Anonymous 4

My story happened exactly ten years ago. I was 27 years of age and we weren’t in a steady relationship. I was on the pill but had a bug and didn’t think to take extra precautions. At the time, I was the primary carer for my elderly parents. When I found out I was pregnant I knew it just wasn’t the right time for me to be a mother. It was not a decision I made lightly, but I absolutely know now, as I did at the time, that it was the right decision for me.

The father was rather indifferent. He didn’t try to stop me nor did he give me any indication that he would be around had I made a decision to continue the pregnancy. I knew what I had to do.
I rang the Marie Stopes clinic in the UK for advice and they helped me make an appointment for a scan in Dublin to confirm the pregnancy. I was lucky that I had some savings, so after that it was a matter of booking the flights & hotel in England. I flew to Manchester on the 8th of February 2008 with my best friend. We stayed for two nights – the night before the termination and the night of the termination, flying back to Ireland the following day.

The day we arrived home, my mother was admitted to hospital for a week. I spent that time caring for my father, unable to talk to anyone except my friend because of the stigma attached to abortion. My hormones were all over the place following the procedure, but having to take care of my father and worrying about my mother while I had no support for myself was incredibly difficult.

A few weeks later I went back to the Marie Stopes Dublin clinic for a check up and had to face “pro-life” protesters outside, with the pretence that they wanted to help. They didn’t care about me or my situation. They didn’t care about my elderly parents. They make me sick. It’s none of their business what I do with my body.
Ten years later I know I made the right decision. I have no regrets.

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Two women look at a computer screen.

Laura

Upon arriving home in Ireland, Laura* was admitted to hospital for an incomplete abortion. This is her story.

Laura's Story

I found out I was pregnant on Sunday the 5th of March 2017 with my partner by my side. We both knew it was not our time to be parents and while we had a list of pros/cons of what would happen if we were to keep the pregnancy, we knew it wouldn’t work out. We made contact with the Marie Stopes Clinic and decided to have my scan done with Reproductive Choices on Berkeley Street, Dublin to confirm the pregnancy.

I was nervous so I arrived quite early.  There were two women outside; one approached me and asked if I was going into the green building (Reproductive Choices). She told me that they charge stupid amounts of money for scans and she will do my scan for free.  They seemed genuine, and I was vulnerable, so I naively went with them.

Rogue Crisis Pregnancy Counseling

Two women look at a computer screen.

We arrived at a small apartment nearby. On the wall, there was pictures of ‘How to Save a Life‘.  I immediately felt uneasy.   They asked about my family and what my parents thought of my situation. I told them my dad had died last year and they inferred how disappointed he would be if I went through with this.  They told me that my life will be ruined and I’ll regret everything if I go ahead with an abortion. I really felt that they did not care about my well-being.

I had 20 minutes until my appointment with Reproductive Choices and they were aware of that, but they kept trying to keep me there.   I felt completely trapped.  

They were unable to find the pregnancy with the ultrasound machine and offered to take me to the Beacon Hospital to have a scan but I insisted that I needed to go.

Reproductive Choices

I went to Reproductive Choices and explained to them what happened. The midwife was lovely but at this stage I was so anxious and upset that my blood pressure was high and I was advised to come back another day because the pregnancy was very early.

When I returned to Reproductive Choices for a second visit, I brought my friend along with me.  I’ll never forget the feeling of walking up Berkeley Street that day. I thought I was going to get sick. I swapped coats with my friend, wore big sunglasses and a head scarf over my head in case I bumped into the same women; thankfully I didn’t.

Traveling to Manchester

A week later I flew to Manchester with a friend to have a medical abortion. I was just 7 weeks pregnant at this time. We were collected from the airport in a taxi with three other women I had seen on the same flight from Dublin; complete strangers on this lonely journey together.

Once I had my treatment, I had four hours to wait for my flight back home. The midwife told me to return to the airport immediately as the last dose can come into effect very quickly.  She was right; the treatment started to take effect in the taxi to the airport.

I was forced to wait in an airport whilst in the worst pain my life for four hours. I just wanted to be home in Ireland in my own bed.  Instead I had to ask businessmen to give me their seats so I could curl into a ball and wish this would all end.

