I am angry that I live in a country that doesn’t allow women access to safe, legal abortion.
I’m angry that despite thousands of people taking to the streets to demand that the Eighth Amendment be repealed, the government said a referendum on the issue is not a priority for them.
I’m angry that I live in a country with one of the lowest rates of conviction for rape cases in Europe.
I’m angry that I live in a country where funding to every Rape Crisis Centre in this country has been cut, year on year, since 2008 despite the exponential increase in women and men needing to use those services.
I’m angry that I live in a country that still doesn’t have a legal definition for sexual consent and that people are allowed to say, on national television, that maybe that’s a good thing because girls sometimes ‘cry rape’.
I’m angry that I live in a country where women are dismally under-represented in the Dáil and where people spew vitriol at you when you dare to suggest that gender quotas might be a good idea.
I’m angry that I live in a country where the role of the mother is so enshrined in our Constitution that the idea of paternity leave is almost treated as a joke, because surely the rearing of the children should be the sole responsibility of the woman.
In some ways, I’m glad that I’m angry because it makes a wonderful change from feeling afraid.
As a woman living in Ireland, I have often felt afraid.
I was only seven when I learned what the words ‘rape’ and ‘abortion’ meant.
The X case, in which the attorney general obtained an injunction to prevent a young girl from leaving the country to obtain an abortion, hit the headlines in 1992.
The girl at the centre of the case was suicidal, the victim of long-term sexual abuse, and had become pregnant after being raped by a family friend. She was 14 years of age.
You couldn’t escape the story. It was all over the news, on television, on the radio, in the papers; people debating the morality of allowing a child to terminate a pregnancy that had been inflicted upon her.
And I learned my lesson. I learned that my body was not really my own. I learned that my body was, in some way, in the control of the State. And I became afraid.
That fear followed me through my adolescence and into my early twenties. Despite using multiple forms of contraception, I was constantly anxious that I would become pregnant.
And what would I do and who would I tell and how could I afford to travel and how could I burden my parents with that?
That same fear tore strips across my heart when Savita Halappanavar died in 2012. She died begging for an abortion, died begging for her life to be valued above that of her unborn child.
Not here, she was told. Not here in Ireland. This is a Catholic country.
There was outrage, tears, and candlelit vigils. And we prayed, because that is what we were taught to do as children.
We were taught to get down on our knees and pray to a God and hope that He was listening. We prayed that he would show mercy on us, unworthy as we were.
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