Abortion : When does a law become unlawful?
The recent case of a young vulnerable pregnant woman in Ireland, who was raped, requested a termination, assessed as suicidal by a panel following the current law in the country ; and who later went on hunger strike before having her 24 week old baby delivered by caesarean section— has ignited a public debate again on the issue of abortion. It’s a horrendous case, and an emotive topic – not least for women who have experienced rape. It can be a hard time for rape survivors, to hear people pontificate about what they should do in that particular situation. Sometimes, their voice can be drowned out in the resultant furore, as both pro choice and pro life lobbies try to shout each other down. There is no easy answer, and we don’t claim to have one – but what we can do – what we should do – is listen. We are grateful to the woman below who agreed to write the following piece.
When does a law become unlawful?
I’ve sat here for an hour trying to think of an opening line that adequately describes the depth of the tragedy that has occurred here. But the reality is that there is suffering that just cannot be put into words and injustice that cannot be justified with them either.
Yet here I find myself trying to lend my experience to your understanding, through an adjective; to instigate true moral action in a verb and to end the complete and utter madness of our intolerably unjust legislation- with a full stop.
My name you’ll see is not my name; you’ll identify me with a twitter handle, whilst I struggle to identify myself at all. All I know is that I am here. My name is not my name, but I was drugged and I was raped and I survived – and I am here. I feel that for my words to resonate with the true extent of their sincerity, I must first and foremost tell you that. I am Irish and a country girl through and through. I grew up in a field surrounded by other fields; where the neighbours were like family, the cars stopped to let the cattle cross the road and Sunday Mass was the big occasion of the week. I’m not a ‘blow in’ and I was raised a Catholic – albeit having since relinquished any religious bones to the crumbling altar of Catholicism. I have travelled and taken my ‘Irishness’ with me and I have worn it with pride; a big city girl with her roots firmly placed in a wee town born in between two hills, where the phone reception was as cursed as the roads when the snow fell on dry ground.
And yet this week, my country has disgusted me.
To live with a body that’s been taken from you; to know that you are stuck inside skin that doesn’t feel like your own anymore and with a mind that screams at you every day to just ‘GIVE UP’ on trying to survive…. it’s a hellish existence. It’s a hell beyond anything I have ever experienced before and it’s a hell almost as soul destroying as the very act itself. I say ‘almost’, but in fact I often wonder if the life sentence I now carry is perhaps the greater burden. Indeed there have been times – those now documented by the scars upon my skin, when ‘living’ seemed a much greater task than death. The lure of ‘nothingness’ at times a scarily enticing fate. Now a PTSD sufferer, I have been forced to deal with the effects of my trauma for a long long time. All of the reminders and consequences are still with me; the flashbacks, anxiety, depression, self harm, self hatred, isolation, suicidal ideation, grief… And I’m not sure when or if they’ll ever go away. For as long as I am in this body, I will be trapped within a carcass that used to be the person I no longer am; with the constant reminder of why I lost that person now bound inside my very bones.
Out there right now, maybe miles from you or maybe just minutes – there is a woman suffering the same plight, only worse. I can’t imagine that. I can’t imagine ever feeling worse than this, but when my mind ponders the possibility of being forced to bear a child as a consequence of what happened to me, I can feel myself breaking inside. I couldn’t have done it, I know that. It’s been almost 3 years now and my survival is down only to the support of a life saving psychologist and the few friends who proved themselves to be real. This woman has no-one. Her child now born, has no-one, and both are now destined to go through an unbearable few years of pain throughout their lives. What outcome is that? What law is that? What law is it that enforces suffering in the eyes of a ‘God’ that it is somehow believed runs this country from his imaginary castle in the sky?
Something must be done and I am at a loss in terms of vocalising just how we will succeed in reclaiming the bodies that have been ‘ours’ since birth. Is that a free country? Is that free will?
Are we even free at all?
I knew that writing this would be a struggle, I knew that it would force the thoughts I try to box away to be unleashed and I feared the exhaustion which quickly fall upon me by the end. But if you have heard me, if you have read my words and listened and if you have truly heard me, then from the bottom off my heart I ask you – please. Please stand up, be heard, and speak for those who have lost the will to fight for a voice they should already have.
IF YOU HAVE BEEN AFFECTED BY RAPE OR ANY OF THE ISSUES ABOVE, CONTACT THE FOLLOWING in South of Ireland – RAPE CRISIS IRELAND
or 1800 77 8888 – or in the North, The Rowan Centre at 08003894424 , The Domestic Violence Helpline at 08088021414 , or Nexus at 02890 326803, or http://www.nexusni.org
Vixens can be contacted on our twitter handle @vixenswc , or our email firstname.lastname@example.org