I HAD AN ABORTION BUT I CAN'T VOTE - BE MY YES
Laura* had a crisis pregnancy as a teenager - but she doesn't have a say in the upcoming referendum. this is her story.
Please, I implore you, vote for me. No, I don’t mean elect me. I mean, if you have the right to do so, vote in the upcoming referendum on the Eighth Amendment and Be My YES!
I’m an Irish citizen, but like many of my compatriots, I have been living abroad for too long to be entitled to vote myself. This is a reality that saddens and frustrates me and many other Irish friends of mine who are in the same situation.
But there are an estimated 40,000 Irish citizens living abroad who are entitled to vote in the referendum. If we have learnt anything from Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, is that fundamental change can depend on the slightest of margins. That’s why it’s imperative that you exercise your right to go home to vote in May - or if you're already in Ireland that you get down to the ballot box.
I am imploring you to cast a YES vote in my name, in solidarity with me and the thousands of other women, who have been forced to travel abroad to access abortion services as a direct consequence of the Eighth Amendment.
I was 19 when I became pregnant, while at college in Dublin. The pregnancy was not planned and I knew I did not have the financial or psychological means at the time to provide for a child in the way I felt I should.
I went to the doctor for definitive confirmation and was met with a cold, dark wall of judgement and a refusal to provide any information on where I could seek support to access a termination.
I left the doctor’s pristine white office feeling dirty, shamed, scared and alone.
My first phone call was to my best friend, who lived in a country where access to abortion services is both legal and free, funded by the national health system.
She took control of the situation, organising the necessary appointments for me. My wages from a part-time job funded a no-frills flight and three weeks later I was able to access the care I needed.
It might seem odd to you to hear me say that I often think about how lucky I was to be able to travel to access an abortion. But I do. Because I know that so many other Irish women, just like me, were unable to do so for all kinds of reasons, and were forced to continue an unintended and unwanted pregnancy, against their will.
Motherhood should be a positive choice, not a punishment.
When I returned to Ireland after my trip abroad, the country was engulfed by a toxic debate ahead of the 2002 abortion referendum. I remember how difficult it was to participate in theoretical discussions with friends (some of whom I was surprised to discover were vehemently anti-choice) about these faceless, silent women who wanted abortions.
These women, who nobody seemed to know. “Oh yes you do,” I wanted to shout. “Here I am, standing here next to you. I travelled alone to have an abortion last week." But mostly I kept silent. Sharing my experience with precious few.
I vividly remember a cold winter day on Dame Street, when a friend whom I had confided in shouted at me: “Whore. How could you do this?” As she stormed off I stood frozen to the spot as tears rolled down my cheeks.
I have never regretted my decision. I’m now in my late 30s. I’m married. My husband and I own our own house, have a stable income and successful careers, and I'm pregnant with our first child.
It has taken us 15 years of incredibly hard work to create what we know are the right conditions to start a family.
The experience of a planned and desired choice for pregnancy at the right time in your life is so wildly different to that of a crisis pregnancy.
My daughter is due to be born after the referendum and it is my profound hope that I will be bringing her into a world where the Eighth Amendment is part of Ireland’s past.
And that when I bring her home to Ireland in the future it is to the country that I know in my heart we truly are. The best little country in the world, for women as well as for men.
*The author's name has been changed to protect her idenity