UPDATED: ONE YEAR ON
On Saturday September 5th 2015, as part of Amnesty International Ireland’s “My Body, My Rights” event, I told my story.: in 2006, I traveled to the Netherlands for an abortion.
I spoke knowing that that same week, Róisín Ingle was also to publicly tell her own story. I wrote a piece for the Irish Times: You Don’t Talk About Abortion in Ireland. But I Have To. There was a flurry of press but they soon realised what we knew: it was really nothing to do with us. In fact, the story is the support we and others have received. It’s those who’ve shared their own truth for the first time. People who have never spoken out before, calling for compassion. The anti reaction has been vocal and vicious, but from such a tiny minority that it’s clear Ireland has shifted in its views, it’s just been shamed into silence. I’ve documented some of my experiences since speaking out below, but the pieces that sum it up best are here:
Repeal – on antichoice abuse and underhand tactics.
You Just Might Be The Bad Guys – on what, if you argue against reproductive choice, you must accept that you are for.
Why did I decide to give up my privacy? Because it’s too easy to dismiss faceless stories as abstract statistics and I wanted to see if I could use whatever platform I had to help to move the narrative on. It’s been going in circles here in Ireland for far too long, despite several women before and since sharing their own stories. June Levine wrote movingly of her own 1967 journey in Sisters. That was in 1982. Perhaps we’ve finally had enough.
This year, the appeal for equality for Irish women has taken on a momentum I don’t think many of us could have seen coming, except maybe warriors like Ailbhe Smyth of the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment, who have been fighting for our rights for so long. My heartfelt gratitude to her and those like her for inspiring us all and never giving up. Badges, stickers, Maser’s mural, HunReal Issues, the Repeal Project: so many creative ways have been found to break silence and stand in solidarity with those who are still being sent away. There are almost too many actions to list. Two Women Travel live-tweeted their poignant, angry journey and we all went with them. I was proud to take part in the start of the X-ile Project “an ongoing online gallery of women and trans-men who have accessed abortion services outside of Ireland. Our objective is to give a much-needed face to women* who have effectively been exiled from Ireland and ignored due to unduly strict abortion laws. We aim to demonstrate that those who choose to travel to have an abortion are responsible, ordinary women and are our neighbours, friends, colleagues, mothers, daughters and partners.”
That has been my own message this year. We have faces, we have names; we are people you like, maybe even love. We are as good and kind as anyone else and we deserve to be heard. Over the next year, I’d like to find kinder, more inclusive ways to talk about reproductive rights. I’m not alone. Our Facts of Choice event sold out in under two hours. Angry “debates” aren’t getting us anywhere – no one can be heard.
A minimum of 10 women a day still leave for Britain or elsewhere to get the medical care that they need. If they can afford it. If they can travel. If they are well enough. Others must take pills ordered illegally online, without a doctor’s supervision. Or do unspeakable things, at unspeakable risk, in a bid to end it themselves.Or be forced to continue a pregnancy against their will.
I’m not attempting to change anyone’s deep seated beliefs. I’m simply telling my story and hoping those not overwhelmed by one strict ideology might hear. And remember this is not about me – it’s about the hundreds of thousands of women (and, of course, transgender and non binary people) of all nationalities who live in Ireland under our ridiculous laws. Some are in crisis today. You know them. You just may not know that you do.
Let’s end the stigma. Let’s trust women. Repeal the 8th amendment.
THE ABORTION RIGHTS CAMPAIGN MARCH FOR CHOICE IS SEPTEMBER 24TH 2016.
In my own words:
738AM Podcast – chatting to Andrew Mangan about 2015 (including telling my story and the aftermath) here.
Kathy Sheridan interviews myself and Róisín Ingle here.
My speech from the start of Abortion Rights Campaign’s March for Choice can be viewed here.
“I am that witch” – my first piece for Headstuff is here.
Times Irish News interview on Irish women tweeting the Taoiseach about periods here.
BBC World News interview with Gráinne Maguire on tweeting the Taoiseach can be heard here.
The first piece, by Carol Hunt (who was also on the My Body, My Rights panel).
Róisín Ingle: Why I Need to Share My Abortion Story.
Fintan O’Toole, Irish Times
Una Mullally, Irish Times
Dr. Robert Grant, Irish Times (“Phrase Abortion on Demand has dishonest edge”)
Fintan O’Toole Irish Times (“…the detritus of the ecstatic picnic of theocracy’s final fling”)
Colette Browne on why the Sydney Rose speaking out was so important.
Dr. Ciara Kelly, Irish Independent
Lynn Enright, The Pool (March for Choice coverage.)
Sali Hughes, The Pool
Times UK (Marian Keyes lends her support.)
Thank you for reading.