Imagine living in a place where the right to control if and when you have kids is taken out of your hands? We spoke to women in Dublin and Texas about their abortion journeys.
‘My country made me
feel like a criminal for making the right decision’
Katrina, 29, Dublin, Ireland
‘I was 20 when I found out I was pregnant. It was just a couple of months before my final exams at university, and a huge shock that threatened to change the direction of my life. I was financially and emotionally ill-equipped to be a parent; I still felt like a child myself. But I live in Ireland where abortion is illegal. I couldn’t tell my family, so I borrowed money to travel to the UK and pay for the procedure myself. The total cost was over £700 – a huge sum for a student (though exponentially less than the cost of raising a child).
‘As I flew to Liverpool for the abortion, I knew my decision to defer parenthood was mature and considered, but I felt like a criminal. When I woke up from the procedure, a mother of three, in her forties, was in the bed next to mine. It was the first time I realised that there are many circumstances leading a woman to make the choice I did. Guilt only adds to the burden.
‘Later I discovered that other women I knew at university had also had abortions. Of course, none of us spoke about it – it’s the great untold secret of Irish society. But it only compounds the isolation. These women feel so ashamed, so alone. Yet beside them on the bus, on the street, in church even, are other women who share the same secret.
‘Today, I have a fulfilling career and I’m a mother of two in a stable relationship. I had these children at the right time, when I could provide them with the support they need. I’m glad I didn’t cede to the moral tyranny that reigns in Ireland and have a baby out of a misplaced feeling of guilt. Pro-choice is not pro-abortion. Women should be supported, respected and empowered to make the decisions that are right for them.’
‘The state succeeded in undermining my power
over my own womb’
Katherine, 24, Texas, America
‘I was 21, and five months away from graduating when I discovered I was pregnant. I had been in a serious relationship and I was taking the Pill, but somehow the contraception failed. Neither of us were ready financially or emotionally to be parents, but we were mature enough to know we didn’t want to bring an unwanted child into the world.
‘Fortunately, we live in the United States, where abortion has been legal since 1973. But the reality is that many states restrict the practice. Texas (my state) is among the worst, resulting in more than half of its 42 abortion clinics having to close. Texas has a population of 27 million. That’s a lot of women robbed of a service – and their basic human right.
‘The closest clinic open to me was 200 miles away, but it wouldn’t take me because I’m not a permanent resident of that county. The two clinics that would consider me said I wasn’t far enough along at four weeks for a surgical abortion. To have a medical procedure, I’d be forced to see the doctor four times and watch a sonogram of my baby before making the decision. The cost is anything from $500 and $800(£400-£650), and it’s not covered by most medical insurance packages.
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‘I felt betrayed by officials who would never lay eyes on the child that they were cornering me into having. They wouldn’t have to worry about balancing expensive childcare with a low-paid job. It was like being violated by a faceless figure. I had always felt passionately that couples have the right to choose, but the way I was treated brought home the reality of how our state succeeds in robbing women of their power. How can this be happening in a Western democracy that champions equality?
‘I finally had my abortion at just over four weeks in Oklahoma, 200 miles away. The rights that had been taken from me were suddenly given back. And, with them, the gift of being the best mother I could – by choosing not to be one yet.’