Kitty Holland on abortion regret: ‘Women should be trusted to make the wrong decision too’

Irish Times Social Affairs Correspondent shares her story with The Women’s Podcast

Looking back now, Holland feels that if she had more space to think, if the father had been supportive, if someone had told her not to do it, then she may have chosen not to have that abortion.

Looking back now, Holland feels that if she had more space to think, if the father had been supportive, if someone had told her not to do it, then she may have chosen not to have that abortion.

 

“I completely understand how people would feel huge regret when it’s the wrong decision for them. I know, I lived it,” says Irish Times Social Affairs Correspondent, Kitty Holland, about the second of her two abortions.

“I think women should be trusted to make the wrong decision too ... we all make wrong choices sometimes,” she told Kathy Sheridan, in the latest episode of The Women’s Podcast.

Holland was 27 when she had her first abortion. She was freelancing at this paper, in an unhappy relationship and financially insecure. She was on her own and decided she was not ready to have a child.

After undergoing pre-counselling in a Marie Stopes clinic in Dublin, Holland boarded a plane to London on her own. She met a friend who brought her to the clinic and after an overnight stay there, it was over. She boarded a flight back to Dublin, relieved that it was done and moved on with her life.

Happily, three years later Holland found that she was pregnant once again, but this time she felt ready to be a mother and gave birth to her baby girl Rosie.

In her mid-30s, Holland was faced with another pregnancy that she was not sure that she could go ahead with. She tried to do what she thought was the right thing by the father, who did not want a child, by herself and by her daughter, and after two agonising weeks she made the decision to go to a clinic in Amsterdam for a termination.

“Again, I was very relieved it was all over,” she said, but that soon changed and she sought post-abortion counselling.

“I knew in my heart of hearts that I wanted another child…There are a lot of people who do regret it and I think part of the reason why people make a wrong decision is because Ireland is such a hothouse place to have to make that decision,” she said.

For many months afterwards Holland was in a terrible place, wracked with regret, she was performing badly at work and it was not going unnoticed. She couldn’t move past “not only the shame of having an abortion, but the shame of regretting it. What a mess, a self-inflicted mess.”

It was not until a year later, when Holland became pregnant with her son Alfie that she finally got back to herself.

Looking back now, she feels that if she had more space to think, if the father had been supportive, if someone had told her not to do it, then she may have chosen not to have that abortion.

The word ‘choice’ is an important one, because Holland had one. She was in the privileged position of being able to raise the money and choose to travel for an abortion, a privileged position that many Irish women do not hold.

In an opinion piece in this paper last week, Holland spoke out on the issue of privilege and abortion. She criticised the Repeal campaign for being dominated by middle-class voices and for failing to challenge the political and economic inequalities associated with abortion in this country.

It was “not about trying to personally bash the privileged people who are leading the Repeal movement”, she said, rather it was about highlighting that it is important for those who are privileged to acknowledge that they are, put that privilege to good use and bring those other voices without it into the Repeal campaign.

“This is the biggest grassroots women’s campaign that Ireland has ever seen and if it’s not put to use to bring women together to fight for equality on all fronts, then it’s a lost opportunity and I see that opportunity being lost.”

To listen to the full conversation between Kitty Holland and Kathy Sheridan, go to http://www.irishtimes.com/podcasts, or your preferred podcast app.

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