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

Instagram

Audio: Emma Callaghan (not Emma in story)


Can you think of someone to share this story with?


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


Can you think of someone to share this story with?


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


Can you think of someone to share this story with?


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?


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.

Can you think of someone to share this story with?


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


Can you think of someone to share this story with?


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/



3 Empty Hospital Beds, blue sheets

Anonymous 3

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.

Can you think of someone to share this story with?



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.

Can you think of someone to share this story with?