Sharing stories: We will be shamed no more

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As part of our Citizens Assembly submission we gathered the real stories of real women who had been affected by the 8th Amendment. Now, as we approach the referendum to remove the 8th from our constitution and allow compassionate care in Ireland, we are reproducing some of the stories, with permission. We want to thank those who submitted with us. Please share widely.

In November of 2010 I was physically attacked by my then boyfriend (attempted strangling – section 2 assault when I reported it to the Gardaí and he was given an adult caution), the attack followed 2 years of emotional abuse and being cheated on and basically being a not very nice person (much of which I excused because of his very traumatic and horrific childhood). After the attack I was in a very low place and still cared for him and worried about his mental health and despite my rational brain I still used to meet up with him sometimes.  In July 2011, I became pregnant and part of me wondered if it would change him but when I spoke with my best friend and the counselors in the Well Woman clinic I realised that given my own mental state at the time, my financial situation, the fact that I was living at home with my mam and trying to get my life back together I did not want to continue with the pregnancy.  I would not have been able to care for a child.  I also didn’t tell him as my few supports that I spoke to were nervous that he would try to talk me into keeping the baby, promising change, etc.

I told a handful of close people including my mam and know that I was so lucky to have them.  I made the arrangements based on the information that I got from the Well Woman centre and arranged to travel to Birmingham with my mam for the day.  It cost me the guts of €1,000 (which was basically all of my savings at the time) and I had to tell work that I was going off for the weekend.  I felt sad but I knew that it was the right decision for me but I felt angry that I had to leave my country in a shroud of secrecy and shame to terminate a pregnancy.  I was not the only Irish woman at the clinic though the others were there alone and I felt grateful again to have such a supportive, understanding mother.  After the procedure my blood pressure dropped really really low and they were afraid that I was going to have to be sent to A&E.  I was kept in the recovery area for an extra couple of hours and then I became worried that we would miss our flight (even though I had purposely booked the last one back) and have to stay over night.  We got to the airport with some time to spare and I just wanted to get home to my bed so I paid to change our flights to an earlier one.

I know I was one of the lucky ones in that I had access to money and supports to be able to have a choice.  I have kept this secret from some of my closest friends until recently after the 5th March for Choice where I decided to share my story on facebook to show people that us 12 women a day are not faceless statistics.  Following my post 8 of my facebook friends contacted me with their own stories – some of whom had never told a soul.

We will be shamed no more for accessing a medical procedure that we are 100% sure was the right choice for us.  We have voices and we are not murderers.

illustration by Mollie Little