Incomplete Abortion

Shortly after my termination, I was admitted to hospital from an incomplete abortion.  It was awful.  This could have been avoided had I been able to access abortion care in Ireland.  Instead I was retraumatised and admitted to hospital in Ireland.    

This could have been avoided if I had gone for an aftercare scan but the stress of it all was too much.  It’s bad enough being in a crisis pregnancy and having to leave my home country to receive healthcare considered normal in other countries, but to actually scaremonger me to the point where I felt I couldn’t get aftercare because I’d have to face people from a rogue crisis pregnancy counseling agency again is disgraceful.

My story was not easy to write down but I want other women to read this so they can beware of these agencies and do their research before traveling.

*Name changed for privacy

Artist: Martina Gleeson.

Instagram | Website



All Alone, Having Confided in No one

Lisa

Lisa's Story

My story is like many others, I was a single mom of a three year old, working and studying full time.  I had a few casual encounters with a friend and I was using contraception at the time that painfully failed me.

I was so heart broken when I found out I was pregnant. I thought I had done the right thing and protected myself. I was naive to say the least, I was beyond heartbroken at the prospect of not being able to step up and mother another child. But, most of all, I was ashamed that I was not ready to be a mum again or capable of giving that baby a stable home.

I looked up family planning clinics in Dublin and got in touch with them and found out my options, I had no clue what I was doing. I was referred to a clinic to have a scan and to further discuss my options. When I got to the clinic the next day I was greeted by some pro-life campaigners who were aggressively shouting at me. I just put my head down and ran for the door; waiting for the door to be unlocked felt like minutes not seconds. When I got inside, the staff were so sensitive to how I was feeling, so gentle and calm and reassuring. I think they knew how I was feeling better than I did. They helped me come to terms with my decision and made feel me less like the monsters I had been told of growing up.

Numb and Robotic

It would be three weeks before I made my journey. I had to work my ass off doing extra shifts and trying to care for the baby I already had. Also trying to keep on top of lies I had created so that no one knew what was happening. I was numb and robotic for those three weeks. I finally had enough money to cover the surgical termination that I needed and the flights over. I had to lie to my Mam again to mind my baby while I was gone.

All Alone, Having Confided in No one

I left Dublin all alone having confided in no one. I have to say that the clinic really went out of their way to ensure I was 100% making the right decision for myself and supporting me. After my surgery, the staff were amazing but I was sat in a recovery room with three other women, one who was sobbing uncontrollably and the other two fast asleep. I was just sitting wide-eyed not knowing where to look; it felt like it wasn’t me going through it and that I was an outsider looking in, that was until I had made the journey home.

I had to go about my life as if nothing was wrong, happy mummy, bubbly friend and hardworking staff member! I remember vividly the next morning when I got to college, I dropped my baby to Creche, I was so weak and pale I sat in my car balling my eyes out while feeling my insides fall away from me. I was in such a panic, I didn’t know what to do, I had to wobble into the college and tell them I had a bug and I was going home. They took one look at me and they knew I was not well. I picked my baby back up from Creche, I could barely lift her into the car I was so fragile!

Coming Home

I just about made it home and cried on my couch all day. A friend of mine called in to see me, she had no clue what I had done. I told her as best I could what happened, I just had to tell someone. She was so nice and sympathetic about it that I felt a little relieved. She was what I needed all along, someone to confide in and share my pain, just having an ear to listen is such a powerful thing.  From then on I decided that I would not feel shame anymore for doing what was right for me at that time. I know I made the right decision for me and for the father who was not nearly ready to provide or bring up a baby.

I hope my kid’s generation won’t have to suffer at the hands of the government that failed me and many more women. We should have the right to decide over our own bodies in our own country and remove the stigma that caused me to go through it scared and alone.

All Alone, Having Confided in No one

Artist: Louise Hickey.

https://www.behance.net/loohicks


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Calendar Image illustrated by Ciara

Nicola

Nicola's Story

I am now a 41 year old mother of two. In 1992, aged 15, I realised I was pregnant. When I realised this, I went into a state of shock and panic. I felt I had nowhere to turn. I didn’t want to tell my parents as I knew they would be so hurt and disappointment with me. At the time I was in 5th year in school and we wore little tiny gold foetus feet on our uniform in our convent school. I removed them as soon as I knew I was pregnant.

