PRESS RELEASE: Abortion Rights Campaign concerned that voices of those affected by the 8th Amendment not being heard at Citizens’ Assembly

 

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ABORTION RIGHTS CAMPAIGN CONCERNED THAT VOICES OF THOSE AFFECTED BY THE 8TH AMENDMENT NOT BEING HEARD AT CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLY
The grassroots activist group is seeking personal abortion stories from those who have directly experienced the consequences of Ireland’s abortion laws as part of their submission
Speaking after a bill calling for a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment was rejected this week and reacting to the news that the current government are insisting they must wait for the Citizens Assembly process to finish next year Linda Kavanagh of the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC) said “While we feel that the Citizens’ Assembly is a delay tactic, we must ensure  the voices of women are central to this discussion.”
“We are concerned that the stories of women who have directly experienced the consequences of 8th Amendment will not be given enough of a platform as part of the Citizens’ Assembly process. Particularly following the news that a member of the Citizens’ Assembly had to leave when it emerged that he had been a member of a pro-choice group four years ago.
Ms Kavanagh continued “The 99 citizens who will be participating in the Citizens’ Assembly may or may not have had an experience of abortion. The Abortion Rights Campaign is taking an active role in ensuring that as many women’s stories and experiences of abortion, in Ireland or outside, can be heard.”
“There is power in numbers. If you have had to access abortion services under the 8th Amendment and would like to have your voice heard at the Citizens’ Assembly, we are encouraging you to write your story and share your experience of what it was like to travel for an abortion.”
“If you took pills for a medical abortion, you are also welcome to share your story. However, we strongly recommend you do this anonymously given the current criminalisation of abortion within Ireland,” she cautioned, referring to the fourteen year prison sentence for having an abortion in Ireland introduced under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act in 2014.
Stories may be named or anonymous and should be sent to the confidential email address stories@abortionrights.ie. ARC have provided questions which people can, but are not obliged to, use as a guide to writing their stories, including:
  • What were the circumstances under which you choose to have an abortion?
  • What would it meant for you not to travel?
  • What would you say to the citizens’ assembly if you could speak to them?
  • How would your experience have been different if you were able to access safe, legal abortion services at home?
  • What impact would being forced to remain pregnant against your will have had on your emotional and physical health?
  • What impact did being forced to travel have on you, your family and your finances?
Individuals are free to contribute to the ARC submission and to make an individual submission. As Ms Kavanagh explained: “Sending your story to ARC would not preclude you from sending your own personal submission as well, rather, we believe that there is strength in the collation of our shared experiences and we hope this document will highlight the importance of women’s voices.”
Below are five stories of women who have been affected by the 8th Amendment. This represents a small portion of the many women who will travel for an abortion until our laws are changed.
Stories can be emailed to stories@abortionrights.ie by 1 December. For data protection this email account is only accessible by 2 people.
In 2006, at the age of 37, single and out of work, I became pregnant despite taking a morning after pill. As it can disrupt your cycle even when effective, it took me two months to realise it hadn’t worked and I was eight weeks pregnant. I was absolutely terrified. There were only a couple of people I could tell – I didn’t know who I could trust or where to turn for advice. I mulled over all possibilities but I didn’t want to be a parent, definitely not alone, at my age and with no stable income. I got most of my advice online. I did my research, I was fully informed and made the difficult but straightforward decision to have an abortion. I was ill and exhausted by the pregnancy: the added stress of the laws of my own country treating me like a criminal for making what was the most responsible choice I could make in my circumstances was devastating. 
I was lucky – privileged – enough to have a credit card. I made an appointment with a clinic in Utrecht in the Netherlands and they were able to take me a week later. I booked a flight to Amsterdam, lonely, sick and tired. No one I had trusted with my story could afford the flight and time off work to come with me. I flew to a foreign city alone, navigating train routes and schedules. I had no way of knowing if the clinic was a good one or not, or what kind of care I would receive. As it turned out, it was compassionate and non-judgemental: the kindness of the staff was in stark contrast to the isolating status quo at home. I was so grateful to them. 
