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.

Can you think of someone to share this story with?