Readers Blog: Time to end the secrecy, shame and trauma

Following the convoluted letter ‘Abortion will ‘fix’ our population rise’ (Irish Examiner, February 21), it is clearly important to gently restate that repealing the Eighth Amendment, just as inserting the Eighth Amendment in the first place, will do nothing to change our abortion rate.

Thousands of women travelled to England for an abortion the years and decades leading up to the Eighth Amendment referendum, and thousands have travelled every year since. Numbers travelling since 2001 have decreased, interestingly just at the same time as the numbers accessing illegal online abortion pills have gone up. If UK-style abortion access is broad, safe, and legal, then Irish-style abortion provision is secrecy, shame and quiet, consistent, intergenerational trauma.

Nowhere in the world does the availability of legal abortion influence how many women actually have abortions. A prize to anyone who can deduce why there was a notable abortion rate spike globally around late 2008-2009, for example. It was certainly not because of abortion policy change.

No woman will ever sit down and flip open Bunreacht na hÉireann to see what she can access legally when making a difficult decision about a pregnancy. Fourteen years in prison and excommunication from the Catholic Church pale in comparison to pregnancy and parenthood in a situation where it doesn’t feel right. It’s not just any aul conundrum that has internet-fearing middle-aged mammies taking pills they ordered off some stranger online.

The one aspect of abortion rates any legislation can possibly influence is that of safety. When safe abortion care is illegal or difficult to access, a woman or girl at one of the most vulnerable points in her life is forced to just go elsewhere. To Dublin Airport, to random unregulated websites online, to their bedroom with an unravelled coat hanger. To fear that a doctor may turn her in, as has happened in Northern Ireland, if she shows up to A&E needing help.

Project Ireland 2040 may contain more hot air than the Poolbeg chimneys, but politicians across parties and the political spectrum are recognising that the middle ground in legal abortion provision is simply not to tell other people what they should do with their own families, their own health and the course of their own lives.

Women are the experts in their own life, in how exactly a pregnancy or new baby could be accommodated and looked after as they deserve to be. This is the middle ground. Pro-choice. Pro-dignity. Pro-privacy. Pro-wellbeing. Any other position — forced continuation of a pregnancy or forced abortion — is extreme, and detrimental to people’s welfare and safety.

Áine Kavanagh

BSc Reproductive Health


Co Leitrim

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