the House. (Related: The House may well continue to cling to its cruelly pruned version of the Violence Against Women Act.)

Anti-choice state legislatures have also rushed to renew their efforts. Perhaps the most repellent example to cite here is that of Ohio, where lawmakers are hard at work on an unconstitutional law that would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

Ireland is just one of more than 128 countries where abortion is illegal or severely restricted. Through a growing patchwork of anti-choice initiatives and restrictions to women's access, the United States is dangerously close to becoming another. That is why it is crucial that we connect our struggles across language, culture and geography to build global solidarity for women's human rights, and to ensure that women are empowered to control the circumstances of their own lives.

Savita's name should be on all of our lips when lawmakers attempt to restrict women's access to abortion at 20 weeks because of the medically rejected claim of "fetal pain." Savita's name should be on our lips when yet another women's health clinic closes its doors, leaving thousands of women without life-saving access to mammograms, contraception and abortion. Savita died because the madness of this culture war has gone unchecked for too long. We can honor her legacy by ensuring it doesn't happen again. Not here. Not anywhere.

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