I live in Northern Ireland, the only country in the UK where abortion is illegal. Women can be sentenced to jail time for having abortions and up to very recently had to travel to England to get abortions. Despite being part of the NHS (National Health Service) they were not permitted to have abortions with the NHS thus had to pay for private medical care which was extremely costly. Thankfully that law has recently been changed, and women will be offered free abortions in England, however they still have to go through the trauma of travelling to a different country to get them.
Recently I was in the Belfast, the capital city of NI, and was frustrated to see a group of people (mostly men) petitioning for the abortion act to remain illegal. As a young woman I find it pretty hard to understand why, in the 21st century, women’s right are being blatantly ignored. Keeping my head down, I walked past them and was quite relieved to see a Pro-Choice group, down the road, collecting signatures to send to the Justice Minister, most of whom were young women like myself. I was happy to have a chat and sign the petition. I had to walk past the anti-abortion group again, and again I tried to avoid making eye contact but one of the men made a very deliberate movement toward me holding a leaflet very close to my face. I walked on, a little embarrassed by how awkward it was, and then I became angry. I couldn’t help but think he had seen me with the pro-choice group and deliberately set his sights on me.
The most frustrating part of this was, that a man was handing out leaflets about what women should do with their own bodies. He wasn’t just anti-abortion, he was anti-choice. He didn’t want to give women the right to chose. He didn’t trust women to be capable of that choice. He would never have to go through the process of an abortion, yet he felt that he had the right to dictate to others what they should or shouldn’t do. I live in a free country where I can speak freely, however I’m not free to chose what I do with my body.
Having an abortion would a harrowing and traumatic experience, and I sincerely hope that I never have to experience it. But I know that I would like that option to be there, not just for myself, but for vulnerable, young and old women all over Northern Ireland. You don’t have to be pro-abortion to be pro-choice, you just have to believe in giving women the right to choose.
Find out more here https://www.amnesty.org.uk/issues/Abortion-in-Ireland-and-Northern-Ireland