I’ve talked a lot recently about people getting in the way of access to abortion in Ireland. The women who ratted their housemate out to the police because she wasn’t sorry enough about her abortion. I’ve gotten deeply snarky about people who make mind-bogglingly ignorant arguments against pregnant people’s right to choose.
I have’t talked that much about the other side: the people who speak up. Those who tell their stories. People who risk arrest and villification to choose their own path or to support others’ choices. The big damn abortion heroes of our time.
As there are a lot of people to share, this post is split this into three parts.
Do you need an abortion?
It’s illegal in the Republic of Ireland to encourage anyone to have an abortion. It’s possible to provide information, but not to tell someone that you think an abortion might be a good option for them. Conversely, it’s perfectly legal to say whatever you like to encourage someone not to have one.
If you’re in the North or South of Ireland and are considering abortion, Need Abortion Ireland is there for you. This website has everything you might need, whether you’re travelling to the UK or need a safe way to access abortion pills on the island. They’ve a text support service that you can contact at any time before, during or after your abortion. They’ll even send you a care package full of “pyjamas, snacks, films, anything you need to make your abortion experience as comfortable as possible“. If you need an abortion and you’re feeling isolated? These are the big damn heroes who’ll do everything short of coming to your house, propping your feet up and putting the kettle on for you themselves.
If you need to have an abortion but don’t have the money to travel, the Abortion Support Network is there for you. They’re a volunteer-run charity, funded by donations that go directly to the people who need them most. They know the most affordable places to go and the cheapest ways to travel, and may be able to offer you a grant towards your costs. Between 2009 and 2014 these volunteers helped 1,727 people. Big. Damn. Heroes.
It’s not just people who have abortions who can be prosecuted in the North and the Republic. Those who help them also face the wrath of the State.
There’s a woman about to stand trial in Northern Ireland for helping her daughter to get the abortion pills she needed. She could face life in prison.
In response to the threat of vulnerable women being arrested and prosecuted for abortions, the Northern Irish Alliance for Choice have done something immensely courageous. As well as arranging protests and supporting women, they published an open letter signed by over 100 people declaring that they’ve imported and/or used abortion pills and inviting the state to prosecute every one of them, while at the same time condemning prosecutors for “going after a soft target” when they arrest vulnerable women.
Another big damn hero? Goretti Horgan. This women puts her money where her mouth is. If women are afraid to use their own credit cards to buy abortion pills online, she lets them use hers. She says she’s helped at least twenty women in this way, providing a credit card to use to buy the pills and an address to send them to.
The Long, Thankless Slog
There are hundreds of people working in Ireland’s pro-choice campaigns. Here are the groups I’m aware of, who do so much to help pregnant people and to keep abortion in our national conversation for as long as it takes to bring us our right to bodily autonomy. Let me know if I’m missing someone!
The Abortion Rights Campaign is a movement for choice and change in Ireland. We aim to promote broad national support for a referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment to the Constitution by the Irish Parliament; to push for the introduction of extensive abortion legislation by the Northern Ireland Assembly; and to ensure the health and rights of women in pregnancy are protected in line with international human rights standards.
We are women and men who have all made the heartbreaking choice to terminate much wanted pregnancies due to fatal foetal abnormalities. Due to the restrictive laws in Ireland, we were all forced to travel to the UK in order to do this. We have all been traumatised, shocked and appalled that at our greatest time of need, our country turned its back on us and made us feel like criminals. We found ourselves in unfamiliar places away from family, friends and our homes. This is so cruel and barbaric and it can not continue to happen.
We are raising awareness of this horrific problem and campaigning for a change in the law. When a woman is given the devastating news that her baby will not survive outside the womb, if she chooses not to continue with her pregnancy, she needs to be looked after in Ireland. The stigma of being shipped off to another country left us all feeling very isolated but we are relieved to have found each other. We hope to support couples who have been through this and are, sadly, yet to go through it.
Parents for Choice in Pregnancy and Childbirth
- Giving parents a voice on issues around choice in pregnancy and childbirth.
- Campaigning and lobbying for improvements and law reform.
- Raising awareness of the impact that Ireland’s laws have on choice in pregnancy and childbirth.
ROSA (for Reproductive rights, against Oppression, Sexism & Austerity) has been initiated by women in the Socialist Party, with the aim of promoting and organising events, actions and campaigning activity on the issues mentioned, open to anyone who supports its message to participate in. It’s named after Rosa Parks, the inspirational black campaigner who famously refused to give up her seat for a white passenger, sparking the Montgomery bus boycott of the Civil Rights Movement. And also after Rosa Luxemburg, exceptional and leading socialist theoretician and activist of the early 20th century, killed for her revolutionary politics in 1919.
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