This isn't the first time I've written about abortion law in Northern Ireland and sadly I doubt it will be the last time. I need to make it clear that as a man, a white, Protestant man, I already have more privilege than I know what to do with and for some reason that makes other guys just like me (well, they seem to be straight which sets them apart but whatever) think they have the right to dictate to women where and when they can access reproductive care. Their suggestions are usually Nowhere and Never or something along those lines. Just recently I shared an image from The Guardian that depicted a map of Europe with each country's abortion stats (number of terminations per 100 births) and Ireland, both North and South, were literally a black spot on the face of the continent. That image received a lot of retweets and likes and out of the dozens of replies the only ones that considered Ireland's monstrously restrictive abortion laws to be a good thing were straight, white men. Not a uterus to be found. I was told that Ireland was a 'shining light' amongst a continent of 'baby killers'.
Yes, a shining light where doctors are too afraid to perform a termination to save a woman's life lest they land themselves in jail. A shining light where if women cannot afford the journey to Great Britain then they have the option of throwing themselves down the stairs or using a coat hanger if they have an unwanted pregnancy. A shining light where women are being arrested for procuring medication to induce an abortion - a procedure that is readily available in England, Scotland and Wales. I can't tell you just how ashamed that makes me to live in Northern Ireland. I'm not going to get into the specifics of why free, safe and legal abortion is a basic requirement of any modernised and democratic nation. Women are already telling you in their thousands on this island why it is needed.
They are going to jail for it. They are dying for it. It took me a long time to come round to the fact that abortion is not only something that should be provided freely and safely but if your alternative is for women to literally kill themselves rather than go through an unwanted pregnancy then what is the f*cking point in being pro-life? I won't apologise for being angry because if you're reading this and you aren't angry, too then don't waste our time. It's a disgusting and archaic system that we have fostered in this country and we have allowed emotional terrorists such as Precious Life and Youth Defence and the Iona Institute hijack the debate to the point that vulnerable women are no longer vulnerable but instead are abandoned completely. Non-binary and trans women need access to reproductive medical care just as much as cisgender women and they are being let down by the state, too.
I've heard it before but it's true - If men needed abortions you would be able to get them at the local chemists - but women have always been subjugated for who they are and how they are born. We demand that women cover up their breasts whilst men can freely wander around on a hot day with very little on. We demand that women breastfeed somewhere other than public places yet demand that they are good mothers at the same time. Women are ostracised for being fat, being thin, being ugly, being short, being successful, asking for equal pay, maternity leave, being childless or unemployed or single. F*ck that. Restrictive access to abortion is a large part in what is a societal tapestry of oppression and marginalisation of women that we don't even notice because we're men and thus we don't care.
Thankfully there is help out there. Wonderful organisations such as Alliance for Choice fight for the right of women in Northern Ireland to have autonomy over their own bodies. One of their activists, Sarah Wright, took the time to speak to me about the recent High Court ruling on abortion restrictions in Northern Ireland:
"We have a two-tiered system in Northern Ireland, which Justice Horner recognised in his High Court ruling, whereby those who have money can travel to access reproductive healthcare safely but without NHS cover and those who can't afford it, are forced to continue pregnancies against their will."
Abortion Support Network provides financial assistance for women in Ireland and Northern Ireland needing to travel to England to access a safe and legal abortion. They are completely funded by donations and as such may not always be around. When it comes to directly accessing abortive medication both Women On Web and Women Help Women are non profit organisations that can provide emergency medication to women who believe they may have an unwanted pregnancy that is less than 9 weeks on.
The fact that four completely volunteer funded and non-profit organisations are doing the job of the State in providing advice, counselling, medical care and financial assistance for women's reproductive health is nothing less than a bloody disgrace; this has to end before we have another Savita Halappanavar.
If you need to access abortive medication or any of the above information please click on the links provided.