To The Woman Who Talked Me Out Of Having An Abortion
“I was a lone parent with one child and no family support. I received €222.80 a week from social welfare to cover the cost of housing, clothing and feeding me and my child. I already had one abusive man in my life at the point I found out I was pregnant and thanks to you now I have two.
I came to you with a crisis pregnancy and unbeknownest to me you were anti choice. I actually remember you telling me that I “couldn’t possibly” have an abortion, as if the choice was yours to make. I recall the look of horror on your face when I suggested that I might be able to have an abortion. I didn’t know much about abortion then, I just knew I didn’t want to be pregnant to this man. I didn’t know that I could’ve just ordered a pill online, how simple and easy it all could’ve been. I was so early in the pregnancy that it would’ve been a simple matter. I wondered aloud who might look after my child while I went to England and how to pay for it. You said “No, it will be ok. I’ll help you with the baby.”
I told you how I had just realised the man I was seeing was abusive, how I’d been getting support from women’s aid, how dangerous it is for pregnant women who are in abusive relationships. I told you I already had one abusive ex I had to co-parent with and how continuing with this pregnancy would make two hateful men trying to destroy me and how I didn’t think I could cope with that.
I told you how my last pregnancy had been so full of pain and complications that I couldn’t bear the thought of doing it again. I told you that the domestic violence services told me that they advise not leaving when you’re pregnant, so I was going to have to spend a year or more of my life with a man who abused me before I could go.
I told you I didn’t want another child.
But you insisted. I was vulnerable, you were older and you seemed so sure. You said you’d help. I couldn’t see any way out as I had no money and I didn’t know then about the abortion support network. I suppose even if I had of known about it then I still had no one to look after my child while I left the country for the abortion. I couldn’t see how it was doable and you were so sure I should not consider abortion.
My pregnancy was difficult and painful, as I feared. My partner moved in with me and I became financially dependant on him. He stepped up his abuse of me, and didn’t look after me or my child when I was sick. I spent a lot of time crying.
“If I didn’t have an older child I would’ve killed myself. I thought about it many times. Only the thought that I would’ve been leaving my older child in the care of his horribly awful dad stopped me from taking my life.”
I hated having him there when I gave birth. I counted down the days til I could leave him. When the baby was 6 months old I was finally able to leave. I was able to get on lone parents payment again, though the extra €29.80 a week for the baby didn’t come close to paying for the costs of providing for another person.
I am now on my own, with two children to two different men. I have no one to help me with childcare and haven’t been able to find any work that fits in around school hours so I’m living hand to mouth. Many weeks in winter I can’t afford to heat my house.
My ex sends me abusive texts and emails every week. He wants to be in my life so he can hurt me. I’m still getting support from the domestic violence services, but they say there isn’t anything the Gardai can do as he isn’t violent towards me. I have another 16 years of this man in my life.
I’m under severe financial and emotional strain, and trying to be the best parent I can while raising my kids in poverty. I love my child, but if I could go back and have that abortion I would. This is no life for anyone. You’d be better off not being born than living in this poverty and being stuck with an abusive parent who legally has to be in your life.
Thanks to you I’m stuck with this life I didn’t want. And you? You are long gone.”
Claire’s situation belies the contradiction of those who subscribe to the #LoveBoth ideology. Claire is already one of the most reviled class of people in Ireland — a lone parent. She has no support to help her with her child and she has two men in her life who still intimidate her, who want to make her life a misery — yet Ireland’s laws do not protect her from these men, who she must co-parent with. It is these men she has to ask permission from for medical care for her child, or to sign forms for her children. The same men who hurt her so badly that she is still in counselling years later.
As a lone parent she and her children will be 340% more likely to live in poverty than children in two parent homes. Lone parents were the group in Irish society most affected by austerity measures. They remain vilified by society (for evidence see Varadkar’s latest campaign or the comments section of any Journal article on lone parents). Yet if a lone parent has an unwanted pregnancy they are less likely to have the resources to fly to England or support network to leave their child/children behind while they travel. This makes access to abortion very much a class issue. Abortion is there for those who can afford it and denied to those who can’t.
There is a large anti-choice brigade in Ireland. Claire says these people have not once knocked on her door with food, money or help.
The anti-choice people are not out campaigning for domestic abuse law reform, for rape crisis centres and domestic abuse shelters to be fully funded, for subsidised child care to be provided, for carers to be paid, for disability rights, for a well run and funded health service and free healthcare for all, for home supports for those who are physically or mentally unwell, for social welfare rates to allow people to live with dignity or for an end to homelessness.
If anti choice people were campaigning for greater social equality it would be easier to think that being anti-choice was about something more than just a desire to control women’s bodies.
Over 3000 pregnant people leave Ireland every year to access abortion services. Over 1000 every year order abortion pills to take at home. All of these people have different stories and reasons for needing an abortion. And each of them are the best placed person to decide what is best for them and their bodies. For some people adoption is an option, though when I asked Claire had she considered adoption she told me it wasn’t an option as her abusive partner would never agree to it and,
“I would never be able to hand my baby over to strangers. I’d spend my life worrying about if my child was being abused, if their new parents were parenting the way that I would parent, would they be strict and mean, treat my child different because they were adopted…emotionally I just couldn’t handle it.”
Recently a government minister Simon Coveney said he was “uncomfortable” with the recommendations of the citizens assembly to make abortion services available in Ireland. At the risk of adding further discomfort to Coveney (who will never personally be affected by the 8th amendment), I’d like to invite him and other anti-choice government ministers to read Claire’s story and explain why they feel they have the right to force women like her to continue pregnancies that they don’t want, cannot financially afford and that tie them to an abusive man for 18 years?
- Names have been changed to protect Claire’s privacy
Domestic violence in Ireland is defined as “includes physical, sexual or psychological violence which threatens the safety or welfare of family members and certain persons in other domestic relationships.”