'I've been through both the adoption process and an abortion... it isn't anything you do on a whim'
A young mother who has both had an abortion and gone through the adoption process has shared her heartbreaking story for the first time.
Sarah (not her real name) decided to speak out after watching the referendum debate on Claire Byrne Live last week.
Sarah said her experience of both giving up a baby for adoption and having a termination is why she will be voting Yes on May 25. She said she believes women should always have a choice.
Comments from the No side about "social abortions" on the RTÉ programme left her enraged and hurt, she told Independent.ie.
"The fact they think people are going to go out on a Saturday night and then pop into the clinic for an abortion is absolutely disgraceful. This isn’t anything you do on a whim, and often there is a tragic reason for it," she said.
Sarah travelled to England on two occasions to have an abortion in her 20s.
The first time was after her best friend allegedly raped her in 2004. They’d known each other since school and were close friends.
He came over one night for wine and a chat. After a few drinks, he made it physically known that he saw Sarah as more than a friend.
When she rejected his sexual advances, she claims he raped her.
In early 2005, a few months after she found out she was pregnant, Sarah made the difficult decision to travel to England for a termination.
She made the journey alone.
"I’ll never forget the clinic... they put you into this kind of holding room. There were other girls there, three of them were from Ireland. As I sat there, I began to have second thoughts," she said. Sarah didn’t go through with the abortion in the end.
She never told her family or friends about what happened that night. Instead she said her pregnancy was the result of a drunken one-night stand as she didn't want her family to know she was raped.
"I came back to Ireland and told my mother everything, but I didn’t tell her I was raped. I didn't want to tell anyone, not even the guards. I wanted to pretend it never happened.
"I decided to go through with the pregnancy but I just knew I couldn’t bring up that baby myself… I had to go through adoption. I went to hospital and had a baby boy and straight away he was taken from me. I could see his father’s face in him.
"When it comes to picking a family to adopt, they give you files. You're only given their first name, their occupation and they write a little thing about themselves. I eventually came across a family I liked the sound of."
The family send Sarah letters every year to let her know how their child is doing. They also send her photographs.
Sarah shared the letters with Independent.ie, and while she is "happy because he's happy", she said the whole experience was extremely traumatic.
Soon after she gave her son up for adoption, she slipped into a wave of depression and began drinking heavily.
She criticised the adoption process as it felt like "counsellors were just going through the motions and didn’t care about how you were feeling."
Sarah had to lie and say the pregnancy was the result of a one-night stand, as she feared if she told them she knew the identity of the father - a man who she claims raped her- he would have had to consent to the baby being adopted.
While she has "seen him around" over the years, they have never spoken since that night.
In 2006, Sarah fell pregnant with her then-partner.
"I was after going into depression, I was drinking too much, I lost my job, I think my whole life was turned upside down after what had happened. I was barely able to look after myself, let alone a baby."
After discussing it with her boyfriend, she again made the difficult decision to travel to the UK.
She borrowed €1,800 and got on a plane to Stansted, London.
"I got on the train and stayed in a B&B in Brixton that you wouldn’t have put a dog into. There was a Marie Stopes clinic there.
"There was one girl from Liverpool, one from London and one from Ireland. They had me in a room and that programme Saturday Kitchen was on and I could never watch it again after.
"The Irish girl bled through her pants that she was supposed to fly home in. They didn’t even have spare pants there.
"I had to stay in a Jury’s hotel after flying home as I missed my bus back. I sat in the hotel and cried. Then I looked in the mirror and said I was never going to think about this ever again."
Sarah, who is now in her late thirties, has since given birth to three kids and is in a much happier place.
"I’ve never told anybody about any of this before but some of the things being said on that programme made me so mad," she said.
"Women are treated like crap in this country and it’s about time that started changing. We should have a choice, and that’s my opinion."
*This woman's real name was not used to protect her identity