I had opted not to have anaesthetic, to save money. Many Irish women are forced to do this. At the last minute, I changed my mind and decided to put the cost of it on my credit card and worry about paying it back later. The nursing staff were concerned I wouldn’t be able to afford the train back to the airport. I told them I’d be alright but I had no idea myself  if that was true, I wished my own country cared as much about my health and wellbeing. As I was at just 9 weeks, the procedure was very simple and I was out of theatre in 10 minutes. In my hurry to get back to the airport so’s not to miss my flight, I collapsed in the hallway. The staff put me back to bed and made sure I was alright before I left.  
I made my way back to the train station, and back to Schiphol airport, where I lay on a recliner with my coat over me and hoped nothing would go wrong, or that I wouldn’t start bleeding on the flight. I was now miles from home and miles from the place where I’d had the procedure or anyone who could look after me if something went wrong. The feeling that I would be seen as a criminal when I landed back at home was the heaviest, darkest feeling, and I was scared to leave this place where I’d been shown such kindness. That said, I wished only for my friends, family and my own bed. I couldn’t afford to stay in a hotel so flew back that same night.
It was a terrible journey filled with indescribable stress, fear and isolation, mainly caused by the stigma which is so much part of our discourse here in Ireland. But I was so grateful to be able to make that journey. If I had been forced to remain pregnant – well, I wouldn’t have remained pregnant. I was desperate. I’d have done anything to end the pregnancy, I’m just glad I was able to do it safely. If for some reason I’d not been able to end the pregnancy I am fairly certain I would not be here. Others are not as lucky as me.
After my journey, I was relieved. There were many emotions to deal with but I was relieved to find that relief was what I felt. 
This story is happening to women you know and love today. It will happen tomorrow. We can’t turn a blind eye to what we know to be true anymore. Banning abortion doesn’t prevent it, and they have been needed and performed ever since people have been capable of pregnancy. We must keep our citizens safe. Please, please help to keep us safe.
Tara Flynn
We met at the Starbucks on College Green in early December and sat outside drinking Gingerbread lattés. We made small talk about Dublin bus, dysfunctional families, politics and craft cider. That first date lasted for three days and he told me that he loved me on Christmas eve.
We were pregnant at the beginning of March. 
We always used condoms. I had told him (at some stage during that first date) that hormonal contraceptives make me feel like the Incredible Hulk (recent studies demonstrate the link between hormonal contraception and depression). I said I wanted to use condoms, and he agreed – we’d share the responsibility. I did not want to get pregnant. I was careful, we were careful. None of that mattered though – I was late.
We bought a test, I took said test. We were definitely pregnant. We sat beside each other on my bed – 
‘What now?’ 
‘I don’t think I’m in a place – where I’m ready to be a mother. I’m on a temporary contract with a crappy agency which just won’t get extended if I’m pregnant, and you’re essentially in the same financial (broke) boat. If we were to do this, I’d have to resign myself to living off the state for a few years, and I’ve done that before – as one of two children, raised by a single mother. If you think we can survive that  – if you really passionately want me to continue with this pregnancy, you have to make me believe it can work.’
‘It’s really not that I don’t want children, and it’s certainly not that I don’t want children with you – I just don’t want any now, I’ve a grand total of €78 till next week thanks to jobbridge.’
‘So we’re agreed?’
‘Agreed.’
Because of the work of the Abortion Rights Campaign, I had heard of the Abortion Support Network, a charity operating out of the UK, which provided support – emotional and financial for women in Ireland who have to travel to access abortion services in the UK. I called their number, and explained my situation. We could afford to pay for our flights and our accommodation – we could also scrape enough for half of the procedure together. I asked if they could cover the other half. I begged strangers to help me, and they did. Their volunteer asked that I book the appointment and give them my reference number. They’d take care of the rest. We decided to go to a BPAS clinic in Liverpool. BPAS offer a discounted rate for Irish women who have to travel for an abortion. The Abortion ‘Industry’ – taking better care of Irish women than our own government. 
Because the price remains the same for an abortion from 9 -14 weeks I booked my appointment for just before 14 weeks.I was obliged to remain pregnant – essentially against my will, so I could save money. I scheduled annual leave and he did the same – we lied about going on a holiday. We feigned excitement – all the while watching the clock, counting our pennies and wanting it to be over. 
There was a yellow submarine at the airport in Liverpool. We went to boots and I bought a nightdress and dressing gown that I could dispose of. We went to see Iron Man 3 in the cinema. I bought a book in a second-hand book store. We found our B&B and watched films on my laptop. 
