Nicole Morley for Metro.co.uk
Wednesday 27 Jul 2016 12:07 pm
As pressure for Ireland to repeal the Eighth Amendment – the law which provides unborn babies with the same rights as their mothers – grows, perhaps it’s time to take a look at this powerful post about abortion.
The Eighth Amendment, passed in 1983, reads: the State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.
The ‘due regard to the equal right of the mother’ means that a termination can only be performed in situations where the mother’s life is at risk.It is also illegal to have an abortion even if a woman or girl was to fall pregnant as a result of rape.
In a moving post on Twitter, Kate Bedfiord, 23, from Dublin, revealed the lengths women and girls living in Ireland must go to in order to avoid being forced into becoming a mother before they’re ready or willing.
Her full and frank post reads:
‘I had an abortion at 19. I had no money, no support and no one to tell. I don’t think I’ve ever even said it out loud.
‘I’d been pro-choice my whole life and I was terrified of telling people who loved me a decision that I wholly knew was right for me. I didn’t have any money to travel, and I didn’t know any alternatives. I didn’t know if there was anyone I could take to, or any support.’
Kate admits: ‘I spent endless time searching online for ways to have a home abortion. I did all sorts of desperate things to myself, to no avail.
‘I worked evenings after college, and double shifts to save. I cried constantly and couldn’t eat. When I finally had an abortion I was terrified of the blood. I had agonising pains in a hotel room. I thought I was just going to die. I didn’t even mind, sadly.’
‘When I got home I went to a clinic. I said I thought something was wrong with me. The doctor scraped me, felt my insides, told me I’d had a miscarriage and should “be more careful”. I was careful, but that didn’t matter.
‘I’ve carried that as a burden for years. A sense of shame that I didn’t deserve, that no one does. I read endless posts online about how terrible someone like me must be, how heartless. Sometimes I forget that when I talk about abortion rights, I’m talking about something that’s shaped me irrevocably.
‘It doesn’t even feel like my story. Ignoring the needs of women like myself doesn’t make the problem go away, and it doesn’t make this country any safer of a place to be a woman, or a mother.’
She adds: ‘The Eighth Amendment is not just arbitrary linguistics, it affects so many people you know, so many people you love. Irish women deserve more than this; more than being reduced to a sad figure on a website, more than another signifier of Irish shame, more than being disregarded and denied autonomy and respect by people who have never, and will never, know them.’
Metro.co.uk caught up with Kate, who told us that she’d fallen pregnant despite using the contraceptive pill for years.
Because of Ireland’s strict abortion laws, she looked into travelling to the UK to have a termination safely but the trip proved too expensive for the then teen who was already working double shifts to pay for college and her ill father’s medical bills.
Kate told Metro.co.uk: ‘I started to look up clinics in the UK. I wanted to go ASAP, but I knew I probably couldn’t afford to go to most of the places that I found.
‘I bought a cheap flight to London, not really knowing what I was doing. I contacted clinics and quickly realised there was no way I could afford it. I started looking up how to have a home abortion. I had baths with boiling water, took extreme amounts of vitamin c, thought about falling from a height; Nothing worked.’
As days passed, she became increasingly desperate.
‘I decided to buy an abortion pill online. I knew it was dangerous, I knew it was illegal, but I was desperate. I’d read about sites that sent you placebos, and thought about what I would do if I couldn’t take it in time. Eventually, I purchased the pill from WomenOnWeb.org, and paid the donation fee. They seemed anonymous, and supportive.’
‘It arrived just before I was due to fly. I wasn’t going to go, but I thought that if something went wrong it was safer to be in the U.K. I didn’t trust myself to see an Irish doctor for aftercare, you can’t tell who would judge you,’ Kate explained.
When we asked what repealing the Eighth Amendment would mean for women and girls who fall pregnant before their ready or when they don’t want to have a child, Kate told Metro.co.uk: ‘I think the language of the constitution holds a significant away over discourse in Ireland. A thirty year-old law that dictates women’s reproductive health is cited consistently in order to deny women’s freedom.‘I think the abolition of that amendment, the destruction of that harmful language, collapses that argument. I know now that there’s support for Irish women; but the constant reminder that your body is not your own in the eyes of the law, and of other citizens, creates a sense of guilt that feels impossible to overcome.
‘Acknowledging women’s autonomy would create an open discourse, a fairer debate, and alleviate some of the destructive shame that currently surrounds a choice that isn’t ever lightly undertaken.’