I Took The Boat



Further to this week’s events and the request [details below] by two French filmmakers to talk to women who have sought an abortion in England, Broadsheet commenter Liggy writes:

It’s all very well kicking around the subject of abortion, the wrongs and rights, the political and the reality, the pomp and the circumstance but most women who have had one know the reality….

17 years ago, I had an abortion.

The boat from Cork to Swansea, long distance mainline rail train and the underground to Camden in London.

I remember being surprised that there were so many trees in that part of London. I was expecting it to be all concrete buildings and pavements.

The Marie Stopes clinic was in a huge old red-brick house. When I got there, I was given a sympathetic interview with a doctor and a nurse who were there to help me decide what to do for the best. There was no pressure to decide one way or the other. Just a promise of support either way.

I decided to go through with it,

No food or drink the night before, a fitful sleep in a local B’n’B owned by a Greek woman who the clinic recommended. She had some heartbreaking tales to tell of the girls that had stayed there before. There were no names, no faces to associate with the tales of rape, incest, slavery, money controlling husbands running off and life threatening medical conditions that a pregnancy would have made worse. The police were called but sometimes they could do very little. The clinic was the only hope of a life for most of these women.

The next morning, up early, back to the clinic, changed into my bedclothes, given the gas to help me fall asleep. Procedure. A lot of drug induced sleep. Some Tea. More deep exhausted drug inspired sleep. Some toast and tea. Sunlight coming through the blinds. Shallow sleep. Breakfast and discharge.

The boat back was the longest journey of my life but I read the 20p books I bought in a bundle from an Oxfam shop to pass the time. I also stuffed the stained Mickey mouse nightshirt that I wore during the procedure into a bin in one of the toilets. I did not want it any more. I felt guilty for leaving it for some poor cleaner to find.

I bled for a week afterwards and after that it was over. I was no longer pregnant and my body was returning back to normal.

That is all that is involved. The rest, like some of the above and the 100s of other posts on here are just opinions from various parties with vested interests trying to stop women from making a choice or promote their own agenda. How I became pregnant or my reasons for having an abortion are not political footballs to be kicked about by those who want to point score or scream “my view is right” the loudest.

I made a choice and it was the right one. I neither regret it nor take pride in it. It was just something that had to be done. I wish that my fellow Irishwomen had the same option in their own country, the chance to make a medical choice. That choice could be yes or could be no. We are in charge of ourselves enough to be able to decide.

Previously: Have You Taken The Boat?


22 thoughts on “I Took The Boat

  1. WhoAreYa

    Brilliant, thank you admin and Broadsheet.

    You are doing a power of good in this country, and please continue.

  2. Am I still on This Island

    As always the real life stories reveal the simple human truth about this issue

  3. Gorugeen

    Methinks a refreshingly honest and straightforward piece. A welcome break from the usual tabloid hysteria of some.

  4. Llareggub

    Brave of you Liggy to tell your story.

    In solidarity I will share some of my story. I had an abortion too over twenty years ago for reasons I won’t go into now. Months after the event I confided in my mother as I felt huge sadness. She was hugely sympathetic and wanted me to get help to deal with my emotions. She came across an advert at the back of a newspaper offering counselling to women affected by abortion. She tore out the ad and I agreed to go along.

    The building I went to for counselling was somewhere in Drumcondra or Dorset Street, I can’t remember exactly just that it was somewhere along that stretch on the number 16 bus route. The room I was taken to was up a couple of flights of stairs in a damp Georgian building. I remember there was thick wood chip wallpaper on the walls and an electric heater with a scorching smell to heat the room. There were two women in the room. The atmosphere I felt was very odd and I felt trapped as soon as the door closed behind me. I sat on a chair opposite them and they smiled at me and asked me to tell them about the termination. I was really nervous and I wept as I told them thinking they were there to help and support me. When there was a pause, one of the women stared at me steely-eyed and said “well you are now going to have to come to terms with the fact that you murdered your child”. I remember nothing after that. The room was spinning and I ran out of that building.

    Neither my mother or my very young self realised that this was some ‘pro-life’ organisation. The advert was worded so nicely and there was no mention of their pro-life agenda.

    I eventually got proper counselling, but I just wanted to say that the experience with the pro-lifers was way worse than the actual termination. Like yourself Liggy, I know now that what I did at the time was the right choice for me .

    I abhor pro-lifers, I think they are an evil cult.

    1. Karen

      That is so horrendous, you poor thing. I also had an abortion and everyone around me was so supportive and nonjudgmental, I would be so traumatised if I had faced what you did. X

    2. Zynks

      Llareggub, it is beyond words how they attacked you in such a vulnerable moment. There is something evil about them, a hate that is well hidden when necessary. I am just so sorry that you had that experience.

    3. Liggy

      Thanks for sharing your story Llareggub too. I am so sorry for what you had to go through. What they did to you was wicked and ignorant.

