Did you know Ireland has a Twitter account? Started in March 2012 and maintained by WorldIrish, the @Ireland account switches from person to person every week. This rotation it's found a powerful voice in Janet Ní Shuilleabháin, a feminist who has taken the opportunity to declare her support for legalized abortion across the country. She's disclosed to the world and nation that she has had an abortion herself, and that's ruffling some feathers:
So I am going to talk about that for the next little while, figured I'd give people a heads up as it may be triggering for some.— Ireland / Janet (@ireland) February 13, 2014
I only have one regret about my decision to have an abortion and that is I had to travel. My partner at the time was very supportive.— Ireland / Janet (@ireland) February 13, 2014
When the x case was happening in 1992 I was in 6th year. while the nuns were trying to get us to wear fetus feet pins— Ireland / Janet (@ireland) February 13, 2014
(The x case refers to a landmark 1992 Irish Supreme Court case which established the right to a medically necessary abortion; however, no statuatory laws went into effect to actually extend this right in practice to women in Ireland.)
My sympathies lay with Ms X who was pregnant and did not want to be, was only 3 years young then I was.— Ireland / Janet (@ireland) February 13, 2014
So a few years later when I ended up pregnant due to contraception failing (no contraception is 100%) I knew what I wanted.— Ireland / Janet (@ireland) February 13, 2014
If I had of continued with the pregnancy, I knew I would not end up putting it up for adoption, family ties are that strong.— Ireland / Janet (@ireland) February 13, 2014
I was working at the time and wanted to go on to 3rd level education, I wanted to be able to provide well for my children when I had them.— Ireland / Janet (@ireland) February 13, 2014
We had to go for counselling to get information and then make the arrangements and book flights.— Ireland / Janet (@ireland) February 13, 2014
My first time ever on an airplane was to travel to the UK for my abortion, far from the glamours way flying was portrayed.— Ireland / Janet (@ireland) February 13, 2014
Every time I see an airplane seat buckle it reminds me of that journey and how I had all day 'morning sickness'— Ireland / Janet (@ireland) February 13, 2014
Having an abortion was my Choice, I respect the choices of other women. I am not ashamed of my choice. So why be silent about it.— Ireland / Janet (@ireland) February 13, 2014
The mid morning flight, the pale serious women on it were easy to spot, there were 3 other women traveling on the same plane as me that day.— Ireland / Janet (@ireland) February 13, 2014
When we got to the first clinic, another young woman saw her and rushed to her and they cried loudly sobbing clutching each other.— Ireland / Janet (@ireland) February 13, 2014
Turns out they were cousins and neither knew the other was pregnant and traveling to have an abortion.— Ireland / Janet (@ireland) February 13, 2014
The next day we traveled to the clinic, there were protesters outside. They shouted at us in English and Irish.— Ireland / Janet (@ireland) February 13, 2014
"Tá grá ag an Dia tusa agus a léanbh." unforgettable.— Ireland / Janet (@ireland) February 13, 2014
(God loves you and the baby.)
Most of that stress would have been minimized if I didn't have to had traveled to a different country.— Ireland / Janet (@ireland) February 13, 2014
I would not have the children I have today who I love so much, if I had not of ended that pregnancy.— Ireland / Janet (@ireland) February 13, 2014
It made me able to have the life I chose. I made my decision, I made my choice, it gave me back control over my body , my life, my future.— Ireland / Janet (@ireland) February 13, 2014
I was finally a mother, I was a parent, on my terms and at a time of my choosing.— Ireland / Janet (@ireland) February 13, 2014
Read the rest of Shuilleabháin's story, including how she had to overcome shaming in her own country for her choice, but discovered countless other women who had to fight the same obstacles to control their own body as she did.
Shuilleabháin's account is raw, shocking, and brings into clear human terms the cost of the anti-abortion movement on women. But it's especially brave because she chose to do so under the @Ireland account.
In Ireland, abortion rights are deeply contentious. Approximately 84.2% of the Republic of Ireland self-identifies as Roman Catholic, according to central government surveys taken in 2011. Largely, as a result, abortions that are performed for any reason other than to save the life of the mother are illegal. Under a law originally passed in 1861 and which stands to this day, abortion is punishable by life imprisonment. Since 1980, an estimated 138,000 Irish women have traveled abroad (mostly to England) to terminate pregnancies.
Anti-abortion organizations are regularly invited to discuss their views with Irish secondary school students, where they're free to provide 11-19-year-olds misinformation on abortion. This ranges from claims that rape victims can't become pregnant (they can) to claims that abortion damages a woman's organs (it doesn't) to exaggerated claims that it's bad for mental health (again, it does not).
In the most extreme cases, women have died because of the Irish government's refusal to permit even some medically necessary abortions. 31-year-old dentist Savita Halappanavar of Galway infamously died of septicaemia following a miscarriage in October 201. Attending medical personnel refused to comply with her repeated requests for a medical termination, claiming the presence of a fetal heartbeat. When her husband begged medical personnel to comply, they allegedly told her husband, "This is a Catholic country."
That case led directly to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act passed in July 2013, which gave greater latitude for doctors to perform medically necessary abortions. Despite that success, Irish law doesn't accept rape as medically justifying one. And as the new bill went into effect this year, the Irish health minister told reporters that the government considers the abortion controversy over.
Shuilleabháin and others do not consider the issue closed. According to polls taken in Jan. 2013, 35% of the electorate supported the right to a medically necessary abortion, and an additional 29% would go further and grant abortion rights to all women for any reason. All told, approximately 65% of the population supports access to abortion in at least some cases. (According to the Irish Times, that number is low and 75% support abortion in cases of rape or incest.)
While that's short of the 78% support seen for similar questions in America, it's nearly two-thirds of the country or more. So why does the Irish government still think rape victims need to bear their attackers' children?