Anonymous 8

I got pregnant at 27. I wasn’t too young, I wasn’t single, I had a stable job, I had a stable relationship, a supportive family, I wasn’t raped, but I wasn’t ready to become a mother.

I took multiple pregnancy tests, you’re in complete denial at first. The feeling of utter shock, sickness, sadness and grief is something I hope I never feel again.

During work one day I went into a room and made the call to Marie Stopes, they told me they couldn’t take any more appointments from Irish women as they were at capacity. This was a horrible thing to hear when you are already in a very vulnerable and scared state. She told me to call another organisation, luckily they could fit me in. The only appointment they had was for 2.5 weeks time, on Valentine’s Day.

I had to get a scan in Ireland so I went to Reproductive Choices. Women approached me as I was arriving and told me they do scans for free down the road, I later found out these were Pro Life groups that tell you you are much further along than you are. There were a few other women in the waiting room who looked around my age too.

The two week wait was horrible, you are trying to ignore your symptoms and constantly thinking am I doing the right thing. You go to work every day and try to act as normal as possible.

I told work I was sick the day of my appointment. We got up at 4am and got a flight to Manchester. When we got off the flight we had to wait for the taxi driver to come and find us, I think he had a code word. The whole thing just felt so strange. I did feel like a criminal.

In the clinic I was surrounded by women of all ages and circumstances. There were so many Irish women there. At one stage I was in a waiting room waiting for the surgery and it was me and 5 other Irish women.

The nurses were fantastic, they make sure the Irish women get seen first and order them depending on your flight time. One nurse told me she had an abortion herself.

It’s crazy being in the clinic all for the same reason where everyone can talk about their situation so openly. Some women had children at home, some were very young, some looked very afraid. The partners have to wait in a separate waiting room all day. I said goodbye to by boyfriend at reception around 8am and saw him again around 6pm once it was all over. When I left the clinic I didn’t want to speak about it much again. I often wonder if I will bump into any of the Irish girls I saw in there.

We traveled home exhausted and I was back in work the next day.

I went to the Well Womens clinic for a free post abortion check up, it’s amazing services like this are around.

This decision was not taken lightly, I think about it every day. I don’t regret my decision but it still makes me sad every day. I wish I never had to make the decision. But, it happened to me and it will happen to many others.

I wish I could have gotten the support I needed at home, I wish I didnt have to wait 2 .5 full weeks, I wish I didnt have to get on a plane, I wish I could have spoken through my options with my GP, I wish I didn’t have to think of excuses to tell work so I could get the day off. I wish I didn’t have to feel ashamed for a decision I felt was right for me and my partner at the time.

I hope to have children some day when the time is right for us.

Artist: Carol Treacy.

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Blood Stained Jeans after an Abortion

Anonymous 7

I’ve wanted to tell my story since the day it happened. At 28, I found myself unexpectedly pregnant with someone I was casually seeing. He was a nice man but had no means to help me or support me properly through this. I told him I didn’t want to continue with the pregnancy. He respected my decision and left me to it.

I grew up just me and my single mother, she had me at 18. While I had a fantastic upbringing without my father, I saw first hand how tough being a single parent was. When my mother had me, she had fantastic support from her family and friends. While I feel I would not have had this as I don’t live close to my family. I was not ready to be a parent and I certainly wasn’t ready to be a single parent or could I afford it either.

As soon as I found out I was pregnant I searched my options online and booked in with a clinic in London. I was very fortunate that my best friend lived down the road from a clinic. I booked last minute flights for the Friday and a flight back on the Saturday- I just wanted to stay in my own bed that night. I left work on Friday and didn’t tell anyone my weekend plans and just hopped on a bus to the airport. Everything was fine going over, I felt I had to sort this out and I was very mechanical. I went to clinic at the assigned time (11am) but the clinic was so over booked (many Irish woman there) that I didn’t get seen to until 3pm. The staff were beyond lovely and helpful. I chose the tablet option as it seemed to be to be less invasive. I took the tablets at the clinic and then only had a hour to lie down in my friend’s house before I had to leave for the airport. I was feeling ok, just slight bleeding . I got on the plane and it just felt like a period but by the time the plane was starting it’s descent in Ireland, I felt horrendous pain. I wasn’t allowed to leave my seat as the plane was landing. I gripped the chair in front on me in agony, I tried to disguise it as being nervous for the landing. I knew I was in trouble as I felt very wet and convinced myself I was just paranoid.

