Saturday 22 October 2016

Dr Ciara Kelly: #TwoWomenTravel - 170,000 women travel

Published 29/08/2016 | 02:30

Most women will never tell anyone about that desperate, lonely trip
Most women will never tell anyone about that desperate, lonely trip

Once more Ireland's uncaring abortion regime hit world headlines this week. I have a feeling that is not the first or the last time I have opened an article with that line; this time is a result of #TwoWomenTravel trending globally. This was the twitter account of two Irish women, one pregnant, the other her friend, travelling over to England to access an abortion. They documented their journey in a series of short, simple tweets; showing the plane on a dark, bleak morning at Dublin airport. The mundane train journey. The generic waiting room. A cheap cafe. A shabby hotel room.

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Media outlets form The Guardian, to The New York Times followed their journey with a kind of fascination at how Ireland can continue to fly in the face of women's human rights while telling itself that it somehow has the moral high ground. The women addressed all of their tweets to Enda Kenny - who didn't reply to any of them. And two tweets stood out for me. The one where they simply said 'Joined by more Irish in the waiting room' and the picture of the bloodstained sheet from the morning after the procedure - because that shows just how dangerous this arrangement is to the life and health of Irish women travelling, while still bleeding from surgery.

The reason the 'Joined by more Irish' tweet struck me is because it isn't just #TwoWomenTravel it should in fact be #TenWomenTravel - because that is the number who do every day. Or #170,0000WomenTravel - because that is the number of Irish women who have made that sad, fear-filled, voiceless journey to date. And I say voiceless, because such is the level of shame heaped on Irish women here for undergoing what is a routine medical procedure in accordance with their human rights in most other western democracies, most will never speak of it. Most will never tell anyone about that desperate, lonely trip.

And we - as a society, have been happy enough with that. Happy enough that our rate of abortion is similar to other European countries but we can still say we don't have it here. Oh no! Not in Catholic Ireland. Happy enough that the women who travel don't talk about it so we don't have to hear about that shameful business, after they got themselves in trouble (women always get themselves in trouble - we are actually incredible really). Happy enough to continue in a State-legislated hypocrisy - that fails Irish women in crisis in a deeply dysfunctional way - devoid of compassion, empathy, kindness or even basic medical treatment. Yep, we are happy enough.

Except some of us aren't. Some of us aren't happy anymore that this is acceptable. That we should put scared Irish women on planes and send them abroad to clinics that they have to look up online, without any advice or input from doctors in this State. We aren't happy that Irish women can't access routine medical treatment here when a pregnancy puts their health at risk. Aren't happy that when they are pregnant and suicidal they have to go before an intimidating board of three doctors to prove they are suicidal enough. So that only three suicidal women last year received a termination in this State. And aren't happy that our politicians are too cowardly or uncaring to deal with this issue for Irish women - even when the whole world is looking at us and scratching its head saying how can they treat their women this way.

Some of us are no longer willing to accept that this is a matter to be kicked down the road like it has been since 1983 - when, incidentally, a third of voters tried to stop the Eighthh Amendment being placed in our constitution. We are no longer willing to accept this most Irish of solutions to the problem of Irish women in crisis. We are no longer willing to be silent, shame-filled or stopped. #repealthe8th


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