I am now in my late 40s and was 16 years old when I first became pregnant. I was afraid to tell my family as 1980’s Ireland was not a welcoming place for women who were pregnant out of wedlock. My boyfriend and I searched for information on family planning but there was huge secrecy around this information at the time.  Contraception had only recently become more widely available. I remember sneaking down the road to the phone box to look for the phone number of clinics in the UK, but I couldn’t find any.

We knew we needed to travel to London so we took the boat in the hope of finding some help, but we had no idea what was going to happen. After checking into a B&B we started looking for a clinic and, having eventually found one,  I was able to book in for an abortion. I was terrified, but the thought of telling my family that I was pregnant was worse.

When the day came I shared a room with three other girls. There was no conversation between us. One by one, each of us were called down for surgery. I remember watching blockbusters on TV waiting to be called, wondering what my mother would be doing now at home. Then it was my turn.

3 Empty Hospital Beds, blue sheets

Artist: Stephen Lau.

I woke up crying with tears streaming down my face. The girl in the bed across from me was crying in agony with the pain.   The next morning when I went down for breakfast, I was shocked to see how many more girls there were.  Each of us sitting silently, staring at our food.  When I was ready to go my boyfriend collected me. We travelled home that day, having pretended we were on holiday.  

I later found out that boyfriend couldn’t afford another night alone in the B&B, so he wandered the streets of London, the night I stayed at the clinic.

That was over thirty years ago and I still don’t talk about it. I am still afraid and ashamed and hurt. It was cruel on a young girl to go through that alone. The shame and stigma attached to abortion in this country is disgraceful.

This story was submitted anonymously.

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