When I was 17 years old I found out that I was 9 weeks pregnant and I didn’t tell a soul.
It’s one in the morning, I’m sat on my bathroom floor next to the toilet because I feel like I’m going to be sick again, with my feet against the door in case anyone in the house wakes up. I’ve spent the last of my money on a pregnancy test and I’ve waited for hours for everyone to go to bed. It’s been 3 minutes that have felt like 3 hours. I can’t bring myself to look. I was late, again, but I kept telling myself I was stressed. Stress has a big impact on your body. Stress can make you miss periods. It’s stress. I see two lines and I feel the blood rush through my body and my heart sink to the floor and I feel nothing. I don’t move, I don’t breathe, I just stop. Then I was sick again.
I don’t sleep that night; I don’t have time because now I don’t know what to do. You see, that’s a problem with sexual education, no one ever tells you what happens when things to go wrong.
What do I do? Who do I tell? What will they think? What will they say? Where do I go? What are my options? How do I make this go away? Do I have to pay? How could I afford it? How does it work? What are the requirements? What if they say no? I can’t do this. I’m going to be sick again.
I spend days Googling these questions and getting no closer to an answer. I can’t go to my GP, what will she think of me? I go to my local sexual health clinic. I sit in the waiting room unable to breathe. They call my name. I enter the room, I pee in the pot and I wait. The woman does the test in front of me and it’s positive almost instantly. I say nothing. I stare at the woman like she’s supposed to tell me what to do next. She asks “so what do you want to do then?” I reply “I was hoping I could speak to you about my options”. She looks at me, almost like I’m irritating her, I’m wasting her time. “Well you either keep it or you don’t”.
My appointment was booked that day. I went for a scan and found out I was 9 weeks pregnant. I had to have surgical procedure. 7am on Tuesday. I’ll be 10 weeks by then. I felt sick again.
I was the stereotype; ‘16 and pregnant’, not a qualification to my name (except my GCSEs), from a low-income single parent family. My mum had nothing her entire life but she gave everything to raise her children as best as she possibly could. She scraped every penny to provide for her family and forwent everything and anything to make sure we had enough to get by. I love my mum for everything she’s done for me, for everything she has sacrificed but that doesn’t mean that life growing up wasn’t hard because of our circumstances. My mum is strong and she is fearless but I didn’t think that I was, and I didn’t want that to be me, I didn’t want my child to grow up in the same way.
What were my options? Option one: I have this child – with no money, with no utilities, with no stability, no hope, nothing to offer to them. Option two: I have this child and I give them away – in the knowledge that somewhere out there my child is growing up, in unknown circumstances – good or bad – believing that they had a mother who just didn’t care about them. I couldn’t live knowing that. Or option three: I end it now.
Abortion is not like choosing whether or not you should cut your hair. It’s like choosing whether or not you should cut off your own leg because it’s caught in a bear trap. It is a decision that forced me to consider every possibility, every outcome, face every inconceivable doubt and fear. It was the most difficult decision I have ever made in my life and it breaks my heart when I think about it.
But it is not a decision I will ever regret. It was the right decision for me.
The stigmatisation that surrounds abortion, that surrounds the absence of autonomy of my own body, was and is the reason that I struggle with the decision I made. I don’t regret what I did. I struggle because I never had anyone I could talk to. I made this decision alone. I made this decision in fear. I made this decision through floods of tears, as my body was raging with hormones, as I vomited every morning, as I wanted to curl up into a ball and die.
For the women of Ireland who deal with this decision, in the face of criminalisation, through fear of not being able to make this choice, risking your life because you can’t afford a plane ticket, I am sorry. I am so sorry that it makes my heart hurt. Because I know the loneliness and I know the fear and I know that it will feel like no one ever understands. But I cannot not imagine everything else that you have to face as well. I can’t imagine being alone in another country, I can’t imagine the excuses you have to make, I can’t imagine travelling that distance home in excruciating pain.
I lived 5 miles away from my local hospital. I spent the week before worrying how I was going to be able to afford the bus to reach the hospital but I knew if I had to I could walk it. Women in Ireland don’t have that choice, if you can’t afford that plane ticket that decision has been made for you. Alternatively, you risk your life, you risk prosecution, trying to order pills online in sheer desperation.
Pro-lifers argue that less than 1% of abortions are performed to save a woman’s life but my abortion saved my life. I wasn’t in physical danger but it saved my life. It gave me a second chance; it gave me a chance to live my life. It gave me a chance to go to University, to do what I want, the opportunity to provide a stable income and security so that when I choose to have a child I can give it everything I have and be the best mother I can be. The chance to provide my child with the life that it deserves because if I had continued my pregnancy, no one would have supported me.
This government doesn’t want to help you when you’re unemployed, when you’re poor, when you’re young, when you’re desperate. Instead you’re stigmatised. Welfare mums. Arguments against abortions are not pro-life, they are pro-pregnancy. Once your baby is born you are forgotten about. To be truly pro-life is to support those in need, the homeless, the vulnerable, the old, the sick, the disabled, the poor, the needy. It is not forcing a woman to continue a pregnancy in the knowledge that she will not be able to afford, cope and care for a child because trust me, we’ve considered all our options.
This was my body, this was my decision. It was my decision and I am not selfish for making it. It has taken me 5 years to come to this realisation but I am not selfish for choosing the rights of my own body, I am not selfish for being mature enough to make an impossible decision of the future of my potential child, I am not selfish for not wanting to raise a child at 17.
So, don’t you dare suggest that this is a decision made lightly or that it is anything but a decision agonised over and made with all but our best intentions. When you call me a murderer or you call me selfish or tell me it’s my fault, even when you don’t know you’re talking about me. When I walk through our University Guild and see “Pro-Life societies” at Fresher’s Fairs, it hurts my heart and it makes me cry. But not because I think you’re right or regret the decision I made but because I think of the other women, who are in the same position as I was. Crippled, stigmatised, desperate and alone, trying to make the best decision they can. All the while you berate them, with lies and nonsense science, implying that these women are not capable of making the best decision for themselves or that of their potential future child.
The reality is, compared to women in Ireland, I had it easy. I cannot to fathom the obstacles these women face and I have the greatest respect and admiration for them and my heart aches for them. They may not feel it but they are strong and they are warriors. At the end of the day, abortion being illegal will not prevent it happening. All it will do is stigmatise and criminalise women, deny them autonomy over their own bodies and put their safety and their lives at risk. And it is not your decision to make. You don’t have to agree with abortion to vote ‘yes’, you don’t have to be pro-abortion to be pro-choice but you should allow women the right and dignity to choose. Support your wives, your girlfriends, your mothers, your sisters, your daughters, your aunties, your nieces, your cousins, your friends. Support women in Ireland and beyond and give them respect they deserve.
Repeal the Eighth.