I got off the plane and for some reason there was no toilet until just before the arrivals door. I walked what felt like an eternity to the toilet. I glanced down and my legs and I horrified to see I was bleeding down to my knees on the inside in my light blue jeans. I felt so ashamed as I felt anyone that saw me would know I was just after having an abortion. I whipped off my hoodie, tied it around my waist and tried to hide it until I got to the bathroom. I finally got to a bathroom and I stripped off and tried to clean myself off with wet wipes. As I took off my underwear I felt something on my inner thigh. I put my hand down and I will never forgot what happened next. It was pure shock, where you can’t move or talk. The foetus was stuck to my leg. The next couple of minutes are a blur and then my phone rang. My friend was waiting in the car to collect me outside in arrivals. I tried to talk and couldn’t, I was just gasping. He calmly told me to get my stuff together and he’s just outside the railing. Only a few steps away he reassured me. I put one foot in front on the other and managed to get outside. I was in full blown shock and hysterical. My friend my absolutely amazing and managed to calm down, I finally got home to my house, had a shower and get into my own bed. The following day I pulled myself together and went for a gentle walk, to clear my head and get fresh air. That Monday morning I went into work as normal, acted completely normal and hid what had happened. No one in work knew the horrors I had experienced and I was happy to pretend I was fine and forget it.

Artist:  Anonymous 7 illustrated her own story.


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Anonymous 6

I was in a long term but very unhealthy relationship when i found out i was pregnant. I adored my boyfriend but this was not reciprocated. This unreciprocated adoration only added to my mental health issues as I battled a crippling eating disorder, anxiety and depression.

I was 21 when we got the positive result on the pregnancy test and we both knew that I couldn’t continue with the pregnancy. I was both terrified of the effect that my bulimia may have had on the initial weeks of pregnancy and terrified of my own mental health. I just knew that this pregnancy could not continue. My boyfriend was also certain that it was the right choice for me, for him and for us.

The procedure was a somewhat painful and lonely experience. But the aftermath upon returning to Ireland – the silence and secrecy- was more painful and lonely than I could have ever imagined. We told no-one for over a year and he refused to speak about it with me, instead just pretending that it never happened. I bottled it up. My eating disorder spiralled while my anxiety and depression worsened and our relationship ultimately fell apart.

Slowly, over the last 10 years, I have confided in friends and I have heard that he has too. Neither of us regret the decision to have an abortion but the shame, silence and secrecy that surrounded it were absolutely horrific. People do not make the decision to end a pregnancy lightly. We did not have a diagnosis of a fatal foetal abnormality, I was not raped, I was not a victim of incest and my life was not in imminent danger but this was the decision that we had to make. Women in Ireland make this difficult decision every single day.

My only regret is that I accepted the shame that this country and its people put on women and have carried it for so long. For too long.

Artist: Carol Treacy.

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People standing on a bridge in solidarity

Men's Voices - Jay

Men’s Stories – Jay

The weekend before my wife traveled for an abortion, I was working abroad. I listened to her desperate phone calls that weekend and felt utterly helpless. I was a few hundred miles away, as I would be when she travelled a few days later (when I would look after our children) and didn’t feel like I could make any helpful contribution to the situation. Certainly not one that would ease the pain in any way. All I could do was reassure her that I would back her up 100% on whatever decision she felt was right.

Having said that, with young and sometimes very challenging children already, we both knew almost immediately that another was not something we wanted or possibly even could cope with as a family.  Our youngest hadn’t slept a full night for some years and we were just coming through that process. The idea of creating that position again for us and the children would have been disastrous. Our attention and devotion to our children would have suffered as would their behaviour, development and education.

On the evening before, she packed and prepared for the following day. I couldn’t even drive her to the airport because of her very early departure and the need to care for our children. We spoke and texted each other throughout the day, which was some comfort to me but probably of little to her. I was somewhat reassured by the fact that a family member based in the UK had very kindly made the trip to be with her for the day, even if she wasn’t actually travelling with her (there were plenty of women from Ireland with my wife that day who were on their own).

