To begin with, I wrote this article some time ago when the abortion debate seemed to be at a peak, when the conversation seemed to be led by men and women seemed to be considered little when discussing legislation. This Thursday I am to attend an Amnesty International briefing on “My Body My Rights: Barriers to abortion in Northern Ireland” and how wonderful it is when I look at the speakers for the event… not a solitary testicle between them. How great it is for a discussion about this to be led by the gender that it matters most to, hosted by Grainne Teggart. What a shame however that the forum is the Mac Theatre and it is an Amnesty International event, not that there is anything wrong with that whatsoever, but perhaps this style of discussion deserves a bigger stage with a bigger audience, whilst grey haired men in suits with religious texts sewn into their suit jackets could step away from the microphone and bear witness to the true state of affairs…hopefully that day is not too far away. Until then, I offer this account of my view on abortion, yes I have testicles, but I think (and hope) I am objective enough to see that the discussion should be steered by those internal reproductive organs, in a respectable manner, and not how some organisations have attempted to “discuss” the issue, by “christening dead babies” and abusing law-abiding citizens.
First let me say this, men exert too much control over the female reproductive system… We are entitled to an opinion, of course. But ultimately, nobody knows what is best for the health, well being and future of a pregnant woman, except the woman herself. I have a specific viewpoint, because I was nearly aborted, and to be honest, I am completely ok with that.
It seems of late there have been too-many poster women in Ireland for the Pro-Choice lobby. Unfortunately, you don’t become a poster woman by standing in the Dàil or Stormont and speaking in favour of women’s rights… It is a position attained only through oppression & subjugation. Women like Savita Halappanavar….Women like the unnamed victim of the state who we have learned of in recent days, who have had their rights cast aside by the patriarchal society that I live in and that woman live through.
According to the British Pregnany Advisory Service, last year almost 4,500 women travelled to England from Ireland & Northern Ireland for abortion treatment. This current situation benefits no-one. Actually that is incorrect, it benefits the tourism industry…. That local women must travel from their home, stay in a hotel alone, or if they are lucky, perhaps with a friend or their partner, whilst enduring an incredibly traumatic personal medical procedure… All because this island does not consider human rights to extend to both parties in a pregnancy.
My mother was 20 when she became pregnant. She was raped at a party and tried to hide that it had happened to her from her family out of shame. She didn’t go to the police, she didn’t go to hospital, she got on with her life. She did not know she was pregnant until about half way through, and when she did it became a massive issue for her and her (our) family. She wanted an abortion. She was in the UDR as a Greenfinch at the time, where women were quite clearly seen as inferior to men in an operational role, so for her to have to professionally come to terms with being overpowered by a man and have him force himself upon her just wasn’t something she could consider. She told her family she wanted an abortion, and by all accounts from my family members who have discussed this with me, she was pretty damn vehement about the issue. Her parents, my grandparents, were not overly Christian folk, no more than your average “Protestant” (in name and politics if not in gospel) but they were not budging on the issue.
So she was faced with a choice; keep the child (me) and admit to command what had happened and deal with the concequences… raise a child who was a constant reminder of the terrible ordeal she endured as well as the reason her UDR career would come to a swift end. Or ruin her relationship with her family. My grandparents assured her that they would help raise me, that she and I would want for nothing (didn’t quite work out that way, but best intentions and all that Jazz). She was also going through a separate medical issue, a problem with her kidneys… She needed surgery to repair one of her kidneys and this couldn’t go ahead whilst she was pregnant, so it really was a case of my life or potentially, hers. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I’m writing this….so she probably didn’t have that abortion…and one of her kidneys is now useless. I’ve always joked about this by saying “I was that annoyed at the whole birthing process that I grabbed hold of a kidney and wouldn’t let go”.
Had she taken the other path, of self preservation, of careerism, of putting what was best for her first…I would not be here, and I would be ok with that. Of course I literally would not be ok with it because I wouldn’t know either way, having never have had any self awareness….but in hindsight, it would be grand. She would have had her reasons. I have little to no relationship nowadays with her, and it goes without saying that I have never had any contact with my “father”….or “sperm donor” as my mother would refer to him when we (rarely) discussed the issue. I have caused her many problems through life, I have held her back…I have even opted at one point to stay in Northern Ireland with my grandparents for a couple of years whilst she emigrated to Canada (I wasn’t yet 10, but it truly was my choice to make) all in all, I’m sure her life could have been much different and arguably better if I had not come to be….but that’s not the way it panned out. Ethereal me would hold no Ill will against her had she chosen a trip to England and a termination.
“But how can you say that, it never happened” I hear someone mumble in the back…. You are right, it is only a perception, an opinion based on inference and supposition. But if we go back to my time spent in the womb, my perception and opinions were none. My ability to come up with a point of view were non existent. Even though she and I have…grown far, far apart as people. I would still do almost anything to protect her from harm, for all our differences, there is still, somewhere in my psyche, a maternal connection there… Unconditional love of a child for a parent and vice versa is stretched, but not absent. I trust that 20year old mother of mine that what ever decision she makes is in the best interests of her. It was her decision to make, not mine. Had I been aborted, there would have been mourning, but they would not be mourning me as a person, they would have mourned me as a concept, as an idea of what I could have become and the interactions and relationships I could have had with my family…as the old saying goes “you don’t miss what you’ve never had.” Tribesmen in the amazon do not feel they are missing out on the smartphon… in-utero I would not feel I was missing out on the world outside. I simply would not be.
And that’s ok with me.
I have an opinion on abortion because I have a viewpoint that I feel contributed to the discussion. I am not running up to indecisive pregnant women and telling them “fire away, abort!, get rid of it, honestly, it’ll be ok with it!” Because it is the woman’s choice. The womb belongs to the mother.
I have plenty of opinions about low-budget hotels such as Travelodge….a plethora of things I would change about their company…and I might fill in a comment card and let them know my thoughts on the matter…. I won’t force the changes on them. Because the room I stay in at travelodge, much like my mothers womb….was just some temporary accommodation. It’s for them…and her, to run it how they see best.
Kris tweets ferociously as @belfastbarman and runs an associated site, www.belfastbarman.com where he occasionally opines his views. He lived abroad for a while and as such, feels he will never really ‘get’ this place. Formerly a barman, he regularly broke the cardinal rules of, “No politics or religion in the pub,” as such, he turned to writing. Previously a stand up comedian and an animal crematorium assistant, now works in marketing and is a recently joined member of the Alliance Party.