I wouldn’t allow him to come with me the next morning, I told him that he’d be bored. I told him to go ‘do touristy things’ for the day instead – I even told him to ‘pick up tourist leaflets’ at the museums so we could talk about what we’d “done”, when we got home. I felt like I had to protect him from the reality of what was happening. I don’t know why exactly. Our B&B was a ten minute walk from the clinic, and I walked there alone, arriving an hour early. He would have done anything I’d asked that day. I wish now I hadn’t asked him to leave. 
The waiting room was full with women of different ages and races. I settled in with my book, and moved slowly along the queue. There were various stages in the queue – admin, payment, sti screening, scans. Each stage meant interacting with a different member of staff. Some were warm, others were formal – everyone was respectful and non-judgmental. Whilst having a scan, I told the nurse how I had initially been thinking about ordering the abortion pill from the internet and self-administering in Ireland. I had been at 8 weeks at the time of my scan though, and you can’t take the abortion pill after 9. It wouldn’t have arrived in time and I had been worried about something going wrong. She told me she’d treated several Irish women presenting with incomplete abortions. These women, would now – under the Protection of Life in Pregnancy face a 14 year jail term if they arrived in an Irish hospital and met with anti-choice staff. 
I was ushered upstairs and into changing rooms – where I donned my disposable nightdress. Two other girls were in the room with me. They were both several years younger than me, and obviously anxious and distressed. I happened to be sitting beside the magazines, and asked if they wanted one. One turned to me and asked in a Dublin accent – ‘Is this going to hurt?’ My heart went out to her, poor thing – and I said ‘Not really, you’ll be a bit sore after you come around, but that’ll pass after a while, you’ll feel ok shortly after.’ She sat with big wet eyes  in a hospital gown – she’d forgot to bring her own nightdress. A member of staff came to fetch me and handed me a blanket. 
I hopped up on my bed and was introduced to the Anesthesiologist and the Doctor who would perform my procedure. They asked me about where I was from, they told me I had a beautiful accent – and they said they were sorry I had to come to England for this. I fell asleep. 
I woke up with heavy cramping and was moved into a recovery area – a room lined with comfy reclining armchairs, and was once again in the company of the two girls I had met earlier that day. We sat there for some time, silently sipping hot chocolate. I dressed myself cautiously, picked up my condoms and antibiotics, had my wristband snipped off and headed back to the B&B. I  stopped for comfort food en route – a Big Mac. I slept for 13 hours, waking only briefly when he came back in from his tourist ‘adventures’. He climbed into bed beside me and I fell back to sleep, his arms around me. 
The next day we left Liverpool and went to visit friends of mine from home who now live in the UK. It was his first time meeting them. The weather was beautiful –  we had a barbeque. We didn’t tell them the ‘real’ reason for coming to visit. I actually had a really lovely time – and I would have felt obliged to ‘appear’ more depressed than I was. I didn’t want to share what had happened with them, because I knew they’d look at me like I was wounded or broken – and If I’m honest – the only time I feel guilt – is when I realise I don’t feel guilty. I don’t believe that I ended a life, I’m relieved, I know I made the right decision. It’s just a shame it was so undignified. I know that there were about 11 other women or  couples travelling with us that day. Silently sitting beside us at the airport. Avoiding eye contact in the waiting room. Holding and supporting one another. Choosing to remain silent – or appear broken. 
Anon
My name is Vanessa O’Sullivan. I am writing this for the purpose of the Citizen’s assembly so they can begin to grasp the damage done to individual lives by the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution. In August 2012, I was in a car crash close to where I was living in Cork at the time. I was living alone in a rural part of North Cork and received some neck and back injuries. Due to the nature of my injuries, I returned to my family home in Dublin. While there I got an invitation from one of my closest friends for a bit of a reunion with old school friends in his house. However, when I got there it was clear that no one else was coming. I decided to stay for a while and catch up with him. Within an hour he tried to make a move on me, I said no. He stood up, pulled me off the sofa by my legs (knowing my back was injured) and he raped me. When I finally got out of the house I went straight to the police station. The first question I was asked was “Have you consumed any alcohol tonight?”. Devastated and in shock at such a question, I fled the station and spent the next week and a half in my room. I barely ate, barely slept and descended quickly into depression. I couldn’t cope with the idea of leaving the house and my rapist could be around any corner. I could see his house from my bedroom window. I decided to return to Cork and try to get back to work. Every time I even attempted to tell anyone, words failed me and I was left fighting back tears.  The next 2 months I had no energy, I was up and down with health problems and isolated in my house in North Cork. The nature of my job made it slightly easier to disappear and stay inside my house. I knew this couldn’t continue so I handed in my notice for me to cease work at Christmas. I found out towards the end of October that I was pregnant as a result of the rape.
