Access and Barriers

As A Woman Who Had An Abortion I Feel Patronized

The recent debate on abortion in Ireland has sparked the interest of the world. But whatever activists, politicians, religious leaders and others might have to say, it is the voice of women who have had abortions that make all the difference.

Here is a piece from the Irish Times that tells the story of Helen (name changed) who had an abortion about ten years ago, and has not regretted that decision even once. 

Read the original article here.

Helen is in her late 40s and lives in Dublin

‘I had an abortion in my early 30s. I would have been a single self-employed parent in a small isolated community that I had recently moved to, and that would not have been the right thing for me then. It was a crisis pregnancy, but I was definitely not suicidal.

“Making the decision was ghastly and traumatic, but I did it because I knew without any doubt it was the right thing for me to do at that time. I am now in my late 40s and, 17 years on, I have never once regretted my decision.

feminism2“I think the ongoing debate about the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill is really, essentially, all about control, and trying to continue to control women’s lives.

“The proposed change to the legislation will not make a screed of difference to the thousands of women who will travel to have abortions this year, each of them for their own private reasons. There is not just an elephant in the room, as this debate ignores the fact that there are tens of thousands of Irish women who have had abortions outside Ireland. There is an entire zoo.

“Every time in the past few weeks that I have heard that sanctimonious expression from politicians and pundits who fear the proposed legislation will ‘open the floodgates’, I have wanted to explode. I find that particular expression deeply offensive. It’s as if women are inanimate and brainless and can’t be trusted with our own bodies and our own choices but must be restrained behind these floodgates for our own good.

“I believe that only the woman has the right to decide what happens to her body when she is pregnant. Nobody else does. Not a court of law, not a team of psychiatrists, not the politicians I never voted for and never will. It is my fundamental human right to have control over my body, my choices and my life.

“I don’t think it’s entirely the fault of the Catholic Church that abortion is such a divisive subject in Ireland. We are a society of ostriches who hate to rock the boat.

“I think it has become such a widespread societal norm in this country to consign abortion to a box labelled ‘taboo’, ‘toxic’ and ‘sinful’. From listening closely to the airwaves over the past three weeks, and reading the newspapers, I honestly don’t know how we climb out of this crater of stagnant polarising toxicity when it comes to debating changes to the abortion law in any form.

“As for abortion becoming legal in Ireland, I cannot see that happening in my lifetime, and that makes me utterly depressed.

“As a woman who has had an abortion, I feel patronised, belittled and judged by those who believe I have committed a crime or sinned against a god I don’t believe in. I feel excluded and controlled by a society that is still trying to ignore my existence.

“I feel tainted by those who throw words like grenades at women who have had abortions: words such as ‘execution’, ‘murder’ and ‘killing’. Irish women who have had abortions are doubly invisible because not only would politicians love to think we don’t exist, but society has conspired to make us silent.

“If I allowed my name to be published, I know it would define me for years in a negative way. I have seen it happen others. How can that be right in 2013, in a country that proudly considers itself developed and progressive, and that currently holds the presidency of the Council of European Union?”

Helen’s name has been changed


Why Choice Matters

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