How Women Will Have Abortions Now
Exactly one year ago, I was in Ireland, reporting on the referendum on abortion. Through heated debates, the country was deciding whether or not to repeal a constitutional amendment which made a fetus worth more than a woman, outlawing abortion in practically all cases. Repeal won a landslide victory — 67% in favour, to 33% against.
It felt good. It felt like one of the most restrictive countries for abortion was moving forwards. Catching up with history.
One year later, the US is on an opposite trajectory.
State governments across the Midwest and Deep South are on a course to completely ban abortion. Yesterday it was Alabama, last week Georgia, in the coming days, it could be Mississipi, Ohio, Kentucky…
It is terrifying because we already know what is going to happen next — all we have to do is look at countries like Ireland, where abortion bans have already been in place.
Women won’t stop having abortions, because women have agency and ambitions and know whether they want to have babies, when, how, with whom.
Women will not stop having abortions, because they, at least, know they are more than baby incubation booths.
But the abortions they have will be dangerous and lonely, and breed social inequality in access to abortion rights.
“I googled how to have an abortion at home, and tried everything on the list”
“I took two months worth of contraception pills in one go. I drank a bottle of gin whilst lying in a boiling bath. I slammed the door of my bedroom closed on my tummy, over and over, until I was black and blue. I asked a friend to punch me in the stomach. I smoked a packet a day. I took ecstacy pills, and over 10 000 mg of vitamin C every day for a week.”
Aoife* was 17 when she fell pregnant. She Googled how to end a pregnancy. She did everything on the list, one after another, in a sort of “blind desperation.”
“After three weeks, I ended up in hospital, in a state of dehydration, with stomach ulcers. Then I had a miscarriage. I have never felt so relieved in my entire life.”
In Ireland, until last year, women who wanted to terminate a pregnancy had three options: go abroad, order pills off the internet, or perform dangerous DIY abortions at home.
“The rich have options, the poor have babies.”
The ban created its own form of inequality, as only richer women had access to online pills or a trip to England — a trip which cost an estimated 500 — 1500 euros. One campaigner told me:
“We have created a system where women who have money have options, and women who don’t have money have babies.”
This makes women in abusive relationships particularly vulnerable, as they might not have anyone other than their partner, and abuser, to turn to when they get pregnant, and need money to travel.
One woman I met in Ireland fell pregnant as the result of a rape. When she didn’t have the money to go to the UK, she had to reach out to her rapist and ask him, because she didn’t want anyone else to know.
“I asked my doctor, but she told me it was completely illegal to have an abortion. That a lot of younger women than me had babies already. I didn’t want to tell anyone else after that.”
Her rapist leant her the money to go to the UK, on condition that he come with her.
“I could kill you, no one would know where you were. No one knows you are here,” he told her, in the hotel room, the night after her procedure. And he raped her again. She was still bleeding from the procedure, and doctors advise ten days without sex after a termination, to avoid infection. After the rape, she bled for a month.
“The abortion ban is what led to me being raped a third time. It is what prevented me from seeking help in a time of crisis, and stopped me from talking about it after it happened.”
This is how women had abortions in a Western country, in 2018, because the State robbed them of agency over their own bodies, and they were forced to reclaim it in the limited ways they had.
This is what will happen again now that US states are banning terminations.
I don’t know about you, but that is not my definition of Pro-Life.