#TwoWomenTravel : Highlighting Ireland’s abortion issues

repeal the 8th

Being Irish is funny sometimes. We are blessed with a global reputation for being friendly and great craic, we aren’t involved in any wars or conflicts and we were the first country to vote for and pass a law for marriage equality, a move which established us as a progressive and inclusive society and allowed us to feel smug and proud of ourselves ever since.

And yet, Ireland is also a country still held back by the weight of the Catholic Church, where abortion is still illegal and stigmatised.

Ireland is a country that has been singled out by both Amnesty International for its “violation of human rights,” and by the UN for its “cruel, inhumane or degrading” abortion laws.

As a feminist and journalist I spend much of my time writing about – and feeling sympathy for – women around the world who don’t have the right to drive or walk outside unattended, who are subjected to gang rape by UN soldiers, who are victims of female genital mutilation, who are forced to wear a hijab in Iran, and forced to endure bans on modest swimwear in France.

And yet in my own country, Irish women do not have control of their own bodies. They do not have the choice to make decisions about their own reproductive organs, or their choice to be a parent. Around 12 Irish women every day make the journey to the UK to get an abortion.

It can be easy to forget Ireland’s shortcomings in our day to day life. As Irish women we are a strong, independent group who can dress how we like, choose not to settle down and can sleep around if we wish, and yet a basic human right afforded to much of the Western world is denied to us, without our say.

Instead, the choice to allow Irish women to procure abortion in our own country is held in the hands of old, largely male politicians and the extreme religious right who have absolutely no business involving themselves in the goings on of our wombs.

Repealing the 8th

The Repeal the 8th movement has shone a light on Ireland’s backwards laws on abortion. It is heart-warming to see people walking around wearing the Repeal jumpers, to see Maser create political art around the issue, and to see two amazing women live tweet their journey to the UK for an abortion this weekend.

The women detailed a journey that so many other Irish women have undertaken over the years. Some do so with the businesslike attitude of those without a choice, some do it crippled by fear and trauma and others with the stress of the financial burden of being forced to travel to another nation to get an abortion.

Their decision was an important one, and the latest little chip at the draconian state of Ireland’s abortion issue. News of the account quickly spread and the #twowomentravel hashtag was filled with support, sisterhood and sympathy.

And yet, the hashtag and the women were the targets of some fairly shocking backlash.

The reaction of some was pretty horrifying. It is similar to some of the reactions provoked by women wearing Repeal T-shirts or sharing their abortion stories online.

One woman posted about how she was confronted by a man in a coffee shop for wearing a Repeal T-shirt. For a man to feel entitled to approach a young woman to berate her for wearing a t-shirt is an unnerving example of the abortion debate in Ireland.While Ireland’s pro-choice movement is encouraging and hopeful, it also exposes the deep seated extremism in our country.

It is sad to see, but Ireland’s conservative roots still have a hold on people, and those people are preventing us from moving forward.

I am fully hopeful that the Repeal the 8th movement will prevail, and I thank the Two Women for highlighting the issue.

Even health minister Sam Harris voiced his support for the Two Women.

I’ve never had an abortion, but going to England was always the plan if I became pregnant at a young age. My friends and I would talk about it, especially if we heard of someone else who had fallen pregnant or had had unprotected sex. “Getting the boat” to England was the accepted reality, and one which many people are forced to undertake.

I didn’t want to become a mother at 17 or 18 or even 21, and if I had found myself pregnant in school or college, I would have somehow scraped the bare minimum together to get myself over to England in secret, bringing a friend along for support.

We wouldn’t have money for a hotel, so we would have done it in one day. That was always the plan. We would even talk about what stories we could tell our parents if we had to make the trip, like that we were going to a concert, or even that we were spending the weekend at a friend’s house. Can you imagine if we did go to England and something happened to us, having to call our parents and say that we were actually in England and not down the road?

I want women in Ireland to have the choice to take control of their own lives and have access to basic medical care.

Being pro-choice is not about loving abortion, it’s not calling for anyone who has a surprise pregnancy to swiftly abort. It’s giving women the personal, private choice to consider not having a child when they do not want or are unable to do so. It’s the same choice that women all over the world have. It’s a choice that Ireland should allow its women to make. It’s time.

In conclusion, #repealthe8th @EndaKennyTD #twowomentravel pic.twitter.com/irRdF7lhK1

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  1. August 22, 2016 / 8:06 pm

    I don’t really know what to add to this; you’ve covered my thoughts entirely. I understand that Catholicism is a big part of Irish history and the culture, but it still baffles me that what should be a basic human right is blocked by religion. I live in England and I just can’t imagine that, if I needed it, I couldn’t get the medical attention I needed at home and would need to travel to another country. I can’t wrap my head around why such a modern country would allow that to take place.

    I understand that abortion is a decisive topic, and people are allowed their own opinion (though I entirely disagree with people being attacked like the examples you gave for their choice), but I really don’t think religion has a place in law in modern times.

  2. August 22, 2016 / 9:21 pm

    I have to admit I’m not totally familiar with the politics in Irelend but it makes me sad to hear about what the women are going through! I’ve definitely got some perspective to gain based on this. Thanks for sharing!

  3. August 23, 2016 / 2:34 am

    This is a very powerful post! Thank you for sharing.

  4. August 23, 2016 / 8:28 am

    Nice post. Personally I can’t say if I’m for or against it, because it depends on the situation. Like some people use abortion as a form of contraception and that’s absolutely ridicolus, considering that there are actually options to prevent pregnancy. On the other hand I believe that every abortion should be done before the thingy inside you actually forms into aynthing (meaning the abortion would be possible untill 3rd week of pregnancy).

  5. August 23, 2016 / 5:40 pm

    Wow… what can I say! I’m glad u and other people speak about it and thanks for sharing your thoughts!

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