Myth Busting: Rape and Birth

Guest Post

I am delighted to have a guest post by Ruaidhrí, who can be found on twitter as @Lamhfada and wrote this rebuttal of one of the appalling tweets he saw today.

Ruaidhrí Mulveen is from Galway and has studied psychology in NUI, Galway and QMU, Edinburgh. He’s (mostly) worked in health and social care

The state of this guy. Excuse me while I have a little rant.


1) Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter, a chemical messenger in the brain. Neurotransmitters don’t “heal” anything and they especially don’t heal the psychosocial trauma of rape via some unknown mechanisms in childbirth

2) Oxytocin is involved with bonding and attachment. It’s also involved in aggression and in childbirth is involved in contractions. Oxytocin modulates the impact of all social stimuli across all emotions-it increases aggression for example and it increases the chance of domestic violence don’t see any evidence for it reducing the trauma of rape as claimed in this tweet.

3) If giving birth reduces trauma through oxytocin (which as the above points say, seems unlikely) then we should observe a massive difference across all mental health diagnoses in people who’ve given birth, which I’m not so sure is the case. Also wouldn’t it impact upon things like post-partum depression?

4) The claims this “pro life legend” make are either lies, or well meaning distortions of bad science. Either way that’s all the anti-choice, pro 8th amendment people have- lies and distortions, however well meaning they think they are.

There’s going to be a referendum to #repealthe8th. Expect the desperate untruths like this to continue. It’s largely the same crowd who were behind the no campaign for the marriage referendum and remember all the lies and nonsense they had? It’s going to be worse in the coming referendum.


 Thank you Ruaidhrí for writing this rebuttal and allowing me to have it as a guest post. We will see a lot of myths, misinformation and lies as we work to #repealthe8th, which is why informed and factual pieces like this are important.

Myth Busting: Abortion and Breast Cancer

So one of the other claptrap things which get said is that abortion increases a person’s risk of breast cancer; this is false.

There is zero connection between having an abortion and an increased risk of breast cancer.

There is how ever a connection between breastfeeding and lowering the risk of breast cancer.

Breastfeeding can lower breast cancer risk, especially if a woman breastfeeds for longer than 1 year. There is less benefit for women who breastfeed for less than a year, which is more typical for women living in countries such as the United States. There are several reasons why breastfeeding protects breast health:

    • making milk 24/7 limits breast cells’ ability to misbehave
    • most women have fewer menstrual cycles when they’re breastfeeding (added to the 9 missed periods during pregnancy) resulting in lower estrogen levels
    • many women tend to eat more nutritious foods and follow healthier lifestyles (limit smoking and alcohol use) while breastfeeding

Beyond breast health protection, breastfeeding provides important health benefits to the baby and helps the bonding process.

So people who say that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer are assuming that a woman who has an abortion doesn’t already have children and hasn’t already breast fed.

The published stats from the NHS in the UK show that

54 per cent of those having terminations last year were already mothers 

So people who say that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer are assuming that a woman who has an abortion won’t go on to have have children children later in life, when it’s right for them to do so and maybe they might breast feed

Yes breastfeeding is best for a baby, and it can lower the risk of breast cancer, but “My Body My Choice” is not just about continuing a pregnancy, it is also about breast feeding.

Sometimes continuing a pregnancy is not the best thing for a person, sometimes breastfeeding is not the best thing for a person, some times it’s just not possible for a range of reasons and thank heavens we do have formula, we do have that Choice.

Anyone who says there is a connection between abortion and breast cancer is in my opinion being willfully ignorant of the medical facts, and of how people live their lives.

I had an abortion, I also have two children, both of whom I breastfed, all of those things were my choice about what I did with my body, and all of those choices should be respected and not used to scaremonger or tell people what they should do with their body.


The basics of intersectionality

When you read or hear a discussion being had by certain group of people about being oppressed and what they struggle with, stop and think before joining in.

Don’t disrupt a discussion being had by gay people & allies saying but poor straight people have to Deal with X.

