Mourning Has Broken

It is five years since the death of Savita.

It is five years since I woke up to the reality of what the eighth amendment has done.

It is five years since me and my husband went on our very first march together.

Thousands of people have travelled since then for medical care abroad.

I look back at ‘the before’ and I wonder why I was asleep for so long. I was not a socially conscious college student. I had never protested anything in an active way. I was privileged, and while I knew I was privileged I didn’t appreciate or understand that privilege.

I’ve never had a slowly growing fear inside me because my period was late. I’ve never had to get information on medical services from the back of a toilet door. I’ve never had to send a message to a person I don’t know and hope against hope that he or she would turn up with pills that could land me in prison for 14 years.

I could have done more. A lot more. But I didn’t, and I am deeply ashamed of that. I am deeply ashamed of the antichoice views I held, and the fact I held them without really analysing why. I could have marched, and donated time and money, and been more invested in a movement I feel I’ve piggybacked onto.

I repeat ‘Better Late Than Never’ and I try to do more and to do better. I mourn Savita, a woman who died because of our laws. I mourn for the thousands we’ve forced abroad. I mourn for the people who are right now hoping against hope that the pills will turn up because otherwise they are out of options.

My mourning broke five years ago, when it slowly dawned on me what we had done, and putting the pieces back together has done me a world of good. Never again will I be so blind.

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Mourning Has Broken

We Wouldn’t Even Know Her Name

This week the Oireachtas committee examining the eighth amendment, which all but bans abortion in Ireland and affects the medical care of every single pregnant person heard from Dr. Peter Boylan. I strongly suspect that if we hadn’t heard of one women who many people wish we hadn’t heard of this committee and debate wouldn’t be taking place.

Savita Halappanava died because of our law, and this inconvenient truth was laid bare this week not once but twice. It was baldly stated by Dr. Boylan and Prof Sir Sabaratnam Arulkumara that the eighth amendment was the reason she died. Dr. Boylan went on to restate, in plain terms, that the eighth amendment killed her in a radio interview the day after what it suits some people to paint as a fractious meeting.

We know the eighth amendment killed her. Medical professionals told us this, yet three of our parliamentary members chose to vote to keep a law which kills in place. They would rather keep this law, knowing I, or you, or anyone else could be the next one it kills. Apparently, they also describe themselves as prolife.

I am prolife. I am prochoice. I am all the shades of grey in between. I don’t want you to die because you’re pregnant. I don’t want you forced to have an abortion because of pressure from a partner or anyone else. I don’t want you to feel you’ve no options but abortion.

I remember the day we first heard the name which, five years on, still brings tears to my eyes. I wish I didn’t know her name. I wish she was enjoying her time with her child and her husband and was as anonymous as she wanted to be.

I can’t help but feeling that knowing her name made her much more difficult to ignore. She wasn’t an X, Y, A, B, C or D. She was Savita, and I think of her almost every day, and I wish I didn’t know her name.

We Wouldn’t Even Know Her Name

Tiny Sparks of Joy

Eating pears from the tree in our front garden. We had no idea it was a pear tree, that it would grow edible pears and that they’d be so delicious.

Passing pears on to a friend in work. Always good to share one’s bounty.

The good kind of hangover from the march for choice last Saturday. A hangover of excitement, inspiration and hope.

An unexpectedly lighter than expected work week, along with getting paid this week.

The details we do know from the Mueller investigation. Aristotle still right after all these years: “The law is reason free from passion…Man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all.”

Tiny Sparks of Joy

All the Feels

The women with the buggies. The two old friends holding a photo of themselves from 1983. The woman with a hijab holding a sign in Irish. The group of teenage lads with homemade signs. The woman whose dad made her sign that was photographed all the way along the route. The older women who’ve paved the way for us. The teenage girls who I’m in awe of. The friends who marched for the first time. The friends who’ve marched before I had the nerve to. The parents for choice. The midwives for choice. The Enya fans for choice. The grieving couples. The three generations marching together. The left wingers. The right wingers. The middle of the roaders. The Father Ted mastermind. The singers. The handmaids. The hastily bought badge wearers. The people sweating in their black sweatshirts because of the glorious sunshine. The immigrants who can’t vote but need us to vote for them. The borrowed t-shirts. The shoppers cheering along the way. The theatre staff giving us the thumbs up. The beeps from passing cars and buses. The tooting from the passing train. The little girls and boys waving flags bigger than they were. The stories that still make me cry. The anger and the passion of the speeches. The hope for change.

It’s time to act. Repeal the Eighth for all of us.

All the Feels

Why I’m Marching

It’s been a year since the last March for Choice.

It’s been a year of highs and lows.