I can’t begin to imagine the pain, anguish and rage she went through that day, being exiled for doing something that she knew was the right thing for her and for our family and yet having to make a lonely, stigmatising trip to do that. Of course, I felt empathetic and sympathetic towards her and shared her anger. However, I also felt guilt – guilt that I contributed to this mess – whilst also thinking, that because our method of contraception failed just once, neither us nor our family should face such long-lasting consequences for it.

When she arrived home late that night, exhausted, she was in a lot of discomfort and she was distressed, as she would be for many weeks to come. I tried my best to comfort her. Her distress was not to do with the abortion itself, but rather it manifested as anger at the isolation and stigma she felt at having been forced to travel in order to access the care and support she needed.

Who are we protecting by keeping this law? Certainly not the women or men affected, the baby? My wife was barely 5 weeks pregnant. If it came to saving my wife or that embryo, it would be my wife every time. Finally, I never again want to witness anyone I love go through such needless trauma and distress. Not my wife, not my daughters. Not your wife or daughters either.

The only positive, if there were any, that I was able to take from the wretched situation was that I had a newfound admiration for my wife that different to any I’d already experienced.

Artist: Jacob Stack.

http://jacobstack.net/


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An IV drip

Niamh

I suffered enormously with morning sickness. I lost a lot of weight and was severely dehydrated. So much so that the clinic had to give me a bag of fluid through an IV drip before they could examine me.

My ex wasn’t any help. He lay watching TV one night while I clogged up the toilet with vomit, then the sink, then the bath. Our flatmate cleaned it up. I was fortunate that I had support from my parents, they paid for everything. My GP was angry because he couldn’t help. The flight was delayed, the taxi man cursed at the protesters outside. The staff were so so kind. I remember the anaesthesiologist eyes, they were reassuring. When I woke up the nurse sitting with me was stroking my hair & wiping my tears.  She told me in a comforting tone that I’m so pretty, much like a mum would when you are ill or upset. I wish my mum had been there instead of my ex.

When we left the clinic in a taxi I asked could we pull over to get a pack of smokes. My ex said no. All I wanted was a cigarette. The taxi man took pity on me & gave me one of his and let me smoke it in the car. There was 3 other women on that flight going to the same clinic. One of them was 17, her parents thought she was out shopping for the day. We all avoided looked at each other in the airport coming back. I went to stay in my parents house while my ex went to the pub. I never went back to live in our shared flat.

I don’t regret having an abortion, it was the right choice for me. What I do regret is having to leave my country & support network to do it. I’m bitter about that. I’m bitter that in Ireland there is cloak of shame over the whole subject. We (Irish women) “can’t” talk about it. Most of the people who know me, don’t know me.  I left Ireland. I don’t think I’ll ever move back. It’s liberating to be in a country that openly talks about abortion. I’ve long since gotten over my ex & my hard thought out decision, but 10 years later I’m still not sure if I can ever forgive Ireland for the way it’s treated its women.

Illustration: Caoimhe Anglin

Audio: Sarah Ní Riain

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Louise

My story began in April 2017, when I began to show symptoms of being pregnant. I was 19 at the time and in the middle of my college exams, so I put these symptoms down to stress. On the morning of my toughest exam I finally got up the courage to take a pregnancy test, and to my relief it showed me to be not pregnant. However, over the next three to four weeks I began to feel nauseous all the time and was not able to eat my food, although I continued to deny it to myself and to my boyfriend. He was very worried about my health and eventually convinced me to take another test. He was by my side when the second test revealed I was pregnant.

My whole world felt shattered. We couldn’t turn to our parents for support, so we had to figure this out alone. We were both young, scared and had heard all the stories our how our ‘lives would be ruined by a mistake like this’.  We were simply not in the right mental, financial or emotional state to continue the pregnancy. We were meant to be going on holiday to Amsterdam in a few weeks, so we looked into the possibility of getting an abortion while we were there. There was a very complicated process involved in booking an appointment, where the clinic required us to know and give certain pieces of information about the foetus. To get this, I had to have an ultrasound scan. Terrified and alone, I paid to see a local doctor who thankfully saw my utter distress and referred me to the hospital. She told me to pretend that I was having severe stomach pains as that was the only way I would be seen quickly.