I went to the man who I was pregnant by and asked if he would help me pay for an abortion. He was 22, said no and walked away. I then took an overdose of paracetamol as I thought I would be better off dead. It didn’t work, I was still alive.

Finally, I realised in absolute despair, I would have to tell my mum and ask for her help. I’ll never forget the night I told her, I had never seen her cry before. She cried for hours, I felt so guilty for bringing this situation to her. She had enough to deal with 6 school-age children . I told her I wanted to travel to the UK and have an abortion.

Thankfully she accepted my choice but she said she would have to tell my Dad. My Dad was very upset and I could tell how disappointed he was with me. My parents went ahead and made plans to help me in my choice.

My mum arranged for me to see a GP in Dublin who a friend had recommended. He asked me what I wanted to do and asked if anyone was putting pressure on me to have an abortion. I told him it was the opposite; I was the one who wanted to travel. He was very kind. The GP must have given my mum details of a UK clinic as she booked the appointment and our boat to get there. She travelled with me and one of her friends travelled with us to support my Mum.

By the time I made it the UK, I was 13 weeks pregnant. I can remember the clinic staff being very nice and kind. After the procedure, I felt so relieved. I never had a follow up check up with a doctor or follow up counseling. In fact it was never mentioned again. I just had to get on with life.

Loan Repayments

Calendar Image illustrated by Ciara

My parents wouldn’t have had a lot of spare money at the time with 6 children to raise so they took out a loan from a high interest finance company.  The company called to our door every Saturday morning for a long time to collect the repayment.  I felt guilt and shame each week seeing the lady call for the money – ‘the abortion money’, guilt that I had brought this financial stress to my parents door and shame that I had gotten myself into this situation.  I never regretted my decision and I will be eternally grateful to my Mum and  Dad, for supporting me.

Moving On

Looking back, it was the secrecy that caused me distress as the years went by. Not being able to mention it to anyone. The Church’s and society’s view that I was a murderer, the guilt that I would go to hell (when I still had a faith in the Catholic Church). That I broke the law, that I was a criminal. It’s only now I feel I can speak about abortion openly; only since the Citizens Assembly and their recommendations. Not that I announce it to everyone or talk about it all the time, but my good friends know, my husband knows, I will tell my two daughters when they are old enough to understand. I will not be made to feel ashamed any more. I was a child/young person, I made a mistake and I was also taken advantage of, but that didn’t mean I had to have a forced pregnancy. I’m lucky my parents could borrow the money so I could travel.

I spoke to my parents about the abortion for the first time recently.  I needed to thank them for their support at the time.  Their only concern was that I was happy with my decision.  I was able to tell them that I have always been happy with the decision and I have never regretted it.  I have joined a local Repeal the 8th group and I am now actively involved in the campaign to Repeal the 8th.  This has given me the strength and belief to speak out about people’s health care needs in pregnancy.

Some might say I should have had the baby and given the child up for adoption. I can’t say I considered this for more than a passing moment. If I had to follow through with the pregnancy I would have kept my child – I would not have been able to give a child up for adoption. I did not have a concern about my ability to parent as I had four younger siblings, I knew I could parent if needs be, but I felt I was too young to be pregnant and to parent. I felt the man who made be pregnant would have a hold over me for life and it turned out he wasn’t a very nice person. So at 15 I was able to see this and know what was right for me.  I was right, I am right and I hope that we can change Ireland for the better for the future for the women and girls so they have choice over their own bodies. I trust women and believe women are best placed to make these choices. Life is complex and I don’t think we can stand in judgement of anyone else’s life situation.

I would like to thank all the people and organisations who have been involved in the campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment over the past 30 or so years and I wish I had been in a place to support that over the years, but I wasn’t ready. But I am here now and I hope others might find the strength to come out and support the campaign to Repeal the 8th and introduce free safe legal abortions in Ireland.

