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20 years ago my girlfriend had an abortion, we felt we had no choice but now I think of the what-ifs

‘Through deceit and lies we got ourselves to an English city for the weekend where an appointment had been made for us.’


I WAS EIGHTEEN when my girlfriend became pregnant, as was she. This is roughly twenty years ago. We were young, naive, immature and more than anything else, frightened out of our wits. The son and daughter of deeply religious parents in rural Ireland (hers more so than mine) and with fathers not shy about showing the back of their hands, we felt we had every right to be frightened.

I can’t honestly recall how we came to the decision to have an abortion. I do know that we discussed adoption for a while and I also know that keeping the child was something that both of us considered not possible. Things are different today I suppose; easier in a fashion. There is less stigma attached to young unmarried mothers now, and although by the mid to late 90’s that stigma was much less than the 50’s or the 70’s, trust me, where I came from, it was still there; especially with the set of parents we both had. Or at least, that is how she and I saw it at the time.

The X case was a few years previous and although we were young, the word ‘abortion’ was firmly in the public sphere and we understood it and knew it a possibility for us now. Through deceit and lies we got ourselves to an English city for the weekend where an appointment had been made for us. The birth of the internet was only really upon us so everything was done by phone.

I remember leaving her in the clinic and walking around that city for hours with a pain in my stomach and tears in my eyes. I was wracked by fear for her safety, my own guilt, my shame at having to allow my girlfriend to go through this and astoundingly, my relief that neither of us would have to have a conversation with our parents about pregnancy. At this thought I was flooded with guilt again. Was I this much of a coward that I had to take this route all to avoid possible recriminations from our parents? Apparently I was. Apparently we both were.

In the aftermath of everything, things returned to normality. At least for a time. Eventually my girlfriend dropped the barriers she had thrown up around herself and for the best part of a year the time we spent alone together involved her sobbing and me trying to console her. I can’t begin to imagine the pain she was feeling and all I could do was be there for her. Eventually though, our relationship soured and we spilt up.

‘Even now I still feel it’

For the longest time afterwards I believed we had made the right decision until one evening when I was thirty-one, I broke down in tears when I heard a song on the radio that had been playing on the ferry as we returned from England. For the first time I felt true regret. I was plagued by what-ifs for the next year or so and it broke my heart. Even now I still feel it. Even now I wonder how things might have been different.

My story is not an advice column, nor is it a judgement or a propaganda piece for either the pro-life or pro-choice side and I would hate if it was tried to be used by either. More importantly, I am not a man trying to barge his way into a what is woman’s issue. And I do believe that it is a woman’s issue. I am merely putting this out there to show that quite often a male partner is involved in the decision making process and although it affects men to a much lesser degree than women, it affects them nonetheless. It is the one event in my life that I can say with certainty will stay with me until my last day.

But for the record, I want to state that I am pro-choice. Mostly. In cases of rape, incest, fatal foetal abnormality, threats to a mother’s life including suicide and mental health issues I am most certainly in favour of abortions. But I must admit, in cases like that of my own story, I am torn. Having been through it I can honestly understand an argument put forward that for every abortion had, there is a story behind each woman or couple that had to come to their decision.

I will never judge anyone’s decision to do so and I would implore that everyone else would do the same. For each of us have our own reasons for doing the things we do and abortion, like every major decision people might take, is neither black or white, but a multitude of gloomy, shady greys.

Read: 177,000 women have left Ireland for abortions since 1971>

Read: The UN wants Ireland to vote on abortion and reconsider austerity>

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