This was the worst possible outcome. I couldn’t find the words to admit to anyone that I had been raped, how could I tell people I was pregnant? How could I continue with a pregnancy that brought so much pain and destruction to my life already? I decided that I couldn’t and wouldn’t.  I decided to have an Abortion. In November I booked a clinic in London using the name and address of an Irish friend who now lived in Britain.  The nearest available appointment was 3 weeks away.
The day before my consultation I travelled back up to Dublin on the train as by now I was vomiting every so often. I didn’t want to take the risk of being ill on a 3 and a half hour bus. I arrived in Dublin and it was getting quite late. I travelled immediately out to the airport. My flight was at 6:50AM so I decided it was easier to simply stay in the airport. I was now 13 weeks pregnant and lying on the hard, cold floor of an airport. I cried myself to sleep that night with silent tears. I woke up at 4am and went towards my gate. By the time the flight was ready to board I had been sick 4 times and there were 2 hen parties and a stag party going to London. The noise on the plane was almost unbearable. When we landed I went straight to my hostel (I couldn’t afford a hotel) and was in a 16 bed dorm room and placed on the top bunk. I couldn’t actually make it to the top bunk so I crawled into the nearest empty bottom one. I didn’t have long as I had to get to my clinic for a consultation. I gathered a few things together and left. I went into the clinic, I was the calmest I’d been in months. The first question I was asked wasn’t my name or details, it was “Would you like a cup of tea or coffee while you wait?” I was baffled at this and had to think about it. It was the first time in months that anyone had cared enough to ask what I wanted and I couldn’t answer. I ended up shaking my head and sitting down. My friend’s name was called. I didn’t answer the first time. It was called again and I leapt from my seat, apologising. I was brought in and given a pregnancy test and told all of my options. I clearly stated that I was going to go ahead with the termination. I was given a time for the next morning. I decided to use the rest of the day sightseeing.
The next morning I woke early. I got to the clinic half an hour before my appointment. I was greeted again with the same question of tea or coffee. I sat down in the waiting room with a cup of tea and looked around at the women and their families, talking as if it was just another appointment. One by one the women were called in and their supports were asked to wait there. Finally I was called in. I waited in a second waiting room with only women. I was called into the consultation room to double check my details and was again given my options. I asked to be put under anaesthetic and signed a permission form. I was brought to another room with 4 other women on trollies. The procedure itself took 20 minutes and I was placed into the recovery room. I was advised to stay there as long as I needed to. When I was feeling up to leaving, I was given a prescription for pain medication and they asked if I would need a taxi to get home. I thought I’d be ok to get back to my hostel.
When I got outside, I became weak and dizzy. I went into a nearby pharmacy and got my prescription. I had already reached the corner of the street when I got so dizzy I had to stop and hail a taxi. I told him where to bring me and he replied “Oh, I know where you’ve been. Would you not have come over midweek when all the paddy girls come over?” I was crushed by this question and didn’t reply. I was tired and weak and just wanted a bed to sleep in. I got back to my hostel and fell straight asleep. Around 1:30/2am I was woken with severe cramps in my stomach. I was warned that when the anaesthetic wore off it would be bad but I couldn’t have been prepared for how bad. Every time I tried to move my stomach was turning. I was now bleeding quite heavily and the pains were so bad it was making me vomit. There was now nobody else in the room and I thought that I was going to die in that room. Nobody knew where I was, nobody knew why I was there. It was around 4am when I finally got to the painkillers in my bag at the other end of the bed. It was half an hour before I was able to move again after taking them. When I did move I saw that the bed was destroyed and I cried. I eventually got the energy to get to the toilet, which was across the hall from my dorm room. I was white as a sheet when I looked in the mirror. I thought of home and how I would never make it back. At that moment all I wanted was something familiar. Just one thing. My mam, my cat, my mug of tea, my bed but I couldn’t have any of that. I had a shower and resolved to see how far I could get. At 5 am I left the hostel. The windows were open, the sheets discarded and the money for the room left on a counter with a note. I stumbled out the door, still flushed and weak and made it to the airport bus. The driver looked at me in despair. He told me to go down to the bottom row and sleep, he’s wake me when we got to the airport. He just said “I know, I see it every day” and nodded towards the back. I fell asleep and he did wake me and helped me off the bus and wished me luck. I went into the airport and headed straight to the bathroom after going through security. I lay on the floor of a large cubicle for 2 hours, too exhausted to move. My flight was then getting ready to board. I lifted myself off the floor and stumbled to the gate. When I got there, one of the hen parties I had come over with were there as was 3 other women, travelling on their own, who looked exactly like I did. We never said a word to each other but we did notice each other. 