Calendar Image illustrated by Ciara

Artist: Ciara O'Brien.

gumcollective.com/Ciara-O-Brien/



Empty Pill Box

Anonymous 2

I was nearly 35 and after several years of emotional abuse from a previous partner, I had just started a new relationship with an amazing man. My new man was living in England in a shared house and was out of work after recently completing his studies. I was working part-time and also living in shared accommodation in Ireland.

Being a new couple, we got carried away. It was foolish and impulsive but you hear so much about how in your mid-thirties it’s becomes more difficult to conceive. I naively thought that at my age I was practically infertile. Nonetheless, the next day I bought a morning after pill and counted down the days to my period. When it was three days late, I took a pregnancy test.

Discussing Our Options

My partner and I discussed our options. On one hand, we saw the relationship progressing and we wanted a future together; being in our thirties we could probably make it work. On the other, we had one part time paycheck between the two of us and he would need to move to Ireland to start looking for work straight away. We would also need to find a place we could afford that we could raise a child in. In the end, I decided I didn’t want to go through with the pregnancy because I wanted our relationship to progress organically. I had spent so many years feeling miserable and trapped in a bad relationship, I wanted to enjoy getting to know a good man in my own time and building a healthy relationship before becoming parents.

There was a few panicked weeks where I researched my options. Initially, I booked an appointment in a UK clinic for a medical abortion but then I learned by chance that at just 6 weeks gestation, I would likely be sent home without treatment but still have to pay for the appointment. I began looking into how to get the pills online.

The Secrecy

The worst part about the whole thing was the secrecy. I felt like something huge and scary was happening to me and I couldn’t even talk to my closest friends because I wasn’t sure how they would react or if they would judge me. Finding good information was difficult too because I couldn’t be sure if I would be criminalised for seeking the service. The women I ordered the pills from online seemed concerned and sympathetic but they never even signed their name at the end of their emails so it all felt quite anonymous and remote.

Empty Pill Box

Artist: Josh Joyce.

I received the medication as planned and took the pills on my day off at home. I was a little apprehensive about what would happen but, having read a lot of personal stories online, I had absolutely no doubts about my decision.

Being able to go through with it in the comfort and security of my own bedroom was very reassuring. My partner kept me company via Skype as he couldn’t be there with me. I had told one of my housemates and I knew she was there if something went wrong.

When I started to miscarry and knew it had been a success. It was a weight off my shoulders and felt like I was being given my life back. I found it a very uncomfortable situation that something was happening to my life that I didn’t want and had no control over. I was relying on anonymous strangers online to help me which is not the most secure feeling.

My Business Is My Own

I was lucky in the respect that I was a mature adult with no mental or physical problems associated with being pregnant. I was in a supportive relationship. My reasons for terminating my pregnancy may seem flippant, even callous to some people but at the end of the day, why should it be anyone’s business but mine and my partner’s. We made a decision for us that we are completely at peace with.

We are now both working full time and planning our wedding. Maybe we will have kids in the future, maybe not. My abortion was the best decision for me and for us. My only regret is that I didn’t feel I could avail of the emotional support from friends and family that I would have sought out if it had been any other sort of crisis.

This story was submitted anonymously.

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Aircoach bus driving along a quiet road in the early morning

Susie

Susie's Story

I was 31 and raising 2 kids, alone. They were 6 and 5. I had an extremely hard and difficult relationship with their father. The breakup was no easier. It took a lot of work to get myself back together.

3 years after the breakup I met a really nice guy. We were dating for about a month. The first time we had sex, I realised I was mid-cycle so I took the morning after pill.

My period was late. I did a test and nearly passed out when it was positive. I was 100% sure I needed and wanted an abortion. I used Google to find somewhere in Ireland that would support me and found a clinic in Dublin. I made an appointment for 3 days time. When I called the Dad, he totally agreed with me. Unfortunately he had no money to help with costs so I contacted a money lender. I rang my mother; she came down to my house and when I told her she called my sister. I received nothing but love and support from them.

I worked as a care assistant and continued to go to work even though I suffered with terrible morning sickness. The smells were torture. I was taking lots of anti-sickness medication to try help.

