I've been debating whether or not to write this piece. On the one hand, I don't want to politicise the blog and I know this is a controversial subject. On the other hand, this is my blog and my experience of the fear associated with living in a country that denies me access to elements of healthcare.
I've decided to go ahead and do it, because if you don't agree with me...well, we can agree to disagree. The topic I'm going to talk about in this post is abortion, and I'm going to start by saying that yes, I am pro-choice. I'm going to explain why in a moment, so if you're here and you're pro-life, I'm going to ask that you think about whether or not you're willing to hear me out. Think about how you'll respond if you disagree with me. Are you going to use terms such as "murderer"? If so, please read no further, and please don't comment. That said, please feel welcome to return tomorrow for a less controversial post.
Last year, I was assaulted for the first time. To date, it's probably the most severe assault I've experienced. In fact, it is. No "probably" about it. It was bad. It was devastating.
A few hours later, with a pair of supportive friends at my side, I started to have a panic attack. It had crossed my mind that I didn't know if my assaulter had touched himself before touching me. As unlikely as it was, I was terrified at the thought that there was even a slight possibility that I might be pregnant.
So we decided that we'd stop by a chemist and get some emergency contraception. When we got there, though, I realised I couldn't afford it. $50 for one tablet? Now I know why there's such an uproar surrounding cuts to services like Planned Parenthood. So I said it could wait. It was unlikely that I would get pregnant. It could wait until I got home.
Despite what I was saying, in my head I was still panicking, now more than ever. I live in Northern Ireland. By the time I got home, it would be too late to take emergency contraception. I would have two options, as far as I was concerned: a) take illegal abortion pills or b) somehow find the money to fly to England for a safe, legal abortion.
I was 18, and still in the depths of depression and anxiety. I was, and still am, unemployed. I was, and am, in no state, physically, mentally, or financially to become a mother.
Thankfully, that was not to be my story. I didn't have the money to fly to England and pay for an abortion, and, if caught, an abortion in Northern Ireland can carry a life sentence. I was lucky enough to be with a friend who very kindly paid the hefty price for the emergency contraception. I owe that friend an awful lot.
Since that experience, abortion laws in Northern Ireland have been a hot topic for me. Yesterday I joined a group of men and women at Stormont to watch as one of our MLAs presented 45,000 signatures from people supporting abortion reform in Northern Ireland to the speaker of the NI Assembly.
Afterward, walking outside, I noticed something going on at the bottom of the steps. There was a small counter-protest taking place. I wonder if those women know the stress that I know? If they realise what might have happened if I'd been forced to carry a child that I didn't do anything to conceive?
Regardless of whether or not they know the pain I've felt, it doesn't change the fact that I don't think any woman should have to endure such an experience at the hands of her government. If I'd taken abortion pills in this country, I would have been facing the prospect of being subjected to a longer sentence than the man who put me in that position in the first place. To me, that signals that something is wrong.
As such, I will stand up for the women who have to make these decisions. I am pro-choice. I'm not "pro-abortion", as some might have you believe. I also support women's choice not to have abortions. But as it stands, there is no choice for women who can't afford to seek private treatment on the mainland.
How is that caring for peoples' mental health?