Why YES is so important – the referendum

Last week, Ireland went to the polls to vote either for or against repealing the 8th.  This is SUCH an important issue for women everywhere.

With a turnout of 64.1%, every constituency with the exception of one (wtf Donegal?!) voted in favour of the ‘Yes’ campaign.  On 25 May 2018, the ban on abortion was removed.  The government is now allowed to legislate on terminations.   With abortion being illegal in Ireland, in 1983, pro-life activists who feared that this could be changed, lobbied the government for a referendum.

In 1983, the referendum was passed with 66.9% voting Yes and 33.1% voting No.

What did this mean for women in Ireland?  It meant that, to have an abortion, they would have to board a plane and travel far from home to have an abortion, or that they would have to take (illegal) tablets to try to terminate at home.  Women were putting themselves in unsafe and critical situations where they had no control over their own bodies.  Women’s lives were at risk.  Aside from this, there were women who couldn’t afford to travel abroad for abortions and didn’t want to risk taking a tablet with uncertain results, who had children who they weren’t ready for or capable of looking after.  Sure, I’m certain that some women were capable and able to once thrown in the situation, but surely, women deserve the right to make decisions over their body.

25 MAY 2018.

Yes.  Women.  Ireland.  Yes.  How amazing is it, that in 2018, women have the right to choose what they want to do with their uterus?  That women are now (legally) able to terminate a pregnancy.  That women no longer have to travel abroad, take dodgy pills, and participate in other horrendous acts, because they weren’t legally allowed to make decisions about their own bodies.

Last week, I was so closely following stories on Twitter, with the hashtag #hometovote.  Women (and men) were travelling from all over the world to go back home to Ireland to vote.  People came together to support each other.  Strangers were banding together to ensure other expats were getting on trains, coaches, planes and ferries so they could get home to Ireland to vote.  A community became the community.

“Yesterday we travelled because we wanted to.  Today, we vote for the women who travelled because they were forced to.”

I am in awe.  Gobsmacked by how absolutely amazing this movement is.  I can only hope that this is the start to more amazing changes for women’s rights and all human rights.

Why do I actually give a shit?  Why is this so important to me?  I’m not even Irish.

June 2008.  My breasts hurt.  I was tired.  I was just feeling funny.  I had met a guy a few weeks beforehand.  We were moving along quite quickly.  It was one of those, just, amazing starts to a relationship.*

* It wasn’t.  I was a stupid knob who really thought this bloke was amazing, but he was a total bell end, which I would find out one year later.

I bought a pregnancy test, did it at work, and nearly shat myself when it came back positive.  I had graduated from uni a few weeks beforehand and was in my first real job.  I never wanted children.  I certainly didn’t want one now.

I panicked.  Told my boss I was feeling poorly (via email), and scarpered across the stree to a friends’ office for a big cry.  After I got that out of my system, I went home and retreated to my bedroom (in my parent’s house), and cried.  For a real long time.

My boyfriend, who lived about an hour away (on an army base near my old uni), was still at work.  I thought I’d wait until he got home and tell him I had a random day off work and was going to come visit for the evening.

I was such a poor recent grad that I had to take the bus up to visit him as I didn’t even have a car or other means to get there.  I rang him at 4:30 to tell him I had the next day off (which was a Thursday), and that I thought I’d come up for a mid-week visit.

Immediately, he knew something was wrong.  He sensed it in my voice, which had been crackling from the tears.  I told him.

A few hours later, he picked me up at the bus station and we went to a chemist to buy a 2 pack of tests so I could be sure.  Two big wees later and I was still pregnant.  I remember laying on his leather couch, sunlight beaming in from the window, and just thinking “fuck.”

We weren’t sure what to do.  Did we want this?  We had only been dating for like 6 weeks.  Did we even really know each other enough?  Should we be making decisions like this?

We decided to call a tele-health line and ask for advice and options.  They were horribly rude.  I felt like a bloody leper.  I felt like I was being judged for even considering options other than giving birth and becoming a mum.

We went to sleep.  He slept.  I cried.

