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In Her Shoes: Women of the Eighth by Erin Darcy: Anthology of Eighth testimonies ensures women's experiences will long be heard

Memoir and anthology: In Her Shoes: Women of the Eighth

Erin Darcy

New Island Books, 300 pages, paperback €17.95

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Polarised debate: Dubliners walk past campaign posters before the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment

Polarised debate: Dubliners walk past campaign posters before the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment

AFP via Getty Images

Polarised debate: Dubliners walk past campaign posters before the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment

'I am terrified to share my story. I have typed and deleted it 20 times so far," the anonymous woman wrote. "I am just so scared to share it because the shame eats away at me and has done every day for the last two years."

This story, of an unknown Irish woman in her mid- to late-20s, is contained in In Her Shoes, a new book cataloguing the personal testimony of a small sample of women who were affected by the Eighth Amendment. The book has 32 stories to represent 32 counties. In Her Shoes started as a Facebook page, created and curated by Erin Darcy, before the 2018 referendum that led to the abolition of the constitutional ban on abortion. Hundreds of women sent in their anonymous experiences of pregnancy, abortion and loss. The anonymity was a way to evade the social stigma of abortion while also clearly illustrating the real-world consequences of the Eighth Amendment. By May 2018, the page had a following of 100,000. It had already shared more than 400 stories, and almost 800 more had been submitted.

"Women's stories" almost became a campaign device during that referendum. The complex and varied lives of women were edited out by the media and the campaign until all that was left was a parable about abortion. Both sides of the debate had to find women with sad stories, who had made a choice that was unquestionably the right one for them. The stories had to be simple; there was no room for doubt or regret or uncertainty or guilt - anything that could be seized on by the other side as proof that the woman's choice had been wrong. In other words, there was no room for the very common feelings that accompany every major life choice, including abortion.