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It’s the year of realising what the bottom of the pile looks like, the view from down here is spectacular, what with the underskirts of society and the soles of the Government’s fancy shoes in full view, who wouldn’t be feeling dismal? 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 practising my 10k around the running track. So, as you can imagine my official crowning as a person with a disability — a travel card being the only perk — came as a bit of a downer. I have no choice. Having your whole life shrink in front of your eyes more and more each day is pretty scary.
Two: It’s also the year that marks 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 the government, backed by the people of Ireland, cemented in 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, that even with my disability will have better healthcare. But I have no choice.
Three: This is also the year that marks the sixth March for Choice and despite the travel card I can’t get on the buses booked for the trip to Dublin, to be a part of the change I worked tirelessly to campaign for. To lie in the CUH writhing in pain watching it’s disappointing (lack of) coverage by the media just doesn’t have quite the same effect. Again, I don’t have a choice.
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 and violence) are left struggling to live on payments that hardly cover food for a week, let alone anywhere up to €1,000 for travelling 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 a 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 can’t make that journey. On Saturday I couldn’t leave Cork to have a voice, to use my body to create visibility of the desire this country has for change. 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 because god knows they are limited enough as it is.
I have no intention of illustrating this article 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’m marching’ blogs, articles, you name it the campaign want it. I, like many other women this Saturday had to sit (or in my case stay supine) and watch another opportunity slide past us: The chance to chant for our choice.
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