How women like me told of our abortions – and Ireland set us free
In 2015, Ireland had just become the first country in the world to bring in equal marriage via popular vote. The whole country was glowing with newfound equality, even though it had come at a price: LGBTQ+ people had had to smile on the doorsteps asking voters to grant them their rights, even if the answer was no or that someone might consider it. I was so proud of them.
They were so brave. And it made me feel even more cowardly for not breaking the silence on my own truth. I felt angry, too, that I was colluding in someone else’s lie. Why was I staying silent to assuage the moral discomfort of strangers? We all knew we knew someone who “went to England”, who had “travelled” (these have been our euphemisms for abortion).
But we didn’t really know. We didn’t see their faces. There were people who talked about having had abortions: the writer Mary Holland stood up long ago but nobody stood with her.
In 2015, a month after the marriage-equality referendum, there were about eight of us gathered around a table, drinking and chatting about what had to be next. It had to be repealing the 8th amendment: the constitutional clause that gave equal rights to a foetus and the person carrying it.
All of us at the table had been vocally pro-choice (in itself a bit risky back in the day). We’d taken to the streets in anger when Savita Halappanavar needlessly died, marched at the Abortion Rights Campaign’s March for Choice, but never shared our own experiences. You just didn’t do that here.
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