I was 18 years old, I had just lost my job; no money, no place of my own; and my boyfriend was at college. I wasn't ready to have a child, and I was absolutely terrified. I was lucky though, because I had a supportive partner and family. I was lucky I had a health service which recognised my right to decide what happened to my body and my right to professional support. I was lucky to live in a country where the government did not consider it a criminal offence to choose.
This does not mean that choosing to have an abortion wasn't difficult or isolating. That I haven't faced abuse for my choice, or that writing this won't get me more. It is a sad fact that legality in the UK has had little impact on the chastisement people - especially women - face for talking about our reproductive rights. The shaming is very real, you only need to look at the aggressive demonstrations outside clinics to start to understand it. If we forget the struggle for basic reproductive rights we will never change those attitudes. If we forget, we refuse the vital solidarity that women around the world are still fighting for.
In Ireland, the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution outright bans abortion. People who conceive are stripped of self-rule over what germinates inside their ovaries. Hence, "Repeal the 8th" is a grassroots campaign to legalise safe abortions and establish reproductive freedom. Today, the campaign is calling for a strike as an international show of solidarity.
Graffiti supporting the campaign to "Repeal the 8th"
I'll be supporting the Strike For Repeal because our sisters in Ireland and across the world have a fundamental right to choose what happens to their bodies, to access free healthcare and to access safe abortions. The alternative is simply not unacceptable: it means people dying because of maternal complications; serving 14 years in prison for administering their own abortions, or having to take loans to have them administered elsewhere.
Having an abortion can have a huge impact on someone's mental health. For me, it was a mix of anxiety exacerbated by periods of no sleep. For others it manifests in different ways, but no matter how it does, the excess pressure placed on those who do not have access to safe and fair terminations is unnecessary and inhumane.
To stay silent on this is to accept that the state should control our bodies, that healthcare should be available to some and not to others. To watch tomorrow go by and not support a call for international solidarity is to be complicit in the actions of a government which values foetuses more than women. It is to perpetuate a narrative about women's bodies which says we don't know best, we cannot be trusted and that we are worthless.
So today - take to the streets, find local actions, walk out of your workplace, don't do domestic labour and wear black. Stand with women who have no other choice and stand up for the rights we all deserve. Be loud and be clear, it is time to repeal the 8th.
Students are playing a huge part in the campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment. You can find details of the action Aberdeen students will be taking part in here.