Greystones GP Dr Ciara Kelly and member of RTÉ’s Operation Transformation, writing in today’s Irish Independent outlines how her views on abortion have changed.
Like most people my age in Ireland, I was brought up in a pro-life household. My 12-year-old self accepted without question the explanation, that abortion was bad and I saw the tiny brass feet worn on jacket lapels in 1983 as cute rather than macabre.
Despite being otherwise liberal, I was slightly appalled when someone suggested to me that their solution to a theoretical, unplanned pregnancy was a flight to the UK. “Never,” I thought. My self-righteous teenage self believed that having a baby in every circumstance was the right thing to do.
I entered my 30s. I was now a GP and a parent. I’d four healthy children born into a loving home. I was lucky. But I saw many pregnant women who weren’t. Women on their own, unable to cope. Women who were sexually assaulted. Women with cancer. Women with foetal abnormalities. I saw the harsh reality that in a crisis pregnancy, there’s an incredibly private, personal and difficult choice to be made. I became, over those 20 years, pro-choice.
Because we don’t have ‘no abortion’ in Ireland, we merely import the service, by exporting our patients. This is a continuum of the treatment of women that saw mother and baby homes, forced adoptions, a ban on contraception and still, to this day, the mighty legal framework of the constitution imposed on what should be a deeply private and personal decision.
We wouldn’t force someone to donate an organ against their wishes, to save someone’s life – even if they were the only one who could save them. Because we respect a donor’s autonomy and right to choose. But that’s what we force on women: The legal right to life of one, at the expense of another’s body.
You will never convince me that an embryonic being is equal to a sentient grown woman. It’s like comparing an acorn to an oak tree. And I fail to understand why we’ve been so fixated on this single issue – but part of me feels it’s punitive. Feels it’s about punishing those ‘easy’ women, the way we’ve always done in this country. Heaping shame, misery and a good dose of guilt onto them Irish style. The way we’ve always done.
I’ve never been in the position where I needed to consider an abortion – lucky me. But not every woman is as lucky. And unless you walk in those shoes you shouldn’t get to decide about her body and her life. These women are not vessels to be forced into pregnancies against their wishes. They’re independent adult women who will likely agonise more about their decision than all those who lecture them.
It is for these reasons that I must add my voice to the increasing clamour to repeal the eighth amendment. A foetus is not equal to a grown woman and only a strange mind-set would think it was. The same mind-set that ironically would ban contraception but punish girls for unplanned pregnancies.
Previously: Critic Proof