Talking about intimate topics such as menstruation, sex, childbirth or abortion in the public is not always easy. As a human rights law graduate I have always been thinking whether I shall share my opinion about these topics, however one thing definitely makes me want to do so: the fact that some pro-life circles want to make people believe that with repealing the 8th Amendment of the Irish constitution demands for abortion would wreak havoc. As a woman coming from a former Communist and atheist country where abortion is still legal today, I can only tell you that the pro-life circles are incorrect.
This article is more of an opinion piece based on my personal experience than a legal research.
The first time I heard about losing a baby was around the age of 10 or 11. The suffering victims were a couple, two of my mother’s best friends. They really wanted to have a child and when the lady became pregnant they were full of joy. Unfortunately a nasty condition ruined this joy in the 7th month of pregnancy: toxemia. This meant that both the mother’s and the baby’s lives were in danger. The lady had to be rushed to the best hospital in the country where doctors put all the efforts they could to save both her and her baby boy. They induced birth and put the baby into an incubator. Incubators, however not used so often in Ireland (at least I did not hear any stories about trying to save babies this way - correct me if I am wrong), can be very helpful for premature babies. While there was a high change that the baby would die, at least the doctors could keep him alive for a few days. The purpose here was to save the baby and not to destroy it - as some pro-life media often tries to persuade us.
Unfortunately, it was not easy for my own mother either. Two or three years after the mentioned sad event she brought me two books and sat down to talk to me. We received the usual sex-ed at school, however she wanted me to become a responsible woman, that is why she thought it would be better for me to read books about intimate topics such as menstruation, sexuality or pregnancy while she wanted to stand by me in case I had questions. Of course I had a lot of questions and she was ready to answer them all. We usually sat down together and she started telling her stories. It turned out that she had two pregnancies before me - both were miscarriages, both babies would have been boys. At some point during both pregnancies my mother got a high fever and there was no way back - either both mother and babies would have ended up dead or the pregnancies would have had to be terminated. The doctors opted for termination. If they had not done so, my mother could have ended like poor Savita Halappanavar. Yet, she did not want to give it up. When she became pregnant for the third time (that was me), she went to the hospital at an early stage of the pregnancy. Even though I was not a boy, she really fought very hard so that I could stay alive and be born healthy. She mentioned getting injections that chrystallised so soon that if the nurse did not give them to my mother on time they would end up on the ceiling with the needle remaining in my mother’s body. Did my mother ever blame me for causing her so much suffering during her pregnancy or loved me less because I was a girl and not a boy? Not at all. In fact I was spoiled like a queen (after all she gave me the name of the very first Hungarian queen, Emese, from whom the nation descends from according to legend). I know that in some countries, like India, girls are not as lucky as I am, but I guess my story quashes the myth that women in countries where abortion is legal will kill their babies once it turns out that they are girls.
Although my mother always told me to be responsible and mentioned that abortion is not good, the first time I really saw images about it was at the age of 15. I was not religious, however the secondary school I attended was governed by the Cistercian Order and the priest played a documentary called “The Silent Scream” on one religion class. After the film I was so shocked and nauseated that I had to relocate meeting my father from my favourite pastry shop to another place where no food was around.
I did not have the chance to become a mother because I have not found a partner who could respect me (and would have respected our child), I could not afford to become a single mother and I have some health issues as well (massive lack of vitamin B12 which can only be solved by injections and such painful periods that I need to take contraceptives until menopause), however I feel that I am still allowed to have an opinion about abortion and I think it is avoidable without the 8th as well. Please note, that it is not that I did not want to be a mother, it is just that life obviously has some other purpose with me. However, just as my mother was able and competent to tell me to be careful, so do I find the well-respected Irish mothers able and competent to tell their daughters to be careful and their sons to respect and not use women as sexual objects only. I support the use of incubators not only in case of dangerous pregnancies. Some of them can also be put in front of hospital entrances where women could put unwanted babies. That is how we used to do it in Hungary when I still lived there. I support proper sexual education, the use of contraceptives, information about adoption and material support. These solutions can in fact significantly decrease the number of abortions.
I still become extremely nauseated when I watch a video about how abortion is performed from a trusted source, especially when it is about the abortion pill. Having had extremely painful menstruations before, where I could not even stand on my own feet from pain I do not wish anyone to experience extremely painful bleeding. However, I think it would be too much of a burden to force a raped teenager/woman to keep the child if they do not want to. It is not their fault that a rapist made them pregnant. I am also saddened and terrified by the fact that women have to die in case of crisis pregnancy because even though there is a high chance of a baby not surviving nothing is being done because of the presence of a heartbeat. Even though a lot say that maternal death is the lowest in Ireland, yet this thing is happening and it is so easy to cover it up by putting “septicaemia” as the cause of death on the death certificate, not mentioning that the woman was pregnant and the reason why she got septicaemia was that she was left with an open cervix for days. This reflects that the 8th is not the solution. The solution is trust, education and an improvement of medical care in cases of crisis pregnancies. Women, no matter where they come from need to be trusted, loved and cared for. Once they receive proper education they will also know what to do. Once they receive proper care, they will not travel to another country. Hence, I trust my Irish sisters and you should trust them too.