It wasn’t until the end that the reason why we did what we did was so eloquently put. I can’t remember verbatim but;
How can this be a 21st century European country and not allow abortions?
The microphone was cutting in and out; so only parts of what she said were broadcasted, but they were painfully accurate. She had come to Europe seeking migrant work, and was getting €19 (just under £17 or just over $21 USD) a week to support herself. Her contraception failed and she fell pregnant.
Unfortunately, she didn’t just go to any old country in Europe, she went to Ireland. One of the few European nations that still has laws against abortion. The bravest woman I’d ever seen continued to tell her story to the crowd. On what meagre pay she had, she carried the child to term and gave birth as she had no other choice. Due to the microphone issue I wasn’t entirely sure what happened to the child, but realistically there’s not many options available.
Before she started speaking, we had just finished a circular march round some of Cork’s busiest roads as part of the ‘Repeal Eight’, the coalition for the repeal of the 8th Amendment to the Irish Constitution. Chanting and shouting catchy slogans and messages about the situation that women are facing. Currently in Cork the predominant religion, Catholicism, has more rights and bearing on women’s autonomy than the women themselves. Thankfully Ireland was coming round to the fact that a religion should not dictate what half of the population should be doing, there’s a committee formed with the end result in being a vote within a year to 18 months.
Leaving the speakers to continue, Belov’d and I, hoarse and tired went to a favourite watering hole to digest the whole experience.
Ireland’s stance on abortion nearly prevented my relocation
Sitting at the pub, beer in hand, my head swum with the thoughts and the new experience. I had never seen to a political protest in person, let alone took part in one. It was exhilarating and bubbling over with emotions.
What kept coming up was one of the reasons I nearly said ‘no’ to Belov’d when he suggested Ireland. I’m petrified of falling pregnant, although medically everything is against it, that off chance still scares me.
The last few hours had messages of the women and girls who put their savings towards travel to and paying for an abortion in the UK. Once the three months of me being here is elapsed I will have to notify the NHS that I’m now in Ireland. That safety net will be gone, I too, even after paying into the NHS all my adult life, will have to pay for it.
That’s when it hit me
The white middle class privilege of it all.Of course I can pop across to my parents and have it done, we don’t have disposable income but there’s savings.
The fact that I can sit down, drinking cider, after a political march and go back to life is the epitome of privilege.
But the speaker, the migrant worker, that would never have been an option for her.
For all the women that are scraping by; either because they’re already with a large brood or being barely paid, these women don’t have the option.
To top it all off, there isn’t an NHS here. It’s a banded system of insurances, either paid for by the state or yourself depending on your income. So many of these women would undoubtedly have to pay out of pocket for the expenses that come along with pregnancy- for an unwanted child.
At the end of the day, an abortion is not taken lightly.
Four days on
I now have a favourite brand of aloe Vera, and have learnt moisturiser is not good for sun burns.
More importantly, I’m starting to realise what I can do. What white, British educated, female, in a reasonably paid household me can do. I can push my privilege into helping others. In donating. In protesting. This blog is really just the start of it. The issues don’t just need to be thought about- they need to be written about incessantly.
What can you do?
Start reading and talking about it.
Half the time these issues never get addressed is that people are purely ignorant to them.
In Ireland what is preventing the human right of abortion is the 8th Amendment to the constitution. Read about its effects on Repeal Eight’s website, here.
Keep tabs on the different social media.
By following or adding them to your social media profile you’re doing so many things. Primarily you’re having them in your daily life- updates, comments, reports, reminders, events- they will all be there.
But bigger than that; you’re giving them credibility, algorithms will start suggesting them to your friends and family, so their reach and message will only get bigger.
Even if it’s just a few hours of your time, by showing up to demonstrations and marches, or as simple as sharing their online content.
Being present, virtually or physically, will add momentum to the cause.
Not the church, not the state, women should decide their fate.