When I got home, I continued in silence for another 4 months before I told anyone. It was 10 months before I went to a doctor because of the stigma attached to abortion. As much as I truly hate to say this: I was lucky. I shouldn’t feel lucky having had such a horrible experience but in reality I am. I had the right passport, I had a full time job (that I had to leave), I had the knowledge of where, how and when to book an abortion, more importantly I was lucky because I made it home. That is the most heart-breaking part of it. There was a chance that I may not have made it home after my procedure due to the cruelty of this country, my country forcing me out and forcing me out alone. A safe procedure made dangerous with having to fly 30 thousand feet the next day, having no one to monitor you, having to be silent about it. No person should ever have to go through what I went through, no person should have to relive it because some people feel arrogant enough to assert that they should have the right to even comment on such an experience. The 8th amendment has created this hostile, toxic war on women just because we want our healthcare choices taken seriously and by us, as the adults we are. Unless we have a vote or removing, not amending, the 8th, experiences like mine will continue to haunt this country. Amending the 8th could through up further unforeseen difficulties for women just as those who wrote the 8th didn’t foresee the difficulties and complications we now have. Writing this has been one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do in my life. To beg complete strangers to read these words and not care about the person writing them but who comes next. Who will leave this country on the next flight or ferry? You can stop the cycle. You can put an end to this. Simply by following through with our democratic process and ask the country in a referendum “Do you want to repeal the 8th amendment to the constitution?” I trust Ireland to put this right. I hope you can too.
Vanessa O’Sullivan
I find the Pro-Life Campaigns claim that the 8th amendment has saved somewhere in the region of 100,000 – 250,000 lives most disingenuous. In 2005 my own abortion saved my life, as has it allowed me to go on to have children later on in my life in a secure and safe environment, where I can provide for my family.
In 2004, a year that saw my mother suffer serious mental illness, a year my parents separated and a year that saw me date J*. He was 25, I was 21 and I was in awe of this charming man. I was student nurse, completely broke but determined to complete my studies. His apartment proved to be a refuge from my mothers wailing and threats of suicide. That December the pill failed me and I became pregnant. I was distraught and completely panicking. I had no money, no where to call home and I did not know how I was going to juggle my very demanding nursing studies and a baby. J did not want to know. I had ruined his life by getting pregnant. 
After a turbulent day with my mother, I once again tried to seek refuge in J’s apartment. I had no where else to go. He was hung-over, unemployed and again stated I was the reason for him feeling so depressed. He slammed me into his couch and screamed at me, I tried to escape but he slapped me so hard on the face I fell back into the sofa and he continued his screaming at me. So much so, it turned out his neighbour in apartment next to his banged on the door to see if everything was OK. The rant continued for what felt like forever until he dragged my by coat along the floor and then shoved me out the front door.
I walked away, straight to the quays by the IFSC and jumped into the Liffey. I had ruined my life, no one wanted me, I didn’t want to be pregnant, there was no where to go, the stigma, the thought of not qualifying, being poor and dependent on social welfare. My parents were angry with me for ruining my life, my boyfriend was angry with and I was utterly disappointed in myself. Frozen by the cold and slightly shocked that there was a strong current dragging me down stream I gripped onto sea weed that was growing along the walls of the Liffey. I was struggling to stay afloat and starting to struggle. Some man, who I owe my life to, in a hard hat and workman’s clothes leaned down and managed to pull me out of the water onto the quays. It was a Sunday, the place was quiet despite the amount of building development going on. To this day it still strikes me as luck this builder was working on a Sunday. He was visibly shaking and in shock. I just took off my heavy, wet coat, thanked him and briskly walked away from him hailing a taxi at the same time while he followed me wanting to know if I was OK. Soaking wet I got into a taxi and went to a friends house. From there we knew someone, who knew someone who had had an abortion in Liverpool. I managed to get a number and book a flight.
Because of the cost, I had to wait another few weeks so I could afford the abortion. I was working part-time in a nursing home as a carer and worked all over Christmas and New Year for good pay, as well as extra twilight shifts after college in the month of January to save the money needed for when I got to Liverpool. The morning sickness and my altering body shape was a daily reminder. There was no escaping it, I was constantly crying.