Lying to the Hospital Staff

After finally being admitted to the hospital, I kept the details of my visit quiet and told them only what the GP had advised me to say. I was told that the earliest I would get a scan was the following day, so I returned to the hospital the next day, unbeknown to my parents or friends. This was probably the worst moment of my life – to see and feel the baby inside you, when you know the decision you are making, is indescribably heart-breaking. I cried for hours that day and for many other days after. Yet, I knew and trusted myself enough to know this was definitely the right choice for me.

The ultrasound gave us the pieces of information required by the clinic in Amsterdam, and I rang them to make an appointment – only to be told that the soonest appointment would be in three weeks’ time. I felt heartbroken all over again, as by that time I would be 14 weeks pregnant and the process would be much more complicated as well as financially straining. The woman on the other end of the phone was completely unhelpful and had no interest in my situation. Once again, I felt completely distraught.

Marie Stopes Clinic in England

I decided there and then to ring the Marie Stopes Clinic in England. The woman who spoke to me on the phone was so kind and understanding that I cried with relief. She gave me all the information I needed, and I had an over-the-phone consultation; within thirty minutes I had an appointment booked in Manchester, and I felt completely supported and informed.

Less than a week later, my boyfriend and I travelled to Manchester while our families thought we were going on our original holiday. One of the worst things about the whole situation was having to act like we were fine, while in reality we were dealing with the toughest situation we had ever experienced. The people in the Marie Stopes clinic were amazingly helpful and friendly, and the procedure was over within two hours. The feeling of relief we experienced that day was indescribable.

Coming Home

My boyfriend and I are still together and are stronger than ever. We have been incredibly lucky that we were able to support each other through the heartbreak and agony of this complicated process. We are a prime example of two people who discussed which option was right for them, and we still know we did the right thing  a year later, particularly where my mental health was concerned. Despite this, it is something I think about every day, and I know that if the option had been available to us in Ireland it would have relieved us of a huge amount of emotional and financial strain, as well as the mental difficulties that come with having no support system from our own country, family and friends.

Artist: Aoife Anna Mullan

Instagram | Website | Twitter

Narrated by Joanna Schaffalitzky


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A lone woman looks through a broken window

Emma

I wish I had the courage to share my story with everyone. I knew I was pregnant for weeks before I finally confessed to my sister and she forced me to do the test. After agreeing together on our option, my then boyfriend bit my face in a drunken rage, beat me and left me cowering on the street in our small town. Terrified to be alone and terrified to tell anyone, I ignored the bite marks on my cheek. I lied to my parents and consumed by a quagmire of the states making, I went back to him. My sister brought me to a family planning clinic. She walked me past the small vigil being held outside and she wept as a very kind woman shared the critical literature.

We had to wait and save. My misery continued for seven long weeks more as he saved the money to go there. Every day my body changed. I got cravings and my breasts swelled. By the time we took the bus to Dublin, another to the airport and the flight to Liverpool I didn’t know who I was. I lost touch completely with the girl who had just finished her Leaving Cert and had been looking ahead to life beyond the county bounds.

A lone woman looks through a broken window

We stayed in a hotel with a broken window. I was forced into sex the morning of. I cried all the way to the clinic. I cried in the waiting room and he used viscous words to silence me, which only increased my sorrow. And still through this despair I knew I was doing the right thing. I choked through my tears to confirm this flatly, in the pre-procedure interview.

It wasn’t the decision itself, but the fear, the shame, the waiting (Oh. The waiting), the abuse, being tied to the whims of a monster, that damaged me. The humiliating bite marks faded, but the indelible branding that I had to be ashamed and the visceral memories of a protracted, humiliating, trauma stayed with me for years.

My story is not about parents not understanding, a violent partner, or even age dictating a life decision. It is, like all the others, about the nuances, the particulars of each situation, that the small vigil outside the family planning clinic did not know of and could not remedy with plaintive wails of heartbeats.

 

I should consider the nuances. I should consider my particulars, my life, assess my threshold. I alone should decide the outcome. And I did.

In 2016 I returned to Ireland after a number of years away. I marched to repeal with my current partner. A gentle, supportive, kind man that I am lucky to have found. I felt sick to be standing on the street which I stood upon 18 years ago, still fighting for a woman’s right to decide her own outcome.