Don’t disrupt a discussion being had by bi people & allies saying but poor gay people have to Deal with X.

Don’t disrupt a discussion being had by people of colour & allies saying but poor white people have to Deal with X.

Don’t disrupt a discussion being had by people with disabilities & allies saying but poor able people have to Deal with X.

Don’t disrupt a discussion being had by people struggling with poverty & allies saying but poor middle class people have to Deal with X

Don’t disrupt a discussion being had by trans people & allies saying but poor cis people have to Deal with X.

Don’t disrupt a discussion being had by women & allies saying but poor men have to Deal with X.

Yes the capitalist patriarchy is shit for just about everyone, but you don’t get to disrupt the conversations people are having about how it is shit for them, with how it is also shit for the persons shitting on them.

People how are effected by a particular axis of oppression have to have space to talk about how it effects then, to find solidarity, to know they are not the only person this happens to and to find a way to talk about it amount themselves and then to be able to articulate it to others and then fight for the changes needed.

When someone is talking about something which happens to them which doesn’t happen to you, listen and learn, don’t jump in with #notall[insertgroupwithprivelge]. We to listen and learn to gain greater understanding and compassion.

Yes please do start a parallel conversation, or better yet bring up issues which do need to be addressed, but off your own bat not as a reaction to and disrupting a discussion which is already happening. It’s hard enough for folk to talk about what happens, with out having to defend having those discussions in the first place.

When any victim group speaks out, listen, don’t pick on semantics don’t tone police, listen. If it makes you uncomfortable good such thing should. If the generalisations piss you off and they should then be angry at the people who contribute to the crappy culture we are in, rather then target the hurt people struggling to express themselves.


Last Saturday I had the absolute honor and privilege of being the Celebrant of a wedding of two of my friends. They had decided to do the legal stuff separately and were looking for someone to conduct a ceremony of their construction on their Wedding day in their Venue.



A photo posted by Sharrow (@sharrow_ie) on

The Venue was the very lovely Kettle’s Country House Hotel out in County Dublin, which had one smaller room, pictured above for the ceremony and then a larger function room for the rest of the day, the dinner, dancing and afters.

I had spent some time communicating with the bride and groom about what elements make a wedding ceremony for them, we collaborated via google documents on the structure of the Ceremony, which was to have a Hand fasting and an Exchange of Wedding Rings as well as Vows and asking all those gather to support them on the adventure which is married life.

We worked on the wording and in the week before hand had several run through, via google hang outs.

The day of the wedding I made sure to get out to the Venue early to meet the wedding party and go over things again with the bride and groom, to do a walk through with them and then  liaise with the Venue staff and with the photographers.

The Ceremony went well, it flowed and all the moving parts happened seamlessly, they exchanged their vows, declared their love and were announced as husband and wife to all gathered there to, witness, support and celebrate.

It was my first time to be a Celebrant for a Wedding, I did have a moment or two of mild terror and really it was something you don’t want to screw up; but I would so do it again.


The happy couple got me a wonderful souvenir of the day and I will raise it later this week and toast their continued health and happiness.

This Revolution is being Broadcast….

This morning I had to as part of one of my college modules deliver a 2 minute oral presentation on a topic of my choosing. I had chosen 5 reasons to Repeal the 8th as my topic, but given recent events decided to do 5 facts about the abortion pills.

“Good Morning, I am here to tell you two things and five facts. ”

I raised my right hand up with with raised fingers and then my left with five raised fingers. Then lowered my right and and ticked off with my fingers on my right both things.

“The first thing I am going to tell you is that I am angry, very angry and that anger is why I am not going to talk about the topic I indicated to our lecturer I am going to instead in light of the court case in Belfast, I am going to talk about the abortion pills.

The second thing I will tell you is that, some of what I am about to say may be illegal, it may break the 1995 abortion information act, but as no one has ever been prosecuted under the act and the abortion pills were not considered when it was created I don’t know for sure. ”

I then lowered my right and and raised my left with all fingers raised, curling one after the other as I ticked off each fact starting with my index finger.

