SIR – I’ve seen the numbers. About 3,500 travel to the UK every year. Another 1,500 take illegal abortion pills here. About 70% are married or have a partner. Over half are parents. Over half were using contraception.
Okay, numbers are important. But sometimes the numbers can lose their meaning.
Recently, I’ve been reading the ‘In Her Shoes’ Facebook page, which shares anonymous stories of women under the Eighth amendment. And I’m absolutely heartbroken for them.
I can see the pain, the shame, the isolation, the trauma. Not from the abortion itself, but from how this country made them feel.
There’s the mother whose son’s condition was such that his birth, and his very short life if he survived birth, would have been extremely painful. So she had a termination, saving him from pain, despite her own heartache.
The rape victim who had to come home and tell her loving partner about her assault, and how they dealt with the resulting pregnancy.
The woman who sits in silence as she hears her friends judge women who have had abortions, knowing she can never tell them her dark secret of when she was 18 and her boyfriend
didn’t want to know.
The woman going through a prolonged, inevitable miscarriage and not able to take anything to help it along, despite the risk to her health, because there is still a faint heartbeat.
The mother of two small children who was suicidal due to post-natal depression after her last baby and just couldn’t put herself or her family through that again, when contraception failed.
There’s at least 100 stories shared on there already. With over 170,000 Irish women having had abortions since 1980, it’s obviously only the tip of the iceberg. I look around and realise these women are among us – in the office, the shopping centre, the church. With these kinds of numbers, everyone must know someone that’s had an abortion.
We can have all the debates in the world, but I think everyone should read some of the stories on ‘In Her Shoes’ before they decide how to vote in the upcoming referendum. There are people behind these numbers.
We owe it to these women, to all Irish women and girls, to listen, to open our minds for a minute and try to understand. Only then can we make a truly informed decision.
Cáit Ní Charthaigh,