Crisis Counseling in Dublin

My sister came with me to my appointment in the clinic in Dublin. As we were parking outside the clinic, my sister got out to put money in the parking meter. A man and a woman approached her and started talking to her. She came back to the car and said that this couple had a clinic up the road and would do my scan for free. “Do you not realise they are pro-life people?” I asked her. I had read about them confronting women before but my sister had no idea.

As we crossed the road towards the door of the clinic, they began to walk towards us. The woman put her hand on me as I rang the bell. I turned and looked her straight in the eyes and said “I wouldn’t if I was you.” She backed off straight away.

The staff in the clinic couldn’t have been nicer. I got my scan and was advised to have a surgical abortion. They gave me all the information I needed and off I went.

Trying to co-ordinate my flights, the clinic appointment as well as childcare was difficult. The only clinic I could attend was near Heathrow which meant that flights were super expensive. I had no option but to travel alone.

I went to my GP. He was so kind and gentle with me. He said he couldn’t lie on my sick cert but was able to say “uterus surgery”. I was able to make up a story that I needed surgery to fix my coil that had moved. He said to check-in when I got back and wished me luck, giving me a prescription for painkillers.

Traveling Alone

Aircoach bus driving along a quiet road in the early morning

By the time I was leaving for the UK, my morning sickness was so extreme it was hard to function. I bought a baggy tracksuit to travel in as I didn’t own one. The night before I had to travel, my mother took the kids on a sleepover. I got up at 3am to get the Aircoach. I was fasting so I was hungry and nauseous. I tried to hide with my hood up at the back of the bus and hold in my heaving stomach. The bus was packed with people laughing and joking as they set off on their holidays.

I got to the plane without puking. It was an early morning flight to Heathrow and was filled with business people having breakfast and coffee. I will never forget the smells of the food I couldn’t eat.

More Protesters

When I landed, there was a taxi man with my name on a sign. He was extremely nice and kind to me. He chatted away as we were stuck in rush hour traffic but he helped pass the time. As we approached the clinic, he warned me of the “crazy people” outside.

“They will shout at you, grab you and try scare you. They will run at the car when we pull up but don’t worry, you will be ok. I’m going to park directly outside the gate; just walk straight in and don’t look at them.”

As I stepped out of the car, two women came running at me. They grabbed me and tried to put rosary beads and leaflets into my hands. There was a man in a white robe shouting prayers at me and throwing holy water. I shoved past them and got inside the clinic’s door.

There was nothing but respect, kindness and compassion shown to me that day in the clinic. They were so gentle and sympathetic. The surgical staff were so comforting and reassuring.  When I woke, I felt relieved but I just wanted to be at home with my kids and that upset me.  There was 10 of us in the recovery ward afterwards. I was having a hard time coming around but the staff were incredible and so kind.

Coming Home

I was ready to go at 1pm but my flight wasn’t for another 6 hours. I was still nauseous so the staff told me to take a nap first. I felt much better when I woke up. My taxi collected me at 3pm and at the airport, I was able to change my flight home to an earlier time for free.  I sat in the airport in relief. Thankful that despite my traumatic experience, I had been shown kindness every step of the way. I thought of the women who don’t have that. My sister collected me at the airport with flowers. She took me home and put me to bed, minding me.

The pain and bleeding was not so bad. I got to see my kids the next morning which was amazing.

I have no regrets about terminating the pregnancy that wasn’t right for me. I made the choice for myself and my family.

Aircoach bus driving along a quiet road in the early morning

Artist: Jacob Stack.

http://jacobstack.net/


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Woman looking out of a taxi window and anti-choice protesters

Deborah

Deborah’s Story

My name is Deborah.  I found out I was pregnant 6 weeks before I was due to fly to Boston to work. I knew immediately that I wanted to have an abortion. I also knew I would have to wait until I arrived in Boston which meant that I was 14 weeks pregnant when I had the abortion.

I will never forget waiting for those 6 weeks. I was extremely stressed and worried that someone would find out. That shame is something I still feel to this day.

“Pro-Life” Protesters

I got a taxi to the clinic. The “pro-life” protesters outside were shouting and roaring; I was terrified. 