“The first fact is that the pills which are know as the abortion pills are legal for that use everywhere in the EU bar Ireland and Malta. The have been legal in France from 1988, which means that in 1992 if Miss X the 14 year old who was raped had of lived in France she could have been prescribed the pills by a dr and the pregnancy ended in 24hours, instead of facing court injunctions, traveling and national uproar.

The second fact is that the pills are legally used everywhere in the EU bar Ireland and Malta to end a pregnancy in the first 10 to 12 weeks of a pregnancy. This means if Migrant Y had of been in another EU country when she discovered she was 8 pregnant from rape, she could have been she could have been prescribed the pills by a dr and the pregnancy ended in 24hours. Instead due to the 8th amendment she was forced to continue a pregnancy she did not want, had medical treatment she did not want and was forced to have a C Section.

The third fact is the pills are part of health care, if you are undergoing chemotherapy and the mandatory test you do before you start your scheduled dose show you are pregnant the chemotherapy is stopped. This Happened to Michele Harte, she took the hospital in Cork to court to get an abortion to continue her chemo and was denied. Eventually while very ill she travelled to the UK for an abortion and came back to continue her chemotherapy. In any other EU country bar Ireland and Malta you can be she could have been prescribed the pills by a dr and the pregnancy ended in 24hours. Michele Sued the HSE and won, but died from her cancer soon after.

The fourth fact is these pills are prescribed to women all over the country by maternity hospitals and units when they have had a incomplete miscarriage. They are prescribed the pills by a dr and fill the prescription, take the pills at home and what is left of the pregnancy is ended in 24hours.

The fifth fact is that if the young woman in Belfast, who has been given a suspended sentence, had of being living in another part of the UK in Scotland, Wales or England, the use of the pills would  have been legal, she would have for free been prescribed the pills by a dr and filled the prescription, taken the pills at home. If she lived in the Republic of Ireland she could have been given a sentence of up to 14 years”

At this stage I folded down my thumb creating a fist of solidarity and kept it raised.

“I am angry and today I stand in solitary with the young woman in Belfast, with the 10 women a day who travel to Ireland to the UK to have an abortion and the many others who can not afford to travel and risk 14 years to import and use the abortion pills at home.

I am Janet O’Sullivan, I am a spokesperson for the Abortion Rights Campaign, and if you want to hear me talk more on this, I will be on Community Radio Castlebar, 109.2fm at 5:30pm. This Revolution is being Broadcast.”

I am still angry, but anger is an energy, it’s fueling a lot of us and we will use it to Repeal the 8th amendment and bring in the abortion rights which we need.

Cis Het Patriarchy is everywhere

Cis Het Patriarchy is everywhere, it is and even when we become aware of it’s impact and strive to change our thinking and behaviors, it can be hard to see how embedded it is.

It is so much so that both Cis and Hetrosexual are assumptions we make about people. They are actually labels, but they are unthinking applied in a manner which to make them ‘the norm’. If we really want to not make assumptions about people we have to start with trying to not automatically applying those labels to people.

And we need to look at our use of language and learn where it comes from, how it can be oppressive and even an micro aggression.

Microagression are important, some times they are verbal some times not, some times they are the words we unquestioningly use when talking or writing.

One of the things hard things about trying to be an inter-sectional feminist is trying to figure out my own assumptions and prejudices, which are due to the culture and society we live in.

The big acts/utterances of isms are easier not to do the the micro aggression of isms, esp when I’ve not looked at them or had them pointed out to me.

Thankfully I have learned a lot over the last 20 years. But I still ‘check myself’.

One of the ways I do is to interact and read the writings of other people who are also striving to be ‘less shit’ at being an intersectional feminist, one of those people is Aoife O’Riordan and her post recent writing is

Homophobia: letting go of the Capital H.


Well worth reading in my opinion.



TV shows which dealt with abortion

So this morning on my twitter feed there was a tweet by Donald Clarke with a link to his latest piece on the Irish Times Entitled Xena is gay: what next, Marriage?