Among the highest of highs was the Sunday I spent on a windy beach, refreshing my twitter feed and growing increasing ecstatic about what I was seeing, as some of my fellow citizens voted again and again to show compassion and recommend sweeping change to Ireland’s abortion laws, which, thanks to an amendment introduced at a mad, dangerous time in 1983, are among the strictest in the world.

Our abortion laws are, thanks to the eighth amendment, at once black and white and myriad shades of grey. If I am pregnant in Ireland, I am considered exactly equal in law to a foetus. The grey comes in when adults and children are taken to court because of the law, with the foetuses in their uteruses granted the same level of legal representation as they are.

Doctors have kept a decomposing woman on life support because she happened to be pregnant because of all the grey around our laws.

The Attorney General issued legal proceedings against a 14 year old child, pregnant following rape, compelling her to return to Ireland because the foetus inside her had a right to life because of all the grey around our laws.

Savita, a woman whose glorious smile we are familiar with for all the wrong reasons, was kept in pain and anguish as she miscarried her very much wanted baby, and died because of all the grey around our laws.

I’m marching for these and many other reasons.

I’m marching because of the black, and the white, and the grey reasons people have for needing and wanting and having abortions.

I’m marching because while there are shades of grey, people of privilege like me will always have more options when it comes to healthcare, including access to safe and legal abortions.

I’m marching because I am healthy and alive despite the eighth amendment, not because of it.

I’m marching because, as much as we might want it not to be so, this is part of how we make change happen.

I’m marching because I can’t leave it to someone else.

Why I’m Marching

The Dreamers

The first time I went to New York was on a family trip when I was 21 years old and the city was still digging through the remains of the World Trade Center. On a sunny, freezing cold day we got a ferry to Ellis Island and did a tour. The five of us had a chance to crowd around a computer and search the database. Both my parents knew many young people from their respective home towns had likely passed through immigration in the building we sat in, and sure enough just searching through lists using a couple of search terms threw up familiar names, sometimes a little misspelled (probably due to accents and things getting lost in translation during what must have been a fairly noisy, busy process), and always young. They were 16, 17, 18 or 19 years of age, setting off I suppose with dreams and hopes of their own. They can’t have been that different to my and my siblings who were of similar ages and had and still have dreams of our own.

In 2011, we went to America on honeymoon and spent the last few days in New York. I felt a real urge to visit Ellis Island again so on a sunny, warm day we got a ferry there and did another tour. This time, it was me and my brand new husband sharing a computer and we did similar searches and once again I was wondering why I was so moved by simple lists of names, ages and places of birth and why I would feel a connection to those people and hoped life had turned out ok for them.

My husband is an immigrant. He wasn’t born in Ireland, but he grew up here. Thanks to a strange twist of fate his parents came back here and so he has dual citizenship and, thanks to various legal immigration and citizenship arrangements so do I. We’re white, we’ve both got transferrable skills and we’d both qualify under the proposed new immigration rating system to go back to New York once more and work there. We’re not really dreaming about that right now, for many reasons. Your dreams change over time – be they the dreams of a 17 year old boy still queasy from weeks spent on a rocky ship seeing a city for the first time or a couple who aren’t worried about impressing immigration officials standing in a huge hall.

I don’t know how my husband or I would cope if he was sent ‘back’ to his country of birth. His parents did everything above board, but that’s just the luck of the draw. They had dreams when they left to make a life somewhere else and have children and work and build something new. My husband shouldn’t have to live with an immigration based sword of Damocles hanging over him and, thankfully, he doesn’t and nor do I. But when I organised our files yesterday and sorted through paperwork from different countries letting us know who we are and what we can do and, in essence, what a country thinks of us, I began to think about the Dreamers in New York, and everywhere else in America.

I think about them, and the lists of those young people we saw on a computer screen in Ellis Island, and the hopes and dreams they have and had. And I think of the poem every Irish school kid has to analyse for exams rendering it devoid of meaning until you can read it for its own sake, WB Yeats’ The Cloths of Heaven. And I hope that those in the US who can do something about the Dreamers remember to tread softly, because they are treading on people’s dreams.

The Dreamers

Over Load

I’ve noticed this week that since this time last year I’ve been in a haze of news cycles, updates, media updates, scandals, crises, more scandals, more updates……

Human beings can’t have been designed with this in mind. My mind wasn’t, and it’s not good for me to be in this whirling mess of news all day every day.

Even the word ‘news’ is something I’ve been thinking about. I work with words in my job every single day, and while one of the perks is that you come across odd and unusual words you’d never hear otherwise (like captious) one of the downsides is that sometimes words start to lose their meaning a little. There is an appearance of newness about every day, but its starting to feel like Groundhog Day.

I’ve been obsessed with the news, but the past 12 months have been a new level of obsession. I need to dial it back a bit. There’s only so much new one person is designed to deal with.

Over Load