*Name has been changed for this story

Artist: Bernard Hennessy

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Audio: Emma Callaghan (not Emma in story)


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Karen

Karen’s Story

I was 18 years old;  a Catholic schoolgirl who had been brought up with very little knowledge of contraception unable to ensure that I protected myself fully the first time I had sex with my boyfriend.  Naively enough I thought that this guy was a special one, and with a bit of peer pressure from him and a few encouraging words, I gave in and had sex. 

A few weeks later I woke in the middle of the night feeling sick and vomited everywhere.  Thinking I had a bug I paid little attention, until a few days later when I realised that my period had not arrived.  I spoke to a few friends and decided to take a pregnancy test. It took seconds for the positive result to appear and the complete and utter panic to surface.  What the hell was I going to do? I was 18, in my last year of school, now broken up with the said boyfriend and to top it all off how was I going to tell my parents that I was pregnant?  I knew straight away that I did not want to be pregnant. I was but a child myself, I could barely look after myself never mind take responsibility for someone else.  I was not ready for this.

Initially abortion never even entered my mind.  Not because I was against it, but because I didn’t for one second even think it would be an option for a Catholic teenager.  That was until a very lovely HR manager in the part time job I held said to me that there were other options and provided me with details I so desperately needed.

Telling My Parents

I remember the heartache in both my parents faces when I told them.  The sorrow at the life they had thought out for me that would now be nothing more than another young girl who ended up pregnant. I held my breath and blurted out to them that there were other options and waited for either of them to turn around and slap me.  This didn’t happen, in fact quite the opposite. Both of them were fully supportive of me and together the three of us set about planning my trip to England.

I can’t remember how many weeks I was, probably between 6-8 weeks, when I travelled to Liverpool with two friends.  My mother could not travel with me out of fear her mother would question why we were suddenly leaving for England. Back to the old “Catholic Guilt,” this would have been a complete drama had my grandmother have found out, although looking back now I’m not sure her reaction would have been just as drastic.

The Journey to Liverpool

My parents left me at the airport, kissed me goodbye and off I went.  When I arrived in Liverpool I stayed in a local B&B that had been organised by the family planning clinic in Ireland. I gathered from the host’s tone I was only another number in the line of girls traveling from Ireland daily.

Next morning I went to the hospital and was admitted to a ward with a group of girls. The girl next to me was also from Ireland and this was her third time in the clinic.  She didn’t seem that bothered while I ironically held a pair of rosary beads and prayed everything would turn out okay. I remember crying for my mum and longing for her to be by my side as they took me down for the procedure.  I woke up a few hours later and was discharged that same day.

A Sense of Relief

The sense of relief I felt back then was huge.  I never looked back and there wasn’t any sense of regret. Life went back to normal and we never spoke about it again in our home.  I suppose then I was young and only concern was being able to get back to hanging out and going to school.

I am now 35, married with two children and a very loving husband who provides for me in ways I could never have imagined.  We have a wonderful life and I have carved out a fantastic career for myself. Had I not have made that decision back then I wouldn’t have the life I have today or the people in my life.  However in recent years especially with the spotlight on abortion in both the North and South of Ireland I have suffered a mix bag of emotions because of the horrible things that “pro-life” groups say and do.  I have even gone so far as to have feelings of guilt as to whether I was selfish and self centered. However as my very supportive husband would say had the church not interfered so much in our reproductive rights young people would have been better educated.  

The church or government holds no place in the decision women make over their bodies and that is why I am an advocate for a repeal of the 8th Amendment so other girls and women, including my own daughter, will not have to face the stigma that is attached to abortion should they require it.  

I will be forever grateful to my parents for supporting me in this decision, and to my husband who has supported me since the day we met.  I look forward to the day women in Ireland can access the same care as other countries and hopefully it will be very soon. 

Artist: Corina Fitzgibbon

Instagram | Website | Etsy


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Lix by Gemma patchwork heart

Liz

My husband left me for another woman.  I was rearing 5 children alone with ages ranging from 3 – 14. I was heartbroken and vulnerable. My ex-husband played on that. One night I slept with him and fell pregnant.  

