This time last week I was curating the @Ireland account. It is a twitter account which changes curator each week. I had applied for the account before Christmas and was chosen for the week of February the 10th to the 17th. The plan was to talk about the things which I am passionate about, to get people to talk about their passions to talk about love spells, our Irish God of Love. I am a pretty diverse person, so I knew I would have a lot to talk about.
My first tweet on the Monday morning was “Hello World”, delighted me to do as it’s a old coding joke. My bio on the account read “pagan, feminist, activist, gamer, geek, and a parent with two teenagers.” From Monday morning up until early Thursday afternoon I hadn’t tweeted anything which was pro choice or Abortion Rights Campaign related. Then I RT some of the Irish Family Planing Association, tweets about their safer sex workshops in colleges.
I got replies from what I assume are anti abortion people slamming the IFPA, I didn’t address anyone in particular, but I did state that I was Pro Choice, had an abortion myself and worked with the Abortion Rights Campaign. The furor and outrage this caused was considerable.
I did my best to ignore it and get on with my day and the topics I had intended on talking about.
But the tweets kept coming, none of them addressing me directly but discussing what I had said including @Ireland. I got my kids to bed and looked at the tweets and I had already decided that
I would talk about my involvement with ARC, and was going to mention it late Thursday so that it
did not become the focus of my use of the account. But the shaming language being used to hopefully silence me made me mad.
Irish women generally don’t say I had an abortion, and they don’t tell their story often.
And when we do hear stories they are about women have been raped, or who have died, or have cancer or a pregnancy with fatal fetal abnormalities. We don’t tend to hear from women who say
I didn’t want to be a parent, it wasn’t the right time for me to have a baby. Women who make that Choice. That choice which to some is unacceptable, unforgivable and selfish, and they say that loudly.
So just after 10:35pm last Thursday, I having asked a few friends to be online if I needed them for moral support I started to tell my story. That I was in secondary school when the X case happened, to finding out I was pregnant, having to travel, what that was like, coming home, keeping secrets, supporting other women who needed access to information and support when they came home. To my dismay at the national poster campaign which was around the country in July 2012 and how that brought pro choice people together and finding commonality and solidarity.
The mainstream media don’t cover stories like mine, I am unrepentant about having had an abortion, my only regret is that I had to travel and the extra stress that caused.
Mostly online I had an out pouring of support, people who were listening and thanked me.
I would say less then 10% of the tweets I got were negative or abusive, and they only came from a small number of people.
When I signed off Thursday evening from the @Ireland account the number of followers were up, it was a relief that they didn’t go down but they had actually gone up. I knew I had broken taboos and the silence and refused to be shamed and stigmatized. I was happy I told my story on my terms, I didn’t expect what happened next.
What happened next was news outlets picked up on the story, my story and published pieces on it.
And then the Swedish National Broadcaster got in touch for an interview for their leading current affairs program and this happened.
The same french paper who printed Simone de Bouvir’s Manifesto of the 343, about her abortion and the women who signed it, printed my story.
It hasn’t all been unconditional support there was an article today which slated me
http://www.catholic.org/hf/family/story.php?id=54291 questioned my Choice, my Sanity, my Spirituality. Pretty much displaying the type of rhetoric which is used to shame and silence people. That isn’t going to work on me but then again it’s not aimed at me, it’s aimed at stopping another woman or more women from sharing their stories.
Invisible people have invisible rights, I know I am one of 150,000 people who traveled to the UK for an abortion, I know aprox 12 women day travel to the UK and others travel to Belgium or Holland and there are some who don’t have the money or the option to travel and risk the 14 years jail sentence as per the new law, by talking the abortion pill.
Until people can speak out with out fear or shame, it will be an uphill struggle to force change
and to repeal the 8th amendment, because until that is done we can not legislate for the abortion rights most of the people in this country agree we should have. Never mind those who make the Choice for the same reasons I did.
Some of the most moving things I have seen this week, are tweets from women to me with just two words, just saying “Thank You”. Just two words but they convey so much and seeing people I am
friends with on Facebook linking to the BBC article and saying “I am Janet, I had an abortion”.
There has been international media coverage, as well as coverage from, the UK, France and the USA but as of yet none by Irish media. I can’t say this surprises me. 20 years ago RTE commissioned a documentary in which 3 women told their stories. It was considered to controversial to show. To this day it has never been screened.
It will be screened by the Abortion Rights Campaign on the 1st of March. This is the trailer
it features 3 women who were as brave as me 20 years ago but no one got to hear them.
There are limited seats for the screening, if you want to see it, you will have to book a ticket.
I have been called infamous, notorious, selfish, immoral, misguided, brave, honest;
but I can but my hand on my heart and say, I have absolutely no regrets about my decision to tell my story.