Neutral, impartial, nonaligned – there I sat.
When being asked to defiantly decide and choose to the precise month and day when a human life commences its existence in a Catholic arun private secondary school, to analysing and arguing the Irish Constitutional right to life of the unborn versus the contemporaneous right to life of the mother, in every imaginable and opposing law module of an undergraduate degree – I never departed from my position on the fence. With a tentative nature and an elusive ability to effectively evaporate when such questions were posed I never had to emerge and climb down from my impenetrable cocoon to either side of the pro-life pro-choice construction.
All until the unimaginable became reality and the impossible became real, I was awoken and torn from my place of ignorance and oblivion and plunged into crisis. It was at that time, and only once I was forced to acknowledge and experience the trauma and exile that thousands of Irish girls, teenagers and women had before me, that I recognised that Abortion and the 8th Amendment was my battleground too.
Panic, paranoia, anxiety, an inability to eat, to sleep, to merely function to thoughts of escape ranging from denial to thoughts of suicide as a means of egress – I would be lying if I said at some point I didn’t encounter and wrestle with them all.
A situation I was forced to hide and conceal from a tight knit family who fortunately were out of the country at the time, from loving and never faltering grandparents who I was residing with, to friends I would previously have openly and candidly shared every intricate detail of my life with. This all uncontroversially, as a corollary and a by product, of a society brainwashed and scorned by ideals and stigmas of a church infiltrated State and a past and alien generation. A country where discussion or debate on the topic of Abortion is commonly treated with the same disdain and inconvenience as civil rights were throughout the Luther and Apartheid eras. Perhaps an over exaggeration as similes go but arguably a relevant comparison and synopsis nonetheless.
I was heckled and harassed as I entered and left support facilities, of which were, pardon the expression, a God send and an anchor, in my time of calamity and crisis. I was forced to extract money from a fortunately previously drawn down education fund all in an effort to keep the situation hidden and unbeknownst to those around me. Using different phone numbers, aliases, deleting internet search histories after desperate hours spent trawling the web in search of support and guidance; I spun a delicate and elaborate web of lies all to conceal and prevent any escape or disclosure of my present reality.
I waited two weeks before I could travel to the UK; two weeks of irrationally and dangerously not eating for fear physically my secret might materialise. College was where I was that day to the real world – but in actuality I was on an isolated and deadly rollercoaster of pure and utter mental and physical anguish and torture.
An early flight over alone, scared, tired and emotionally numb with the only solace and support, the knowledge that at least five other Irish women on board the claustrophobic and innocuous aircraft, were all enduring what I was and would, as the longest hours of my life progressed. Sitting in a packed attic of a residential estate with nearly twenty other women the only thing I longed for was not to have to be so painstakingly and heartbreakingly alone. Through every pre procedure screening I couldn’t stop the tears silently rolling down my face – fear, guilt, isolation, despair. The most harrowing moment came when I sat alone in a waiting area with a young girl who had her knees tucked to her chest as she rocked back and forward sobbing. The only thing I could offer her was the mirror image of herself, as I had subconsciously assumed the same position. And so easily the tears began to fall.
Withering from the effects of the anaesthetic I slipped unseen and invisible through the Airport and bordered my flight back to the very place which had forced my banishment in the first instance. Contrary to instructions yet defiant in upholding my act for fear of shame, ridicule and persecution, I drove myself home. Within a few days, I was sitting professional exams in a sea of thousands with my journey and my experience treacherously compartmentalised and eternally buried with any hope of returning to my unbiased and dispassionate cocoon obliterated forever. Internally fragmented and morphed but outwardly the same resilient, ambitious and hardworking person I was believed to be.
Simply, Abortion is not the danger. It is the stigma that surrounds it which is deadly. It is the fear, the isolation, the loneliness and the crippling lack of compassion and support which is the most deceitful. I, like thousands of others, am forced by the Irish Constitution to ignore and hide what I choose to do, and it is that fundamental and traumatic denial of hiding what we have endured which will ultimately prove to be the most devastating. I was aroused from my harmonious cocoon of ignorant bliss perched on an arrogant conduit of indifference but that is as detrimental a position as those who advocate and campaign on either side of the divide. Whatever one’s choice or one’s stance on the issue we must all be reunited in the opinion that something needs to change.
And like that I no longer sat – I stood.