The piece looks at how in the medium of TV gay* presentation has changed and be come more normalized and frequent but that women having abortion is not part of the stories show and how

Visibility matters. More than anything else, everyday encounters with gay people changed society’s attitudes to the marriage debate. When, as has happened recently, women calmly – without pretending to shame – discuss their own abortions in the media, chinks open up in the information cordon that has grown up around this fraught issue.

The people who commission TV programmes and commercial movies also need to show some guts. Viewers are not so fragile as advertisers and programmers pretend. They can be trusted with the real world.

The thing is, abortion has been part of the stories told via the medium of TV.

1989 the British sitcom Birds of a Feather, in its first season aired the episode Women’s Troubles, which dealt with Trush and an unexpected pregnancy, in which one of the two leads, Sharon chooses to have an abortion. It shows the two sisters supporting each other, despite them being in very different places in their lives when it comes to continuing a pregnancy.

Also in 1989 Degrassi High aired, a show about going to High School in Canada, by episode 2  of it’s opening season it had a student dealing with an unexpected pregnancy and what decision to make. Heather talks it out with her twin sister, who doesn’t agree with her choice but end the end supports and accompanies her to the clinic.

The Degrassi franchise was rebooted and Degrassi: The Next Generation also has had an abortion episode. The story was spit into two parts and aired at the start of 2004. Accidents will happen follows Manny’s process of choosing what to do, talking to her friend, her boyfriend and getting the support of her mother who bring her to the clinic.

Of course Sex and the City dealt with abortion, the episode Couda, woulda, shoulda aired in 2001 and deals with a range of the reproductive stories of the 4 ladies. Miranda is dealing with an unexpected pregnancy, Charlotte struggling with possible infertility and both Carrie and Miranda share their abortion stories.

2001 saw our very own Fair City have an abortion story line, Kay McCoy was happily pregnant when she and her husband get a fatal fetal diagnoses of , trisomy-13. Kay opts to travel to the UK to have a Termination for medical reasons. That was 15 years ago and needless to say the producers got hammered in the press and RTE had complaints lodged and vast tracts were written by anti abortion campaigners.

Abortion was also part of the stories in 6 foot under, orange is the new black, Grey’s Anatomy in 2011 dared to show more then ever before when Cristina Yang had her abortion, of course Girls had an abortion episode.

And most recently Scandal November 2015 had Olivia Pope choose to have an abortion which was counter pointed by Milly’s fillabustering in the US Senate to keep planned parenthood’s budget as non optional, echoing the 11 hours Wendy Davis spent on her feet to try prevent abortion restriction legislation in Texas.

So it is not that abortion doesn’t feature as a story in TV shows, but I think that the episodes are seen as too controversial at times to discuss.

Sure the Fair city Wikipedia lists all of the other scandals and issues which the show has covered but Kay’s abortion story and having to travel is barely listed and not dated like the rest of the entries. If anyone is an wiki editor and wants to make that addition the link is here

So it does happen, even in an Irish context there is precedent. we have come a long way from when the brave people from Fubar Films made 50,000 secret journeys and the struggle to get it aired.

I do how ever echo Donald’s call to have more programs made which do cover abortion and in such away that shows how normal it is, but how abnormal having to travel is; but also how the 8th amendment is detrimental to all maternal care and is more then just about abortion.

*[Gay only as bisexual representation is still far behind, I really must get around to writing about that]

International Womens’ Day 2016

When I wrote about the 100th anniversary of International Womens’ Day 5 years ago, there was very little about it anywhere. There certainly wasn’t a Google Doodle, there weren’t images being shared on Facebook and Twitter.

We have come along way in the last 105 years, we have come along way in the last 5 years.

We now have more women in the Dáil then ever, the silence around reproductive rights is being broken, the women esp young women are not hesitant to call themselves feminists.Women are sharing about the stuff they put up with, which we shouldn’t have too.

But we have far to go, to #repealthe8th and undo the years of cultural sexism in our society. This was written the year I was born, 40 years ago and much of this work still needs to be done.


I hope to live for at least another 40 and now more then ever I am optimistic that we will see the changes, we all need for a better, fairer, kinder society.