Woman looking out of a taxi window and anti-choice protesters

Inside the clinic, I changed my mind 3 times about the sedation which resulted in me having to pay an extra $100. When I was called into the surgery, the first thing I saw was the ultrasound. That was when I started to cry and I thought I would never stop. The doctor couldn’t have been kinder. He told me to look away, that he had to check my womb. I was given the sedation and the next thing I remember is the doctor saying “it’s ok… it’s over, you’re going to be ok.”

All I felt was relief. I don’t think I’ve felt that kind of relief since.

I was allowed go home after a few hours. I walked outside and one of the “pro-life” protesters roared “murderer” at me, shoving a blue baby grow in my hands. I was stunned, just completely stunned. I got into the taxi but at this stage I was in a lot of pain and I had to get the driver to pull over. The closest place I could find was a pub. The toilet was in the basement and I was hanging onto the sink waiting for the pain to pass. I thought I would never get home. But I did and I got through it.

That was 19 years ago. 19 years of shame, of silence, of stigma.  I did nothing wrong. I made a decision based on what was best for me at the time. I don’t regret it for one second and I think about it every day.

Woman looking out of a taxi window and anti-choice protesters

Artist: Aimee Gallagher.

gumcollective.com/Aimee-Gallagher

Audio: Kate Finegan


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Image of 10 Women

Trish (Guest Post)

2017 was the year of realising what bottom of the pile looks like. The view from down here is spectacular, what with the underskirts of society flashed at you and the soles of the government’s fancy shoes in full view, who wouldn’t be feeling dismayed?

It comes in threes for sure.

One: I wasn’t born with a physical disability, in fact, throughout my teenage years I held down two jobs and during college could be seen frequently practicing my 10k around the running track. So, as you can imagine my official crowning as a person with a disability (unable to even use the free travel card) came as a bit of a downer.

Two: It was also the year that marked the 35th anniversary of the eighth amendment. I was under the illusion that up until now I could do as I pleased with my body and that a disabling diagnosis had taken that away. Wrong. When I was almost four years old the government, backed by the people of Ireland cemented into the Irish constitution that the potential being of another had equal status to me, that it was long before illness took root that I could certainly not do as I pleased with my own body. I was just coming up to my fourth birthday when that was decided. In the 38 years of my existence, my country has never granted me the opportunity to vote on this, on the fact that someone whose life has yet to come to fruition has more rights than I do, especially now that I am less able-bodied.

Three: It was also the year that marked the 6th March for choice and, despite the travel card, I couldn’t get on the buses booked for the trip from Cork to Dublin, to be a part of the change I worked tirelessly to campaign for, some times from my bed because I was too weak to get out of it (thank goodness for laptops!). To lie in the Cork University Hospital writhing in pain, watching it’s disappointing (lack of) coverage by the media just doesn’t have quite the same effect. 

It could be worse (people never tire of telling you that): I could be pregnant, like many disabled women in Ireland (who, according to the SAVI Report are at a greater risk of rape, sexual abuse & violence) are left struggling to live on payments that hardly cover food for a week let alone anywhere up to €1000 for traveling to the UK to access reproductive healthcare. I know that even for me, having the money might make little difference as many days I’m bed-bound with movement terrifyingly painful, so an entire trek through airports and bus stations would be impossible. Yes the ban on the right to travel for an abortion has been lifted but I cannot make that journey.

Artist: Val Scott

On the Saturday of the March of Choice I couldn’t leave Cork to have a voice, to use my body to create visibility of the desire this country has for change. Were I also pregnant, I would be forced to continue a pregnancy that meant giving birth to a child I had no hope of parenting. Reading this you might assume family would help, or there are other options like fostering but you would be missing the point; I need to be able to make that choice myself because God knows they are limited enough as it is. Please don’t preach because my hands are tied.   I have no intention of illustrating this blog post with inaccurate information that fuels the flames of moral panic, I am merely presenting it as it happens.

There have been calls for ‘why I support Repeal’ blogs, articles, you name it, the campaign want it. I, like many other women in 2017 had to sit (or in my case stay supine) and watch another opportunity slide past us: The chance to march for our choice.

It scares me that I live in a country that thinks this is Okay. It’s not Okay.

