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Yesterday, I celebrated the fact that Ireland voted to repeal the 8th amendment. Today, I'm here to talk about the other feelings. Buckle up.
I arrived in Dublin a few hours before the exit poll results were announced on 25 May. I didn’t believe them.
It wasn’t until the Saturday morning text from @HelenGuinane saying the other side had conceded that I believed it. Sort of. I needed the official announcement. Or to feel relieved. I needed to feel like the fight was over.
I wore an @AbortionSupport shirt that day and five women saw this, came up to me, and identified themselves as past ASN service users.
“Is Ciara still working with you?” One asked. “Tell her Aoife says thank you.” There is only one Ciara on the @AbortionSupport helpline; we have helped many Aoifes.
Each time this happened, I cried.
At Dublin Castle the announcement happened. I felt numb and detached. I kept waiting for excitement, relief, joy to come. The only thing I felt was exhaustion.
Maybe the joy was held at bay because of the person I ran into at one of the after parties told me to “keep quiet” to the press about the people who still needed abortions RIGHT NOW
and not to mention the 600-800 people we predicted would still need to travel for abortion per year, either post 12 weeks or fallen through gaps in service.
Maybe it was the stress of the four women I was juggling that day. All four were over 12 weeks pregnant, which made them too far along to get an abortion in Ireland even if Repeal had equalled immediate abortion access.
The youngest of the four, when we got her to England, scanned over the legal limit and was forced to continue the pregnancy. Two years on, my conversations with her sister stay with me.
The 8th was repealed. Long die the 8th. It was a victory, of course it was, and I am so very thankful for the many people who worked to make it happen.
I won’t list you all here. You know who you are. Some of you don't know who you are, but I do. All of you helping in large and small ways, all of you got us here. Please, please know how very grateful I am.
As I have said many times, anyone who is able to get an abortion in Ireland without getting on a plane or a ferry is a victory.
But Ireland’s abortion law? When it works, it is very very good. And when it does not, it is horrid.
On 2 January of this year, @AbortionSupport shared examples of people who still needed to travel after provision started. We are still getting these calls.
People who are less than 3 days over the legal limit, delayed by needed scans to prove gestation and the medically unnecessary three day waiting period.
Women who did an early medical abortion in Ireland which did not work, and then had to travel to England at their own expense
People over 12 weeks who need a visa to travel to the UK or EU.
Women and couples with pregnancies diagnosed with terrible but not terrible enough for 2 doctors to certify that the baby will die within 28 days of birth foetal abnormalities.
Those same women and couples told by doctors to delay travelling for more and more and more tests, even though the tests will neither allow an abortion in Ireland nor show a healthy baby.
People without a home or a safe space where they live to spend hours having a miscarriage and exhibiting the associated symptoms
People delayed in accessing care by rogue crisis pregnancy centres.
Women who received wildly inaccurate pregnancy scans which meant they were much further than thought when they travelled (and in some cases, scanned over the legal limit in England).
Women delayed by anti-choice GPs who lie to them and say they are not pregnant, were never pregnant, must have miscarried, but . . . who are pregnant.
I won’t even start on the additional difficulties of travelling for an abortion during a global pandemic, when what was a 1-2 day trip can be a 2-5 day trip
And when you can’t source childcare due to lockdown and social distancing
While I am damn proud that Ireland was – I think – the first country in Europe to provide early medical abortions via telemedicine during Covid, I also know the law does not do enough.
The three year review of the law is due in May 2021. @AbortionSupport is not a campaigning organisation. But I ask, I beg, that you do the following:
End the mandatory, but medically unnecessary, three day waiting period.
Create more places that do MVA or surgical abortions for those who are less able to have abortion with pills.
Automatically provide a surgical abortion for anyone who has had a failed early medical abortion, even if that person is above 12 weeks into pregnancy.
Do some kind of quality check on scanning facilities (we had one woman told she was “15 to 17 weeks” when she was 20w2d; another told she was 12w3 when she was, in fact, 8w2.
Heck, get rid of the 12 week time limit altogether.
Change the criteria for abortion for foetal abnormality. Give people all the information to hand and allow them to make informed choices based on factual, medical information and what they know about their family circumstance and abilities.
Remove all criminalisation from the law. Except for rogue pregnancy centres. Make those illegal. And put in buffer zones.
Make sure there is a clear pathway for people who cannot access an abortion in Ireland, even if that pathway is “Call @AbortionSupport.”
Celebrate Repeal. Celebrate abortion in Ireland. And then, please, make the law better. #RepealedThe8th
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