‘As an Irish woman who travelled for an abortion, a Yes vote will not represent me’
Abortion should not be encouraged by a slogan on a jumper, a mural on a wall, a meme or a fashion exhibition
There are many different reasons women terminate their pregnancies, or continue with them in challenging circumstances. In advance of the referendum on whether to retain or repeal the Eighth Amendment on May 25th, The Irish Times asked readers (women and men) to share their personal experiences. This is one of the stories we received.
I never allowed myself to know how I truly felt about my abortion until the campaigning began for the upcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment. It was always there, in the back of my mind, shaping me psychologically, creating an ever-growing empty hole.
A thought or a flash-back came into my head every day, but I rarely allowed those thoughts develop further and, when they did, I quickly validated my decision and moved on with my life, although I knew there was so much more to it than that.
In the past year, there has been no escaping it and, for the first time, I have allowed myself to fully engage with how I feel.
In the 15 years since my abortion I have never once felt like a victim. I have never felt let down by my country and I have never felt like I wasn’t trusted. I didn’t see my abortion as a healthcare issue. I never felt a lack of compassion for I was not the vulnerable one in the equation. It made perfect sense to me that I had to travel.
I knew what I was doing was wrong.
I have never felt fear like I felt when I found myself in a crisis pregnancy situation. I didn’t want to have a baby. It was the most terrifying experience of my life. I was 21, not in a very stable or long-term relationship, and not financially secure. I quite simply didn’t want a baby, it wasn’t in my plan and, frankly, I wanted to be swallowed up to make it all go away. But I was pregnant and there was nothing that I could do about it, or was there?
Once abortion becomes a consideration, time is against you. The sooner you do it the better or so you tell yourself anyway. That is what happens from that point on, you tell yourself everything you need to hear. You have to convince yourself that you’re doing the right thing and, afterwards, that you’ve done the right thing. Looking back is not an option as what is done cannot be undone and the last thing you want to do is end up regretting your decision.
So you suppress as much as you can, but it doesn’t go away.
If only it was so simple. How did I expect the repercussions of terminating the life of my unborn baby to be simple?
How did I expect to not wonder how things might have been and how did I expect to comfortably live with myself knowing that I chose to deprive my baby of their right to life simply because it didn’t suit me?
I know that every crisis pregnancy is different, each with its own complexities, but the Irish people would be very naive if they thought that the largest percentage of women in Ireland who will choose abortion should the Eighth Amendment be repealed are women with stories different to mine – mine being a healthy woman pregnant, with a healthy baby, and that scenario just not suiting.
We are being asked to trust these women. We are being told that these women need us to vote Yes for them. We are being told that we are abandoning them if we vote No, and abortion is being sold as some form of female empowerment.
Almost everyone I have listened to who is in favour of “repeal” is doing so in the name of all the Irish women who have had to travel. They stand with us in solidarity, they sympathise with us and walk in our shoes as we make our way to the abortion clinics far from home. They fight our fight.
One reason I write this is to publicly say that you do not represent me and you are not fighting my battle.
All I think about now is the only victim in my abortion story – my baby
Abortion is not cool. Choosing to have an abortion does not feel liberating or empowering. Abortion should not be encouraged by a slogan on a jumper, a mural on a wall, a meme or a fashion exhibition. Abortion should not be promoted by a social media “influencer”, who up until this point has only had a public opinion on the latest fake tan. Abortion should not be defined so simply as “a choice” – for the word choice has a very broad meaning with some of our choices having far more severe consequences than others.
As a woman who has experienced abortion, I am so perturbed by the flippancy of so many who are promoting it. Abortion is not just a choice that you move on from.
Abortion was and is the worst experience of my life.
Now, when I think of my abortion, I don’t think about the journey to the UK or how much I had to spend on flights and a hotel. I don’t think about the fact that I couldn’t terminate the life of my unborn baby in Ireland and feel let down by that fact.
All I think about now is the only victim in my abortion story – my baby.
I think about the life of that baby that I selfishly took away. I wonder what they would be like now. Would they be my son or my daughter. I think of the fact that there is absolutely no possibility that I would regret their existence. I would not wish that I had aborted them. I think every day of my baby and I know it will be that way for the rest of my life. I feel so let down by myself. I feel so angry at the strength of the fear I felt and I wish I could go back and tell myself that the fear will subside and everything will be okay. I desperately wish I had trusted Ireland and trusted the Eighth Amendment.
I know my story is not unique yet I hear few like it, perhaps because it is such a difficult one to tell.
We hear so many devastating stories of fatal foetal abnormalities (FFA), stories that are important to hear, but so is mine – if only for the fact that the basis of mine represents a vastly higher percentage of the number of Irish women choosing abortion.
I would not be telling my story if we were holding a referendum to make amendments to the constitution to allow for exceptions to be made in cases of FFA. The fact is that we are not voting to make amendments, we are voting to fully repeal the Eighth Amendment and to introduce a very liberal abortion regime to Ireland. The Irish people do not have an obligation to facilitate social abortion in Ireland by voting Yes. There is a much better solution to the hard cases that the government can propose.
On May 24th, 2018, it will be 15 years to the day when I made the choice to end the life of my unborn baby. I will prepare myself for the following day where I will vote No. I will vote No for Irish women and Irish babies and, personally, I will vote No in memory of my own baby, whose life means so much to me now.