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Girl with her eyes blacked out

Kate

Kate’s Story

 

My name is Kate. I had an abortion at 19. I had no money, no support, and no one to tell. I don’t think I’ve ever even said it out loud.

I’d been pro-choice my whole life and I was terrified of telling people who loved me about a decision that I wholly knew was right for me. I didn’t have any money to travel and I didn’t know any alternatives. I didn’t even know if there was anyone I could talk to for support.

I thought I was just going to die

I spent endless time searching online for ways to have a home abortion. I did all sorts of desperate things to myself, to no avail. I worked evenings after college, and double shifts to save. I cried constantly and couldn’t eat. When I finally had the abortion, I was terrified of the blood. I had agonising pains in a hotel room. I thought I was just going to die. I didn’t even really mind, sadly.

When I got home I went to a clinic. I said I thought something was wrong with me. The doctor scraped me, felt my insides, told me I’d had a miscarriage and should, “be more careful.” I was careful, but that didn’t matter.

I’ve carried that as a burden for years. A sense of shame that I didn’t deserve, that no one does. I read endless posts online about how terrible someone like me must be, how heartless. Sometimes I forget that when I talk about abortion rights, I’m talking about something that shaped me irrevocably. It doesn’t even feel like my story. Ignoring the needs of women like myself doesn’t make the problem go away, and it doesn’t make this country any safer a place to be a woman, or to be a mother.

The 8th Amendment is not just arbitrary linguistics, it affects so many people you know, so many people you love. Irish women deserve more than this; more than being reduced to a sad figure on a website, more than another signifier of Irish shame, more than being disregarded and denied autonomy and respect by people who have never, and will never, know them.

Girl with her eyes blacked out

Artist: Louise Hickey.

www.behance.net/loohicks

Audio: Fiona O’ Connor

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Pink bathtub with blood running down the drain

Caoimhe

Caoimhe’s Story

My name is Caoimhe. I still have no idea how it happened; I was always the responsible one, the organised one, the one who would never have a crisis pregnancy. I had been on the pill since I was a teenager and my boyfriend & I always used condoms… just incase. When the condom broke, I wasn’t worried, because that’s why we always used two forms of contraception. Yet, there I was looking at 4 positive pregnancy tests.

My boyfriend & I took off to a friend’s house in the country where we stayed for two agonisingly long days and nights discussing every possible what if – what if, what if what if. Both of us knew that there was no way we could afford to bring a child into the world, not at this time. We knew what we had to do and we booked an appointment for a surgical abortion in Manchester.

Manchester

When I arrived at the clinic I recognised a woman I had seen crying in the bathroom in Dublin airport – her friend reassuring her that it would be OK, and there was another girl from my flight as well who couldn’t have been more than a teenager. We shared comforting smiles across the waiting room, knowing that each of us had made the same journey from Ireland that morning.

The surgery itself was horrible, but my nurse held my hand through it. As we were leaving, she told me to rest and take my antibiotics that evening. I should expect to bleed heavily over the next few days, but this was normal.

After arriving at the hotel, I tried to sleep, when a sign on the hotel dresser caught my eye: “Soilage Charge: £150.” That was it. I had been so brave until that moment but I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. The hotel, the last minute fights, the transport to and from the airport, the actual surgery … my credit card was maxed out. I couldn’t afford another £150. This would break us. My boyfriend was already asleep in the bed so I made my way into the bathroom, rolled my jacket into a pillow and slept in the bathtub, crying myself to sleep.

Coming Home

When I got home to Ireland the next day I thought it would all be over, but I continued to bleed so heavily that I needed to take the following 2 weeks off work. I was in so much pain that I honestly thought I was going to die on two separate occasions. I was too scared to go to my GP or to A&E, so I just lay and home, bleeding and crying in pain.

Ten Irish women made that trip to England every single day in 2016. I was one of them.

I am sharing my story because abortion happens and will continue to happen in Ireland. We need to ask ourselves are we a nation who has compassion for women who find themselves in incredibly difficult situations or are we a nation that abandons women and forces them to seek care from our UK neighbours?

Pink bathtub with blood running down the drain

Can you think of someone to share this story with?