Abortion Stories: We Face this Land

by Jenny Duffy

Last night The Repeal Project released a powerful short film entitled We Face This Land. Directed by Dave Tynan (Just Saying, Rockmount), the video features over thirty women reading a poem written by Sarah Maria Griffin (Not Lost, Spare and Found Parts). There are many familiar faces from the Irish arts scene – including Róisín Ingle, Sinéad Gleeson, Sarah Davis-Goff, Una Mullaly, Louise Bruton, Kate Beaufoy and Seána Kerslake.

The film features a large and varied cast of women. There is an incredible sense of unity seeing women of different ages, appearances and backgrounds uniting in this powerful message – our bodies are our own, that things need to change in this country.

Senator Lynn Ruane and her daughter, actress Jordanne Jones, speak a line of the poem together in the video. Last night, the senator tweeted a picture of the two of them hugging on the beach where the video was filmed. This beautiful photo shows the sense of solidarity that is so moving in this video, as does Sarah Griffin’s post about the experience – three generations of women from her family taking part in the film, all pictured wearing Repeal jumpers. We are all in this together, we Irish women. We are not mere vessels.

The imagery in the poem and in the visuals of this beautifully shot short are striking and haunting. The images of women walking into the sea, the dark truths they speak makes it seem almost dystopian but no, this is our country, this is our reality. The comparisons to witchcraft, the imagery of the sea which invokes not only how ‘witches’ were drowned, but how women are forced to travel overseas for abortions. This stark reality is brought home by the line spoken by Tara Flynn, who has been at the frontline of the Repeal the 8th campaign.

“Eleven women leave Ireland every day seeking an abortion abroad.”

Tara Flynn has recently experienced the demonisation of women who speak about their abortions – the witch hunt of sorts – but she continues to be a powerful voice for change. Perhaps most striking, though, is the power of the end of the short as the women stand united on the beach, chanting together. Throughout the poem the echoes of religion, the oppressive power of the church are evident here too in this prayer-like chant. Claire Hennessy writes of filming this, “we do our straightforward walking-in-the-background scene over and over. We chant the last three lines of the poem over and over. Our voices get louder, stronger, as we do.”  The ending packs a punch: “Women or witches, these are our bodies, which shall not be given up.”

There has been backlash, of course. As the poem suggests, women who have abortions, or women who are pro-choice can be seen as monsters in this country; as descendants of witches. But the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Last night alone, the video was viewed over 100,000 times and it was trending on Twitter. Repeal Project founder Anna Cosgrave is quoted in saying, “my voice couldn’t travel as far as this piece will”. That article has been shared over 8,000 times.  When I watched the video last night, I had goosebumps. I cried. I wasn’t the only one in tears. Countless tweets and comments of support and solidarity have been posted. The film, like the Repeal Project clothing, is bringing the Repeal the 8th conversation out into the open.

We Face This Land is one of the most moving and powerful films I have ever seen. These women are brave and fierce, they have a voice and it is strong. The ending of the video, this swelling wave of women standing together, wearing Repeal sweaters and declaring that our bodies are our own gives the sense that the tide may be turning.

All September, we are publishing abortion stories. If you are an Irish person who had an abortion, or a person who found themselves pregnant in Ireland and in search of one, and would like to share your experience, email sarah@thecoven.me. There is no editorial guideline – a line or a paragraph or a chapter. Your voice counts. Correspondence will be entered into in strictest confidence.

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