J contacted me saying I owed him for rent. In fact he hounded me and I was a complete nervous wreck. In absolute weakness I handed him over my pay for the Christmas period. I put my signature to my pay check for just under €500. Anything to get him off my back and stop the verbal abuse. It wasn’t until February 2005 that I could book the flights and have enough money to pay BPAS when I got there. After my surgical abortion, I had to hang around John Lennon airport for a few hours where I cramped and bled very heavily waiting for my flight home. People starred at me, I must of looked like crap, my eyes were red and swollen with pain. I found it hard to pass urine and let out deep groans in the toilets in the airport when eventually I could pee. I didn’t realise I would bleed so much, I packed my underwear with wads of tissue. Two days later the cramping increased and my GP advised me to go to the Rotunda emergency department. I was admitted and planned for a D&C for incomplete abortion but the night before my planned D&C, wriggling and wincing in pain I passed what was left of the pregnancy. They pulled the curtains around me, as to not upset the expecting mothers that surrounded me on the ward.
The shame, silence, isolation I have felt by my home country is shocking. Repeal the 8th is gathering momentum because there are so many off us. I did not want single-mother handouts like the “love them Both” parade harp on about. I didn’t want to be pregnant, end of. J remains unemployed and single with a litany of failed relationships because of his domestic abuse. It rages me to hear anti-choicer’s say girls/women have abortions for lifestyle choices. I am now a mother, secure, happy with a loving partner, full-time working nurse contributing to the state. How dare someone accuse my want for independence, not be in an abusive relationship and have an education a “lifestyle” choice. My abortion saved my life and has allowed me to bring life in a this safe, secure way it should be. I shouldn’t have to explain to anyone if my pregnancy is worthy of an abortion. There should be no political hoops to jump through. My beating are not up for strangers debate but unfortunately here I am telling you my story, so it is! Being able to access care at home straight away is what I should of got and today as a nurse I should be able to care directly for women in my country.
Free. Safe. Legal and nothing less.
Repeal the 8th
Anon
What were the circumstances under which you chose to have an abortion?
The circumstances for my abortion were painfully difficult. I found I was pregnant the week I turned 19. I was the only child of a single mother, working-full time to put myself through college, and a full-time carer to a dying parent with seemingly insurmountable medical bills, with no real family. There was no possible way I could afford to have a baby. I was very mentally unwell, and had recently been raped, meaning that my relationship with my body was fraught and difficult, and it did not seem like my own. 
What would it have meant for you not to travel?
Thinking that I could have had my abortion in Ireland, I find it difficult to fully contemplate. The horrible financial burden that was involved in travelling to England would have been lightened. As someone who receives permanent medical care for my physical conditions, I could have sought medical attention more openly, avoiding the physical ramifications of having an abortion with a disability, and avoiding medical care out of fear. I think if i’d had my abortion in Ireland, I might have told someone. I wouldn’t have felt so isolated, depressed, exported.   
What would you say to the citizen’s assembly if you could speak to them?
I would attempt to explain the absolute sense of stigma and abandonment that took me years to overcome. These internalised feelings are so horribly typical; They are so inherently linked to our historical failings of women throughout the history of the nation. 
What impact would being forced to remain pregnant against your will have had on your emotional and physical health?
I have never doubted that had I been forced to remain pregnant I would have taken my own life. I had a date circled on my calendar at the time; The date that I would have to either have saved for the totality of my trip, or killed myself. For me, even had there been an option to ‘prove’ my suicidal ideations to a panel of medical professionals, I would not have. I had already internalised so much shame, so much dread, how could I possibly face that sort of mock trial?
I eventually sought medical attention in Ireland when my hand was forced; I fainted from pain and blood-loss in work and feigned disbelief when I was told I’d had a miscarriage. 
What impact did being forced to travel have on you, your family and your finances?
At the time I could barely afford to eat, had stopped attending my doctors, and avoided subjects that required textbooks because I could not afford them. Saving for an abortion meant that all of these already precarious concerns were heightened to an unbearable level. For the month before I travelled I worked seven days a week to save. I stayed in a run-down building in Croydon, I bought the cheapest flights over and back, I ate a cheap buffet meal in a dive restaurant for energy on the day. There was no financial ease there. It was this cost, combined with the absolute isolation of fear, that made me consider suicide so readily.
Kate Bedford