The next morning he went into work and I stayed at the house, googling options.  I decided that what was probably best was termination.  I knew we weren’t ready.  Better yet, I knew I wasn’t ready.

When he came home from work, I told him my decision.   He said he would support whatever I wanted to do.   Later that night, I hopped back on a bus and went home.  I had made a GP appointment for the following week.  My boyfriend would be down for the weekend to visit, and would attend the appointment with me on Monday.

When speaking to the GP, she was horribly rude to me.  She made me feel like my decision making may be flawed and that I should consider all my options (aka not termination).

Feeling awkward and out of control of my own body after the appointment, we decided to go for a drive and stopped at a vintage shop we both liked.  There, he found a book “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”  He gave it to me when we got in the car and suggested we give it another think.

How the actual fuck am I supposed to feel now?  What am I supposed to do?  In the back of my head, knowing anything other than termination, was a wrong decision, now I was being pulled by him in another direction.

I decided that I didn’t want it.  I couldn’t do it.  I called the Dr. Morgantaller Clinic.  Abortions were only done on Tuesdays.  I booked in for the next available time.  2 weeks away.

The next 2 weeks went so slow.  I was very, very aware of the changes already happening to my body and the feelings I was having (physically & mentally, but never second guessing my decision).

The night before I was scheduled to have the abortion, I took the bus to my boyfriend’s house.  The Clinic was in Fredericton, where my old uni was.  There were no local options.

On the morning of my appointment, we stopped at a cash point and I withdrew $775.  The cost of an abortion.

We arrived at the clinic at 7 am and the protestors had already started to arrive.  I was ushered in, filled out paper work, met with a counsellor, given some Ativan, and then taken for a scan.  Not long after, I was called in for my appointment.

The doctor and nurse were incredibly calming.  They chatted with me, comforted me and made me feel safe.  I knew I was making the right decision.  I remember on the ceiling, there was a weird poster of a smiley face.  I was told to just look at that and focus.

After the procedure, I was taken to an area to recover.  I laid there, next to 2 other girls, for about 30 minutes with juice, toast and some fruit.

That was it.  It was done.

After recovery, I was taken out to reception.  My boyfriend had gone to collect the car and bring it up as close as he could as the protestors had filled the pavement at this point.  I was ushered into the car by volunteers and we were off.

For a few days I felt uncomfortable.  I never felt like I made the wrong decision.  In fact, I knew I made the right decision, and despite all the shit, was proud of the decision I had made.

We drove to a park and sat there with a coffee.  We didn’t talk about it.  I cried.  We hugged.  We got back in the car and went home where I slept for a little while.

We never spoke of it again.

My story is not dissimilar to many other women.  It may be that my story is actually easier than most.  I only had to travel 1 hour.  I didn’t have to go abroad.  Whilst my boyfriend wasn’t brilliant, he was there and he supported me in the best way he knew how.

This story has never been told to anyone other than a few close friends (4, to be exact) and my husband.  My family doesn’t know.  My outer circle of friends don’t know.

Why have I not shared my story before?  I guess I always thought, why should I? Why would I?  Women have abortions every single day.  The problem is, people think it’s an easy or a selfish decision to make.  It’s neither easy or selfish.

My ex and I went through some tumultuous times over the next few years, mostly as a result of his drinking and cheating.  If we stayed it out, I think we both would have held a grudge with each other.  If we went through with the pregnancy, I would have a 10 year old.  My life would be very different.  Better or worse, I don’t know, but it certainly wouldn’t be the life I have (and love) now.

Women shouldn’t be made to feel anything other than support when they are making such a massive decision.  Women should have the right to choose what they do with their body and their lives.

I can’t tell you how proud I am of Ireland this week and how proud I am of my own story.  I implore you to read some of the twitter thread #hometovote.  Read other women’s stories.  Understand why this was the right decision.  Women are raped, murdered, denied health care.  We’re told we cannot be trusted to make our own decisions.  We’re then told our bodies are for nothing other than birthing children.

Tell your story.  Someone wants to hear it.




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