Every woman and every crisis pregnancy deserves the respect, writes Tara Flynn, not just the tragedies.
When I publicly shared my story of having to travel for an abortion, I was not the first in Ireland to do so. Many had before. But it was either anonymously, or brushed aside quickly as a shameful or radical view. I and others had previously shared anonymously with a major newspaper, in a feature people clearly read, then moved on. ‘That’s just how things are here,’ they’d tut, in between bites of KitKat, turning over to the property section. The brave women of Termination for Medical Reasons went public years ago. Fighting tragedy and bereavement, they showed their faces, shared their pain. They made sure that people didn’t forget that wanted pregnancies can go horribly wrong, and how immoral it is to keep “punishing tragedy” as they put it.
Many of these warrior women, unwavering in their generosity, get called ‘murderers’ for their trouble. These urgent cases, which no one could in all conscience ignore, were not enough for some people.
It made me sick. Two reasons: one, I couldn’t believe people would treat these families so cruelly; that on hearing these stories they wouldn’t be out campaigning for repeal of the eighth amendment themselves. Two, if there was little empathy from some quarters for these women, what kind of reaction would I get? Mine was an everyday abortion. Not that facing such a difficult decision is an everyday thing, but such decisions are faced every single day. I got pregnant despite taking emergency contraception, immediately, as soon as the pharmacy was open the morning after. (So that’s where they get the name!) No nausea, no problems, I was sure it would work. I was 37 and had almost always been on some form of contraception, always had condoms in my wallet ‘just in case’. (Well, you never know, right?) I was certain I couldn’t be pregnant. But when, after this one mishap, my period didn’t arrive, and I was ill and tired all the time, I took a pregnancy test. In fact, I took four. I was single, not working much, and didn’t feel able to be a parent - even if I weren’t alone, or had a million euro.
Now, I felt terrified: trapped by my body, trapped by my country. I got counselling, did research, soul searched and, satisfied it was the only option for me, flew to the Netherlands for an abortion.
The care was kind, non-judgemental. I got to tell the truth to medical professionals. At home, I’d been too scared of our laws to go to my own GP. Even to tell my mum. This is how it is for the majority of unwanted pregnancies: our cases might not be tragic, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a crisis. That we haven’t reflected deeply and thought about all the options. No one makes these decisions lightly. Just because, based on your circumstances, it might be a straightforward decision, it doesn't mean it's an easy one.
I can’t say what constitutes a crisis for anyone else: she is the only expert on her body, life and future. I trust her. I trust you. Every day. That’s why I will vote Yes on May 25th.