Menstruating is normal. Sex is normal. Contraception is normal. Abortion is normal. It’s time to get over it.

Opinion: Many women are not hurt by abortion but relieved by it

Pro-choice demonstrators at a demonstration in Dublin last year. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Menstruating is normal. Sex (of many varieties) is normal. Pregnancy is normal. Preventing pregnancy is normal. Failing to prevent pregnancy is normal. Facing a pregnancy you didn’t intend is normal. Having a child is normal. Having an abortion is normal. This is 2013. It is normal to be a woman of reproductive age. It was always normal.

All societies, with the possible exception of Canada, seem to think that women need rules to guide and govern them as they steer through their decades of reproductive potency. Without rules, women will be rudderless in a mire of menstrual blood and conceptional gore. Without rules there could be anarchy. Women may literally run amok, and no one wants to see women running amok.

Thankfully great men have produced such rules.

Great men have worked out that the foetus is ensouled at 120 days. Other great men have worked out that those great men are wrong. These great men have worked out that human life begins at conception.


Other great men have worked out that 24 weeks is the correct limit for women in Britain to be allowed to access an abortion. Great men have decided that women in Ireland cannot have an abortion. Well maybe if she is dying. Maybe. But if she's suicidal, she's going to have to convince us.

Safe medical procedure
Legislating to control women's bodies is not normal. Abortion is normal. Women get pregnant when they don't want to be. Why a woman doesn't want to be pregnant is not the business of any state or any church. Abortion is normal. It is one of the safest medical procedures known today. Yet according to the World Health Organisation, 47,000 women die every year as a result of unsafe abortions. Many more women who survive an unsafe procedure are so physically and emotionally damaged that they are left disabled by the infections, the bleeding, the sepsis, the sheer damn trauma.

Women die because states meddle, churches seek to control and great men obfuscate. Women do not die because of abortion. Safe, legal abortion is a safe medical procedure.

It is right, at this time of the recent Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion, to remember the thousands of women who have lost their lives because great men have failed. In Ireland, we think again of Savita Halappanavar and we are so sad.

It is equally important to remind all women that having an abortion, if that is what they want to do, is not dangerous. It can be uncomfortable, painful and emotionally challenging, but it is not dangerous. It is a procedure that many women can and do access easily and in a perfunctory way.

Ridiculous world
Think, for a moment, of a person in Ireland who needs a tooth removed. Imagine if they had to plan to travel to England: they had to save money, book flights, book a babysitter, locate a dentist, get directions. Then – all on an empty stomach and in a rush after a procedure – they had to bundle themselves, tired and bleeding, onto their non-transferable flight home. No you can't imagine it because it is ridiculous. It would be ridiculous to put anyone through such nonsense. Yet women in Ireland must live in that ridiculous world.

I am not equating having an abortion with having a tooth out. Every woman has her own experience of an abortion. For some women it is a challenging and upsetting experience. For others, it is not.

“I was not hurt by abortion, I was relieved by abortion” is the reflection of one of the thousands of women who have left Ireland in 2013 to have an abortion. “Sometimes I feel obliged to appear sad.”

Jenny (not her real name) was relieved, but she decided not to tell the friends she was visiting the next day about the abortion. “I could either be quiet or appear broken. That’s what people expect. I didn’t feel broken. I kept quiet.”

The worst thing about having an abortion is not the procedure, it is not being able to have that abortion where you want to have it, when you want to have it. In your country, near your friends, near your bed.

Of course, thanks to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013, the worst thing may be the up-to-14 years imprisonment for ending your pregnancy in this country by taking a pill readily available via the internet and legal in many jurisdictions.

Thirty years ago next Monday, article 40.3.3 of the Constitution was enacted. It is time to repeal the Eighth Amendment and end equating of the lives of women with an implanted embryo. Women are not hurt by abortion, women are hurt by denying them safe, legal abortion. It is time to be kind.

Watch the Irish Family Planning Association and International Planned Parenthood Federation video about women and abortion in Ireland at: