Tuesday 23 May 2017

It's not easy being a lone parent - and we deserve better

Oh yes, the fallen women syndrome is still alive and well in Ireland. Certainly things have improved but scratch the surface and it’s still there. Are we still punishing women who decide to go it alone? (Picture posed)
Oh yes, the fallen women syndrome is still alive and well in Ireland. Certainly things have improved but scratch the surface and it’s still there. Are we still punishing women who decide to go it alone? (Picture posed)

Barbara Scully

The 'Repeal the 8th' campaign has been gathering momentum and has put the issue of unplanned pregnancy back on the political agenda. Unplanned pregnancy is a massively emotional and complex subject. Few issues are as divisive or polarising and voices tend to get drowned out in the hue and cry.

The debate has become much more personalised, with some really courageous and selfless women coming forward to tell their stories. The first group of brave women are those who have experienced the pain of having their unborn baby diagnosed with a fatal foetal abnormality. Many had to travel abroad, usually to the UK, to obtain a medical termination. These women, often with their partners, shared their deeply personal stories in the hope of sparing other women from a similar fate. The second group of women are those who have spoken publicly about their unplanned pregnancy and of their lonely journey abroad to have an abortion, often a journey they made alone and in secret. These women risked personal abuse by telling their stories. I commend their courage.

But the conversation around unplanned pregnancy is missing the voices and the stories of another cohort of women - those who decide to proceed with the pregnancy and raise their child alone. Their undertaking is a huge one, on what can often be a very lonely road. I know because I travelled it too. Although my experience was back in the late 1980s, Ireland is still a very difficult country in which to parent alone. I am convinced there is an unconscious bias against single mothers in this country, which may explain why lone parents have been targeted so viciously in the austerity Budgets.

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