Dr Ciara Kelly on termination: 'Only nice, sad, tragic, remorse-filled women will get sympathy around here'
Published 18/04/2016 | 02:30
Yet another Irish abortion saga has made headlines in recent weeks. This time north of the border, where a young woman was given a suspended sentence for procuring an illegal medical abortion using pills she'd bought online.
The woman in question was 19 years old and single when she decided she didn't want her pregnancy to continue. She couldn't afford to travel to mainland UK where it would have been legal, albeit expensive, for her to terminate her pregnancy. So because she didn't have the money, she took the cheaper medical route.
She was prosecuted because her flatmates at that time were aware she'd ended her pregnancy and reported her to the police mainly because they were upset at her lack of contrition. One of them told BBC Radio Ulster: "She showed no remorse, she really didn't. She was completely fine about it."
That seemed to be the nub of the thing for them. The girl wasn't racked with guilt. Therefore she was not someone whose abortion was forgiveable.
There is a hierarchy of what many in society deem are acceptable reasons why they will allow a woman to have an abortion. Fatal foetal abnormalities are top of that list because these women's stories are tragic. So we can forgive them quite easily for having an abortion. Plus those babies are never going to survive so it doesn't really bother us if they aren't born at all.
In cases of rape and incest, abortion is also acceptable to the majority of us because again the woman is a victim - so we can sympathise and feel sorry for her. We can once more forgive her abortion - it sits fairly easily with us.
After that it starts to get a bit more ropey. If the life of the woman is at risk, we're mostly okay with her getting, and being forgiven for, having an abortion - it's a tough position for her to find herself in, it's probably reasonable. Unless, of course, it's because she's suicidal - in which case we're less sure, in case she's lying.
If the health of the woman is at risk - we're starting to lose interest and support now because maybe she's just a bit selfish and isn't really a victim at all. So we aren't sure we can be cool and forgive her abortion in that case.
And heaven help us if the woman has no victim-like status at all, has no tragic back-story and just doesn't want to be pregnant for her own personal, private reasons - she just wants an ABORTION ON DEMAND! Well then we couldn't possibly forgive that and we don't approve at all. So her being prosecuted and sent to prison for 14 years is perfectly reasonable.
Only nice, sad, tragic, remorse-filled women will get sympathy around here, you understand. The fact that the overwhelming feeling the majority of women describe after an abortion is relief and only 2pc of woman feel their abortion had an adverse psychological effect on them does not fit with what we are consistently told is the case. So we'll judge women harshly who conform to that norm.
The underlying theme is that we the right-minded people of Ireland should get to decide whether or not an abortion is acceptable for any given woman. We should practically be consulted at the same time as the obstetrician. And to gain our consent, the circumstances should preferably be as tragic as possible.
The idea that a woman should be able to decide herself what she wants to do with her own body still hasn't gained a great deal of traction here. Which is why the majority of us believe abortion is acceptable under certain circumstances, but abortion at the request of a woman who doesn't wish to discuss her private personal reasons with us remains anathema. The notion that we - like the rest of the Western world - might actually trust women to decide whether a pregnancy is right for them, remains an alien one. Maybe, just maybe, we should consider it.
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