News release

Issued by the Abortion Rights Campaign

Tuesday 15th September 2015

For immediate release

COMEDIAN TARA FLYNN TO MC AT 4th ANNUAL MARCH FOR CHOICE

– Flynn says ‘real women’s stories’ must take the place of silence and stigma –

Comedian and writer Tara Flynn, who last week spoke publicly about her experience of travelling to Holland to have an abortion, will MC at the fourth annual March for Choice, in Dublin at 2pm on Saturday 26th September, 2015, organised by the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC).

Speaking about the March For Choice, Flynn said: “Scaremongering and abstract arguments, as well as shaming tactics and stigma, have dominated this narrative for too long. It’s time to acknowledge real women’s stories – women we all know – and actual facts: hundreds of thousands of women have had to travel and will continue to travel for healthcare they need, or put themselves at risk. Silence has got us nowhere. It’s time to talk.”

During a discussion at Electric Picnic, entitled ‘My Body My Rights’, Flynn revealed that she had travelled to Holland for an abortion some years ago, saying she would rather not have made it public, but wanted to put a face to the statistics. She subsequently wrote about her experience in Monday’s Irish Times:

www.irishtimes.com/life-and-style/people/tara-flynn-you-don-t-talk-about-ab…

Other speakers at the march will include Clare Daly TD, as well as representatives from the Abortion Support Network, Aims Ireland, the Trade Union Campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment, Akina Dada Wa Africa and Speaking of Imelda.

Janet O’Sullivan of ARC said: “The landslide vote for Marriage Equality and the passage of the Gender Recognition Bill this year demonstrate clearly the huge appetite for change in Ireland. This will be the last March for Choice before the general election, so we want to make it clear – to get our vote, politicians must make a commitment to Repeal the 8th Amendment, so we can take a step closer to securing free, safe and legal access to abortion in Ireland.”

The march will be joined by many of the 215 activists from Alliance For Choice Belfast who signed an open letter in June admitting they had broken Northern Ireland’s abortion laws by using or supplying abortion pills. The activists are “inviting prosecution”, to challenge the law under which a woman in her 30s has been charged with procuring an abortion pill for her teenage daughter. Police have so far refused to prosecute any of the activists.

One of the signatories, Kellie O’Dowd, said: “We at Alliance For Choice Belfast will be bringing a bus of supporters to march with our sisters in the South on a day that marks the decriminalisation of abortion. We know that change in one jurisdiction on the island would benefit everyone, and we will continue to campaign for free safe and legal abortion across the island of Ireland.”

Janet O’Sullivan of ARC said: “This year we will be joined by a cohort of MEPs who will bring the inhumanity of Ireland’s laws to a global audience. A delegation from the European Parliamentary Committee for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM committee) has chosen to use one of their European parliamentary Turquoise weeks to visit Ireland, to highlight the outstanding areas of gender inequality written into law in Ireland.”

The march will start at 2pm in Dublin at the Garden of Remembrance (assembling from 1.30pm), and ARC is asking supporters to bring wheelie cases “to make heard the sound of the thousands of women forced to travel abroad for abortions every year”.

The March for Choice on 26th September marks two dates in the pro-choice calendar – Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion and International Day of Action for the Decriminalisation of Abortion, both on 28th September.

ENDS

Contact:

Email info@abortionrights.ie

Phone: 089 226 2048

Email info@abortionrights.ie Phone: 089 226 2048

www.abortionrights.ie

www.facebook.com/abortionrightscampaign

Twitter: @freesafelegal

– See more at: http://www.abortionrightscampaign.ie/2015/09/15/news-release-issued-by-the-abortion-rights-campaign-tuesday-15th-september-2015/#sthash.HEr9o1w3.dpuf

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