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The woman who wrote the following piece wishes to remain anonymous. Stories, like this, from those who have been impacted by the 8th Amendment can be found on the In Her Shoes Facebook page. I urge you to read the accounts of those who have been affected. Get out and vote this Friday, 25th May 2018. Vote Yes, to Repeal the Eighth.
I’ve been here seven years, give or take a couple of months. I won’t be eligible for citizenship until early next year, so I won’t be voting on the 25th.
Despite the fact that I have been here more than half my adult life. Despite the fact that I pay taxes here, that this referendum directly affects and will impact my child(ren) in untold ways.
I chose to have my child.
I chose it, and I love him, and I wouldn’t change anything about him. But I would change a lot about his birth, and the way that I was given Pitocin without my consent purely because they felt I was taking too long. Baby wasn’t distressed, I wasn’t distressed, and I was progressing, just slowly.
Well, after that started, I did become distressed. My contractions became infinitely more painful, though no more regular. I ended up having an epidural that I’d gone into labour not wanting, purely because I couldn’t cope with the extremity of the pain. And the worst part? I didn’t even know at this point that I was ON Pitocin, because they’d just told me they were giving me an antibiotic as my waters had broken 18 hours earlier. So I thought it was my fault, that I just couldn’t handle it.
And then the baby became mildly distressed, which I later found out was likely a reaction to the Pitocin. They wanted him out, and quickly, so they decided to perform a vacuum-assisted delivery.
Again, without explaining what was happening or asking my consent.
Of course, he still wasn’t coming quickly enough for the horde of medical professionals who were now crowded around my bottom half, so the doctor performed an episiotomy. Yet again, no consent. He told me what he was doing right before he sliced into me, leaving me no time to object.
By the way, that epidural? It only worked on one side, and I needed fifteen stitches.
Why was all of this allowed to happen?
Article 40.3.3 leaves the door open for obstetric preference or hospital policy to use the 8th amendment to override informed consent and refusal. This can and does happen. If a HCP disagrees with a mother’s birth preference, they can declare it ‘unsafe’ for the as yet unborn baby and the courts can be used to force a mother to comply with a procedure she does not consent to, or according to evidence-based research that she may not need. A pregnant person does not have the right to uphold informed decisions regarding her care in pregnancy. (AIMS Ireland, 2017)
So basically, the wording of the 8th amendment meant some random doctor I’d never seen before that night got to make decisions about my body and my baby without ever having to explain himself.
Refusing someone the opportunity to consent can be traumatising. Refusing a repeat-sexual assault survivor?
The following months sent me spiralling into severe post-natal depression, OCD, and PTSD.
But now, in the final days before the Referendum, this is not the worst of what’s running through my mind.
The worst is that, had I lived here when I was 17, when I was raped at knife-point… had I gotten pregnant, I would’ve been forced to choose between telling someone and travelling abroad, already recently traumatised, to return what so many would deem a ‘murderer’, and carrying that baby to term. Waking each morning and going to sleep each night knowing that I carried my rapist around with me all day, every day.
I would have killed myself. There’s not a question in my mind that I would have; in reality, I tried pretty hard despite the fact that I DIDN’T get pregnant.
There would’ve been no baby. No me. No sweet little boy watching Puffin Rock in his nappy as I wrote this.
My child is now two years old, and I am still heavily medicated and receiving therapy for PTSD. From the trauma of the rape, from the trauma of the birth.
And every day, I turn on the news, read the papers, look at Facebook, and am retraumatised. By priests claiming that abortion is worse than rape. By people calling abortion murder. By those who feel that pregnant women should continue to have less bodily autonomy than corpses.
I won’t be voting on the 25th. Not because I don’t want to, but because I can’t. So please vote yes for me, and for the thousands of others like me, for whom consent is essential, for whom termination is a life-saving procedure, be it physically or mentally.
Please, please. #repealthe8th