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LETTER: A lonely journey in the cold and dark

March 17th, 2018 7:41 PM

By Southern Star Team

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SIR – I write to you as an Englishwoman who recently gave a room for the night to an Irish woman, who, as a result of the Eighth Amendment, was forced to travel to London for an abortion.

I volunteer as a host for the Abortion Support Network (a charity which provides financial assistance and accommodation to women travelling from the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man).  Just after Christmas, I received an urgent call, looking for last-minute place for a woman to stay. She had no money, no friends in London, and no alternative.

I picked her up from the station, tried to get her to eat some dinner (which she refused), provided her with a bath, a warm room for the night, and then took her to the clinic in the morning.

I am not alone in doing this. Every year, volunteers for ASN host women who are forced to make the lonely journey to England for an abortion. We are all happy to take these people into our homes, and look after them as if they were our own family – but we should not have to.

This experience really brought home to me the barbarity of outsourcing abortions to another country.  If I were in her position, I would have made an appointment with a clinic at most a few miles from my home.

My husband or best friend would have accompanied me – we would have got a taxi or hopped on the tube. They would have assisted me in working out the route, and helped me find my way from the station.  They would have sat with me, all day, in the clinic, cheering me up or just providing comfort, running out to get me a drink or something to eat when I needed it.  

They could have spoken to doctors and nurses for me, allaying any fears and finding out any information I wanted. They would have come home with me afterwards, covered me in a blanket and watched some trashy film on TV with me.  They would have given me painkillers, hot drinks and hot water bottles when I needed them.  

They would have been alert for any problems, and able to call for help in the unlikely event that I needed it. We would have talked, and I could have shared my thoughts with a person that I loved.

I felt so moved that this woman had to go through this experience on her own in a strange place. A lonely journey in the cold and dark, without family or friends, is not something that I would wish on anyone. Outsourcing the care of your most vulnerable women, relying on the help of English strangers, is a heartbreaking thing.  

Repealing the Eighth Amendment would be an act of love.

Polly Barklem,

West London.

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