      I genuinely wonder what they hoped to gain from it besides traumatising vulnerable young women and turning people against their agenda. It just seems so short-sighted and pointless.

      I am glad you found a good counselor in the end and now know that the choice you made was the right one.

      1. Llareggub

        Thanks Liggy and thanks everyone for all of the empathetic comments. Even though I am anonymous as a commenter here, I hesitated to post this as I anticipated judgement. But then I thought, it doesn’t matter, this needs to be talked about. It’s the human stories that matter and women who have had to make the difficult choice to have an abortion should not be stigmatised.

        I have met many women over the years who have had terminations. None of them took the decision lightly and in my opinion women need support and should not be disgraced or shamed. Irish society seems to operate on the basis of shame and blame and it is time to come out of the dark ages.

        Years back I read about these memorial services they have in Japan called mizuko kuyo to acknowledge a foetus of spontaneous or induced termination. I found comfort in this and I had my own ceremony and I grieved. What happened to me is between me and my maker or you and your maker should you find yourself in a situation where you need to make a choice.

        I hope that more people start listening to the human stories and stop kicking this around as a political football as you have said Liggy. Empathy and compassion are what is required in this debate.

  5. Sophie

    Thank you for sharing your story Liggy (and Broadsheet for posting it, keep up the good work).

  6. Ms Piggy

    I’m very glad you were able to get the abortion you needed Liggy, and only sorry that you had to travel to get it. Hopefully the next generation of Irish women won’t have to do that.

  7. PJ Hammond

    My girlfriend and I met on the X case march in 1992. Both of us were on the pro-choice side. We were angry young people.
    Two years later we had a crisis pregnancy of our own. We were about to take career breaks and travel around the world. Our contraception failed. We were away in London for a friend’s wedding when we found out. She was approximately five weeks pregnant when we did the test. This was really going to disrupt things for us. But we were in a country that had abortion. Nobody would ever have known. Nobody needed to know. We thought about the prospect of having a child that neither of us wanted and dreaded the prospect of being tied down. We booked the clinic. on the Monday. The appointment was made for the following Thursday. We both rang our employers and made up excuses about why we wouldn’t be returning to work until the following week.
    The next two days were listless; we drifted along. Floated. On the Wednesday afternoon we went for a walk in Acton. We sat in a park and watched a woman struggle with a buggy. She looked stressed. Her child, a little boy of about three, was running around on the grass. He looked happy. We didn’t say anything to each other, just looked at them.

    That night was a long one. I got up at 2.00am to get a drink of water. My girlfriend was sitting in the kitchen of the apartment we were staying in. She looked very troubled. We both knew what was on our minds. We didn’t keep the appointment.

    1. Ms Piggy

      and I’m very glad that the two of you were able to make the choice that was right for you, that’s exactly how it should have been. But that’s the point, isn’t it? That it’s a choice – a difficult one for some people, not difficult at all for others. It’s the lack of choice which is so abhorrent.

  8. Liggy

    Thank you everyone for your kind words. I really appreciate them and I can say with my hand on my heart that I hope none of you ever have to face a choice like this one because it is hard.

    However, even if everyone had come on here screaming “murderess, child-killer, burn in hell…” or any of the usual rhetoric of the ignorant, it would not matter a jot to me. You see, I know I did the right thing. Nothing will ever convince me otherwise.

    For those that do face this dilemma, all I wish is that you had the option to make a choice in our own country. That trips via plane and boat were not necessary as we export our “little problem” to the UK or worse still buy pills over the internet to do the job without any guidance or care from a doctor.

    That choice could be to proceed with the pregnancy as PJ Hammond did or abort as Llareggub and I did. Whatever the choice happens to be, I just want the option to make the right one. Life is about personal choices. This personal choice is being kicked around like a political, religious, sexist football. Too many agendas clouding a very simple issue but I guess this suits the people and groups that are anti-choice. Cloud the issue so darkly and no-one gets to have a coherent discussion. That is in part why the legislation is so muddled and complex, the freedom to have a straightforward debate was destroyed by agendas.

    You can still be pro-choice and go ahead with an unplanned pregnancy, just like you can have an abortion and then when the time is right go ahead and have two wonderful children. Just give us the dammed choice in our own dammed country.

    1. Lilly

      Amen. I had a friend who got pregnant by a man who basically began to stalk her. For this and other reasons she took the boat. It was a tough the decision but the right one. Shortly afterwards she met the man she would marry and have children with. She says this could not have happened had she been struggling as a single mother with no support, broke, with a lunatic ex making hers and the child’s life hell. Being forced to leave the country for an abortion adds to the trauma. It’s high time this ridiculous and hypocritical situation was resolved.

  9. dee

    Will we need a ‘pro-lifer’ to counter these stories, for balance sake?
    On a more serious note, well done to Liggy, PJ Hammond and Llareggub above for sharing your stories. I’m glad you did what you felt what was best for you.

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