I knew I could not have this baby, I could barely cope as it was. I went to my GP, a gentleman who had been my GP for 16 years. He was kind and compassionate.  He gave me the information I needed about abortion and some much needed reassurance that this decision was the best one for me and my wee family.  

After a consultation in a clinic in Dublin, I made the arrangements to fly to England. I told no one. I said I was going to Wicklow to visit friends. My mother was only too glad to mind the kids so I could have a ‘break!’

When I arrived in England I travelled by taxi to the clinic. It was the week that Madeline McCann had went missing in Portugal and I remember discussing it with the taxi driver.

The staff at the clinic were fantastic – sympathetic, but practical. It was over quickly enough. I got a taxi back to the airport and the lovely lady driving gave me a blanket and told me to take a nap! The taxi drivers were accustomed to driving Irish women to and from this clinic and they we’re so kind.  

I’ve never told anyone. My ex-husband didn’t want me to have the abortion, but he wasn’t prepared to step up and look after this child or any of his children. He has no part of any of our lives now.  

It was a horrendous decision, but one I’ve never regretted.  Ireland, do the right thing and never have your daughters  make this awful journey again.

Artist: Gemma Cagney

Audio: Margo Carr


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A pregnant woman stands behind a hospital curtain

Linnea - Guest Post

This week we have a special guest post from Linnea. Her much loved and wanted pregnancy ended tragically while she was living in England. The contrast between the care she received as a UK resident and the care that Irish women are forced to travel to receive is stark.

The first time I got pregnant, I felt like my life changed in an instant. It was incomprehensible, magical, almost bizarre. We just sat on the couch staring at each other for ages when we found out – and then we called everyone in the immediate family. Yes, exactly the way you’re not meant to, just a few hours after peeing on a stick. How could we not tell them?

The first thing our GP said was that ‘one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage’. No big celebrations or warm congratulations – not yet. And we knew, of course we did. I was nervous, sure – but mostly I just enjoyed it and we were over the moon.

I felt movement quite early for a first pregnancy, around 17 weeks. First little flutters, bubbles – then definite pokes and kicks, growing stronger by the day. It was mad – like getting to know him, poke by poke, kick by kick.

I wasn’t particularly nervous ahead of the anomaly scan. We were talking about whether or not to find out the sex, joking and feeling excited. Then the sonographer went silent and turned the screen away from me, and I knew something was wrong.

The phrase ‘not compatible with life’ – it felt as incomprehensible as the idea that life was ever there in the first place. Everything went black, like a curtain closing. He was kicking so much, so clearly very much alive. How could he not be compatible with life?

A pregnant woman stands behind a hospital curtainWhat would happen next?

I hadn’t read up on this. What would happen next? “It’s up to you,” said Dr. Paul, one of the kindest people I have ever met, a consultant who became a bigger part of our lives over the coming years than anyone ever wants such a consultant to be. She was clear and factual, sympathetic and open-minded. No judgement here, no pressure. We were in London. We were so lucky.

I didn’t feel lucky, and I certainly didn’t feel like I had a choice – but what would happen next was up to us. We got a second opinion, and a third. We went to another hospital and saw one of the world-leading researchers in some sort of foetal diagnostics, a Russian doctor with a black-and-white mindset, the kind of guy who doesn’t sugarcoat things – the kind of guy you want to see when you want rid of all uncertainties.

I knew I couldn’t continue. There was no hope for our baby, yet the kicking wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t touch my bump, couldn’t look myself in the mirror: the bump I had grown to love, that had become a part of me, the very visual signifier of all of this – it was confusing and sad and felt like a lie. I had to stop being pregnant, had to stop looking pregnant. I had to stop people smiling at me on the tube and asking when I was due.

It turned out that our baby had triploidy, a rare chromosomal abnormality that meant that he had three copies of every chromosome instead of two and would not survive birth. It was a strange kind of blessing, a random 1 in 50,000 risk; there was all likelihood that we would be able to conceive again and have a healthy baby. Dr. Paul was in tears of joy when she came to tell us, as I was in tears of fear before going in to give birth. (Is it still called birth when the baby won’t come out alive? It certainly felt like giving birth, but the word always sounded like an oxymoron to me.)