Happy International Womens’ Day!  Onwards and Upwards!




A prayer on the eve of the General Election

This evening (sunset) I will be lighting a candle for Ireland and it’s people as we go to the polls tomorrow to elect new Members of Dáil Éireann.



I will work so that the new Teachta Dála we elect tomorrow, will work for the good of the land and the people. That they will heed the plight of those who’s lives have become more miserable over the last 5 years due to the regressive policies.

I will also work that all those who can vote tomorrow take the time to do so, that we have close to or more then 75% turn out. We are an old country but a young sovereign republic, we are not yet 100 years old, unused to governing ourselves, but there are times despite all it’s failings I have been proud of this country of mine.

I hope that the will and compassion of the People which was felt in the Yes Equality referendum will once again lift us all up tomorrow.


Remembering Savita, 3 years on and what has changed?

This hasn’t been easy to write, it is hard to believe it has been 3 years.

3 years ago today on the 28th of October 2012 Savita Halappanavar died, leaving behind her bereft husband. On the 21st of October she had started to have a miscarriage and as the 8th amendment dictates miscarriage management in Ireland she was denied the options and care which would have been available to her in other countries.

She asked for the pregnancy to be ended, she asked for an abortion as there was no way to save the pregnancy and this was denied to her as there was a fetal heartbeat. So she was left to miscarry and eventually through a series of callous missteps went on to die from infection. The news of her death didn’t break in the press until the 14th of November when he husband took advice having not been able to believe the responses he was getting from the hospital admins. What happened to Savita shocked people in Ireland and internationally.


There were vigils held in front of the Dáil, all over Ireland and across europe. So many people started to wake up to what the 8th amendment means in terms of restriction to health care. The 1st big March for Choice had already happened and those who helped put that together did their best to network and get the word out about the vigils.


The next year the government finally after 23 years moved legislation to cover the X Case ruling. This became known as a the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act. This allowed for abortion in the case where a person is pregnant and suicidal. This new law did nothing to change miscarriage management. The international best practice for miscarriage management where there is no way to save the pregnancy is to offer the option of ending the pregnancy, either via surgery or via medical abortion using abortion pills.


Neither of these are currently legal in Ireland, and the new law the  Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act imposes a 14 year criminal sanction on any woman or dr who would end a pregnancy with a fetal heartbeat even in the case of inevitable miscarriage. This is another tragedy waiting to happen. Medical professionals should not have to wait for a patient’s condition to decline from the threat to health to a threat to life before taking action.


While the legally and medically nothing has changed in terms of the restrictions to miscarriage  management, we as a nation has woken up to the injustices which the 8th amendment causes. Many brave women have stepped forward to share their stories so that we no longer only hear about this issue when someone had died or had taken a case to the courts.

The stigma which surrounds being pro choice and having had an abortion is being fought, we have had people stand up and say enough is enough, the Abortion Rights Campaign has been joined in their fight to repeal the 8th by Unions, Artists and by NGOs. Political parties find themselves having to state where they stand on the issue of repealing the 8th and if it is a red line issues for them.


Many people will be making sure they Vote Pro Choice in the upcoming General Election. Hopefully then we will soon see a referendum to remove the horrific amendment which has caused so much suffering and we will see miscarriage management and healthcare in Ireland come in line with best practice so that no one else when they ask for an abortion; esp when they are in pain and suffering (which the UN Committee on Human Rights terms as torture), demand an abortion to end it, it will be a health care option medical staff can offer in all our maternity hospitals and units.

3 years on and it’s still hard to watch the video of Savita dancing in the St Paticks Day parade in Galway. Herself and Praveen moved here, were part of the local community, wished to raise children here. In any other country she would have been given the abortion she asked for and then be able to go on to maybe have a child which she could have taught to dance, with whom she could have celebrated Diwali with next month.


For Savita - Never Again from Christopher Tierney on Vimeo.

We need to repeal the 8th amendment so that the words “Never Again” have real meaning for all those living in Ireland.