19 November, 2012


Dear Enda, you wanted a Gathering.  You got it!

I'm an Irish woman.  I am about to hit 40 and twenty years ago I remember seeing my friend's picture on the cover of the Irish Times newspaper.  He was the number zero in a phone number for 'abortion information'.  
Twenty years later I am a forty year old woman who is still not allowed to choose whether I do or don't continue with a pregnancy.  
I am fed up with not being allowed to choose what I do with my body.  I am becoming increasingly fed up with the fact that soon, in Ireland, the only people who will be able to afford abortions are the wealthy.  They are going to be the only ones with the money to travel abroad to do so.  
The poor and the ill won't be able to have this procedure.  If they are carrying feotuses that are 'incapatible with life' they are just going to have to suck it up and give it up and have that baby and watch it die in their arms.  
It's 2012 for Christ's sake.  It's the 21st Century.  
What has brought this to the forefront of news media is  the death of a woman called Savita Halappanavar   She was in a Galway hospital due to miscarrying her baby.  She died due to the fact that she was denied an abortion to terminate a pregnancy that was going to end in inevitable miscarriage.  
She was 17 weeks pregnant.  She went into hospital as she was miscarrying and she was in severe pain.  
She asked several times, over three days, if the hospital would terminate the pregnancy.  She was told 'this is a Catholic Country' and 'no, she could not have an abortion'.  
The foetus wasn't going to survive and that is so sad.  She was 17 weeks pregnant, she obviously wanted this child.  But she was miscarrying, it wasn't going to survive.  As a result of the hospital waiting for the foetal heartbeat to cease Savita developed septicaemia and died.  
I keep hearing the argument that 'Ireland has the best maternal care in Europe', I'm not denying that.  I received good care on each of my three pregnancies.  
I keep hearing claims that 'abortion is a bad thing and will ruin the country' and 'how can we be sure abortion won't be used as a contraceptive?'.  
I don't know whether abortion is a bad thing.  I know it's a personal choice.  I know, from the few women in my circle who've had abortions, that it was one of the most difficult choices they ever had to make.  Choices made for a variety of reasons: incapability with life, financial reasons and 'wrong timing'.  All of which, to me, are valid choices.  But then, who am I to decide what is a valid choice?  
Will abortion be used as a contraceptive for some?  Hand on heart, I have no idea. I know, from talking to an English friend who works in the field, that there are those who regularly have abortions.  I think these women are to be pitied more than anything else.
I want a choice.  I want to be allowed to have a choice in what happens to my body.  I want other women to have a choice in what happens to their bodies.  I want less grey areas and fewer doctors feeling that they are fucked regardless of what they do.I took part in a march on Saturday. It went from the Garden of Remembrance to Leinster House.  I'm not sure how many men, women and children were on that protest but I believe it was rumoured to be between 12,000 and 20,000.  I know that there were people gathered at Merrion Square and the protest was still passing by Grafton Street.  I know that you could have heard a pin drop during the minute's silence.  I know that people are angry and ashamed of what has happened in our country.  I know that people want change.  
It's the 21st century.
It's 2012.
Please, please, don't let it be another twenty years before anything is done to do away with these grey areas and finally give women, and men, the right to choose what they do with their lives and bodies.  

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