Our parents arrived to support us

My parents flew over from Sweden to meet their first grandchild. My parents-in-law flew over from Ireland to do the same. My sister-in-law and her partner came; they were all there, and they all got to hold him. It was heart-wrenching but strangely beautiful. When I think back to that moment, I don’t feel sad. I feel grateful. And when I think about all the people who don’t get to do that, the brave, strong people of Termination for Medical Reasons (TFMR) and others like them, I just want to scream and cry for them. Yes, we brought his ashes on a plane too – but we did it by choice, to bury him with my sister in Sweden.

We were at the Whittington in north London when Oliver was born, and I’ll always remember the midwives who looked after us that night. They sneaked in the only spare bed on the ward so that we could be together. They brought tea and toast and did all the things you never want anyone to have to do to you, especially not when you don’t even have a baby as a reward. One of them was Nigerian and picked up on our Irish accents, and she started talking about the Catholic nuns who raised her. There was something strangely ironic about it all: the warm, caring, wonderful Nigerian midwife, raised by Catholic nuns, who looked after me after I needed abortion care.

I’ve had people sympathise with me after our loss, saying that what we went through was ‘different’, that their heart goes out to me and that they don’t really see what happened to me – what I did – as an abortion. The thing is, neither did I. I didn’t even like the word termination at the time. I was just setting a date for the end of a wanted pregnancy that was predestined to end in a bad way. But it was an abortion, crucially. And it was my choice.

My Decision

When people say to me that that was different, they strip me of that choice. They tell me that they support me because they can identify and believe that they would do the same if they found themselves in my shoes. They feel sorry for me, so it’s OK. They’re effectively saying that they might withdraw their support at any given time, should they no longer really understand. And they use me and my situation to ‘other’ someone else, to display distrust of another pregnant person, to show that something else is absolutely not OK.

We see this a lot, this pitting women against each other. You’re not like other women – and your abortion wasn’t really an abortion, like that bad one over there. But this is a very dangerous way to write laws: based on any one individual’s capacity to empathise. Are we supposed to have an empathy jury on call at all times to decide whose abortion is relatable enough to be OK? Was mine OK because you understand it, or because I was sad?

I’m so conscious of the fact that it’s easy for people to sympathise with me and say that there’s no arguing with ‘this kind of abortion’. I’m conscious that this is a trap, and I don’t want to fall into it: there are as many experiences of abortion as there are pregnant people who don’t want to and can’t be pregnant, all of them just as valid. I don’t want the story of a mam who loved her baby to take away from that.

Making Change

We’ve come such a long way. I never would’ve thought this time last year that I’d be sitting here today talking about some of our most conservative politicians having moved to a pro-choice position, recommending unrestricted abortion access up until 12 weeks. It’s huge. But what these cut-off points and time limits do is take away some conversations we don’t want to have; they mean that we don’t have to be the bad guy who tells someone their reason isn’t good enough. What if we had to, then where would we draw the line?

This we know: unrestricted abortion access leads to earlier abortions; late-term abortions are extremely rare and only ever happen for very tragic reasons. The idea that we have to draw the line elsewhere suggests that we don’t trust the facts – that we think some people are flippant, that they can’t make decisions that are sound and reasonable, that they don’t know if they’re able to raise a child or not, and that they should do so against their will even if they are sure they can’t. But who are these flippant people? Are they your neighbour? Your daughter? Are we sure they even exist?

Let’s say they do exist. Should we legislate to punish everyone else with a crisis pregnancy because of these hypothetical flippant neighbours? Should a child be raised by an unwilling, struggling parent because you don’t like the idea of the girl next door not being cautious enough? Is that what we call justice? Is that what we call ‘loving both’?

There are endless scenarios: socio-economic reasons, mental health reasons, domestic abuse situations – there are so many situations that are private and difficult and very individual which we know very little about, and I don’t see how we can sit and say that it’s a responsible society that forces people in those circumstances to go through with a pregnancy and become parents against their will. I don’t see how that’s better for anyone – for the children, for their parents, for us as a community.

Look at us now. We’re having these conversations. Let’s keep having them – let’s keep listening, trusting, supporting. If I told you I were pregnant and couldn’t be, that I needed to have an abortion, would you stop me? I think, in reality, very few people would.

Can you think of someone to share this story with?