One week on from telling my story @Ireland.

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 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.

promo 50,000 from hilary dully on Vimeo.

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.

20 thoughts on “One week on from telling my story @Ireland.”

  1. Reblogged this on Feminist Ire and commented:
    Last week, Janet Ní Shulleabháin became the first Irish woman to draw world attention to Ireland’s draconian abortion laws without having to die or go to the High Court to do it. While her story has been picked up by Al Jazeera, the BBC, and media in France and Sweden, the Irish media are still pretending it never happened. Here she reflects on her unpremeditated decision to go public with her abortion story – one of over 150,000 since Ireland passed a referendum outlawing abortion in nearly all circumstances. We are very grateful to Janet for helping to break the silence.

  2. I agree with abortion on demand because pregnancy is a life threatening condition and no-one has the right to force someone else to take on a life threatening/damaging risk if they don’t volunteer to. BUT saying that I do not understand why abortion is an issue where reliable and easy contraception is available. The jab – depo provera taken 4 times a year prevents the release of the egg so there is nothing to be killed. Or if your period does not arrive on time give a blood donation.

      1. Apologies. I stand corrected and take back what I said. I had overlooked that not all women can use hormonal contraceptives. But for those who can depo provera is one of the most reliable and least intrusive – also no periods which is a bonus. And blood loss could cause a child to be born damaged. The worst of all scenarios. I do apologise. It is an enormously tricky area.

  3. Can I also say how brave I think you are for sharing your experience of abortion, which as you and I both know is the most common but least heard experience of abortion by Irish women? The “I looked at my life and realised I could not raise a (nother) child I do not regret it one bit” experience that needs to be told again and again and again!

    Also to @Prayerwarriorpsychinot, not only can not all women use hormonal contraception but last time I checked, contraception – even condoms – are not FREE in Ireland as they are, say, in England or Scotland. Also many doctors won’t prescribe. For instance, we (the Abortion Support Network, which helps women from Ireland and N Ireland access abortions in England) heard from a young mother who asked for an IUD from her doctor. He refused to give it to her, claiming she was “too young” to have an IUD and further saying she “probably couldn’t afford it anyway.” Bonkers. Also many women in abusive relationships are forbidden from using birth control by their partners, or have their birth control sabotaged.

    1. I stand corrected again. I have to say though I am surprised that contraception is still not generally available as Eire is part of the EU. Doesn’t the EU have anything to say about it? If not, what use are they. Still, some women can use depo provera. Could you not provide it? It would be handier than playing Vatican roulette and trekking over to England.

  4. This is terrible! I was born in Northern Ireland. I remember in the 1970’s when there was an attempt to open a birth control clinic in Belfast a large demonstration was arranged against it. I believe they prevented it from opening. In 1982 I think it was I decided to leave as I couldn’t get work and the choice was between Eire and England. It was the same year as the abortion referendum and it was rejected. Exactly for that reason I chose England. 30 years and nothing has changed?

      1. No, not generally. If you have a low enough income you might qualify for a medical card and get contraception that way, but other then that GP visits are 50 euro and then a single month of the contraceptive pill may cost anything from 12 euro to 28 euro depending on the type.

        Most gps will still say IUD/IUS are for women who have already had children and the cost of the booking visits, the prescription, the procedure and follow up can run between 400 and 600 euros.

    1. The only thing which has changed is the right to end a pregnancy when the risk to the woman’s life is due to suicide, and a new criminal penalty put in place. other then that it has not changed.

      There is not the right to abortion due to the risk to health, due to fatal fetal abnormality, due to rape, due to incest never mind due to not wanting to continue the pregnancy.

      The Abortion pill is illegal and any woman who self preforms an abortion here can face up to 14 years in jail, for doing so.

        1. Did you know you can’t apply for a tubal ligation here unless you have kids? and then how old you are and how many kids are part of the cirtea.

          Where as women who are 21 with no kids can have it done in the UK on the NHS or when they know they are done having kids.

          Here you have to be 25 with 4 kids or over 35 with 2 kids when you apply and even then the process can take 18months to 2 years from your GP writing the first letter, if you are lucky. There is no way to get it done privately.

  5. And Eire is part of Europe? 50 euros for a GP visit, 600 euros for IUD? Besides which, the Indian lady who died – the doctor and nurse who failed to safeguard HER life should have been on a murder charge. This is absolutely outrageous. So Ireland is winning the race in going back to the dark ages faster than anyone else. People outside Ireland do not know these things. You have a powerful weapon in publicising this. The RC church is already discredited.

    1. Poland already regressed thier abortion laws, the Spanish government is trying to do the same so that there will be no Choice in either country., France is looking at changing the limit from 24 weeks to 12 weeks. There are conservative christian political parties which are part of the EU parliament who are blocking the work being done and rejected the Estrela report. The War on Women is not just in the USA.

  6. I followed your link. Thank you. We don’t get much discussion of this in the mainstream press, do we? What a nightmare. The one single thing which diminished female oppression in the 20th century was the general availability of contraception and abortion. Our reproduction is our greatest vulnerability – so I can see why the regressives are focusing their attacks on it. They want barefoot and pregnant back. And female lives don’t matter.
    The problem for women is monstrous and always has been. The only safe option would be sterilisation – but that is a major operation for a woman which she cannot perform on herself. As to losing the ability to reproduce the bastards – who cares. I wouldn’t miss them if they weren’t born, and what’s the good of producing female slaves to service them.

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