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Column: 'I did not tell people about my termination as I did not want to be judged'

A reader shares her traumatic experience of travelling to the UK for an abortion.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

After seeing a piece on the legalities of abortion in Ireland on TheJournal.ie last month, a reader got in touch with us as she wanted to share her experience of having to travel to the UK for a termination. With the media and political focus back on the issue, the ordeal had started to play on her mind again. She hoped by writing down her thoughts, she could help herself – and other women. This is her story, in her words.

ALMOST FOUR YEARS ago I became pregnant, and after an extreme amount of soul searching and personal turmoil, I decided to have a termination.

The person who was the father was a chronic alcoholic; he was also emotionally manipulative, juvenile and had serious mental health issues.

In short, I did not wish to have a child with such a person; I did not feel it was right to bring a child into an already very unhealthy situation. When I had made the decision, I was referred to a family planning clinic, where a nurse tried to convince me how wonderful it would be when I held my baby in my arms. Difficult as it was, I was not deterred from my decision, and subsequently went to the Marie Stopes clinic, who made all the arrangements. They warned me that there may be protesters outside the abortion clinic, and to be prepared for some abuse.

I travelled to England on the appointed date, accompanied by the father, who had made a huge fuss about coming with me. The clinic was spotless and there were no protesters, and the procedure was not a long one. But it was extremely traumatic. I opted for no anaesthetic, as to have one meant a couple of hours stay as opposed to 30 minutes without. Consequently, I was in a lot of pain and then had to wait eight hours before the flight home.

These were passed mostly in a café bar, where I saw several other Irish women and girls who had been in the clinic. The father proceeded to get extremely drunk and abusive and when we left (after several hours of tolerance from the barman), he tried to start fights in the street. I was becoming quite ill and was very relieved to get to the airport, where I made him have some coffee, as I was afraid we would not be allowed on the plane.

We got the flight, all the while him telling me what a bad person I was, that it was against God, and so on. I am not religious, and so didn’t care about that angle of insult, but I was very upset that he was backtracking on what we had agreed on.

At home about a week later, I got up one morning and fell in the bathroom. I had been in constant pain but this was now agony. I was bleeding heavily and knew something was wrong. I went to my GP and was told I had a severe infection. I was put on four very strong antibiotics and told to rest.

My GP told me that this happens a lot after terminations, as there could be no follow up care, with the procedure being in a different country.

The weeks that followed were awful: I was in agony, very weak and sick, and also had to deal with a lot of abuse from the father, who would call and drunkenly rant that the abortion was “the worst thing ever to happen to him”, and that I had “killed our baby”.

I dealt with that as best I could. I did not tell very many people about the termination as I did not want to be judged – people have very strong opinions on this topic and I wanted to get through it myself, without gossip.

In closing, I would like to say this: termination is a very difficult and traumatic experience.

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I did not take the decision lightly but I know in the end that I did the right thing for myself.

The fact that I became so ill after it was a shock. It made it much harder to cope and it is a disgrace that women have to leave their own country to have this procedure – and possibly become ill with no aftercare.

Regardless of how anyone feels about abortion, women should have a choice, and that choice should be echoed in government policy. This is not a religious issue. It is a human issue. And no religious organisation comprised of celibate men should be allowed to tell us what to do with our bodies.

Mine was a personal choice. I did not want to be bound to an abusive drunk, nor have a child in that situation. I am not forcing my opinion on anyone, but that was my experience and I wanted to share it as abortion is not a black and white issue. I will, no doubt, be judged for this piece but it has helped me to write it and I hope that it helps other women.

TheJournal.ie knows the identity of the author but she wishes to remain anonymous for personal reasons.

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