I don’t remember how I came to the Repeal movement.
I remember how I learned about abortion. I was about ten, maybe. My mother came home with bags of shopping. At the bottom were leaflets. Pictures of babies torn into pieces. Stories of the pain they felt, of a God that wanted to bring them to Heaven but couldn’t. They weren’t allowed to be born.
My mother found me crying – or maybe I found her – and angrily took them from me, ripping the paper into strips. It was a cold, efficient anger that I was unused to and now feel more often than I would like. It was anger without temper, burning intensely and very, very cold. The kind of controlled, pressed-lipped anger that comes about when you’re resigned, when the thing that makes you angry repeats itself over and over, becoming elemental, purified.
It took me a while to figure out that it wasn’t me she was angry at.
How do you tell your daughter what the truth is?
I have never had an abortion. I have never been pregnant. Nor have many of the women who work on repealing the Eighth Amendment, the archaic addendum to the Irish Constitution that puts the life of a foetus on an equal footing to a living, breathing womb owner. But their friends have. Family members. Some of us can’t get pregnant, and some of us can’t get pregnant – terrible things may happen when your body is no longer your own.
This isn’t scaremongering. People with pre-existing medical conditions get pregnant and are denied the treatment they need for fear of damaging or terminating the possibility of a person that they are carrying. Quality of life is greatly diminished. I didn’t realise quite how far this stretched until Louise Bruton gave a speech at this year’s March for Choice. It made me think of something that I’ve been avoiding my entire life. Why I can’t get pregnant – right now.
I’m depressed as hell, clinically so. I’m on medication. I am a functioning human being. But I can’t come off the medication I need if I get pregnant and guess what? You don’t get a say. I live in the UK and I can go to my doctor and explain the very good reasons why I cannot carry a child and go and sleep in my own bed. It’s my body and my choice and my mind is sound even if it is super sad.
If it happened in Ireland, I couldn’t go home to my mother – who would be the exact person I would need to help me through.
Those who have had abortions and those who have not: we try to help each other. One of the ways we can do this is through storytelling. Here at The Coven, there is a platform and a conduit. This site offers an audience and anonymity – a tricky balance for someone who wants to share an experience without outing themselves. There is so much shame involved: shame for ourselves and the shame we feel would be heaped on us. And a kind of pre-emptive shame; the what-if? I feel guilty already and all my eggs remain sunny-side up. It is so entrenched in us and what does it really do?
We get angry. We get ice burns from this anger. It is distilled down, through experience and generations. The shard in the heart. I saw it in my mother. I see it in me. I want to have a daughter one day. I don’t want to see this anger in her because of the flick of a chromosomal switch.
That’s why Abortion Stories happened. No more shame.