We did it. We made history. We changed our story.
On May 25th 2018, as a nation we rooted for our passports, blew the dust off our drivers licences, fought with our families over whether or not we needed a polling card and we got our asses in gear to go and vote. The sun belted down on us from 7am when, as a nation, 64% of us hit the polling booths…and we weren’t fucking about, lads. We wanted our voices heard. Out of a total number of almost 2.2m votes cast, only 6k of them were invalid / spolied (#fuckthepatriarchy would have been such a lovely spoil…but not today, Satan, not today!) My moment in the booth was emotional. I even had a split second of panic…which box to tick?! It’s an “X” not a tick, right?! And there it was. In a matter of seconds my vote was cast and I smiled and wished the polling station volunteers a fabulous weekend.
Into my car I jumped with a quick update on my Instagram story, “Get out and vote, lads!!” and I was on my way. The final pre-vote episode of “Don’t Stop Repealin” filled my car and the significance of the moment took hold. This was it. Was this going to be the end of a life-long conversation? As a young teenager I have a vivid memory of having to defend my position on abortion to my class. Because nuns are experts in sexual and reproductive health (right?) we were asked by our nun-come-teacher; “girls, who here agrees with abortion?”. I had only recently moved from Dublin, and didn’t know many of the girls yet so I looked around in horror to see that mine was the only hand up. Then, at the young age of 13, I learned about the awful situation of having to defend a position that felt at times almost indefensible. “Baby killer” and “murderer” were the words that punctuated the dialogue of this referendum, and they are words I have heard since I was 13.
See, this didn’t all just start a few years ago. Some of us have been having this conversation for our entire lives. I know I have been having it since I was old enough to think I understood it. Undoubtedly it has intensified since the death of 31 year old Savita Halappanavar in 2012, but really it has been going on since before 1983 when the 8th was originally introduced. The conversation has torn us apart as a nation, separated friends, destroyed families and brought shame to the lives of individuals and couples alike.
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I just got told that "you've got some balls" for wearing my repeal jumper out in Drogheda. When you take a second to step outside the echo chamber, it's abundantly clear that this referendum is not clear cut at all. . . Keep having those conversations. They aren't always easy, but the undecideds are going to sway this result. . . Also. If you missed @unamullally on The Stand podcast, you need to check it out. Measured, educated, calm, considerate, sensitive to both sides. Exactly what the conversation needs! . #freesafelegal #dontstoprepealin #repealthe8th #repeal #abortionrights #womensrights #feminist #reproductiverights #repealtheeighth @thehunrealissues @maserart
Throughout the escalation of the conversation leading up to the vote I have only been an observer, not directly involved in campaigning but active in my conversations online and with friends & family. Even still, I now find myself exhausted. The nation exhaled and the referendum to repeal the 8th amendment passed by an astounding 66.4%. There was a weekend of exhilaration and celebration as throngs of YES voters filled Dublin Castle to sing, cry, laugh and breathe the sigh of relief. YES, the women of Ireland might finally be able to access the compassionate care that they need. I write this 6 days after casting my vote, and 5 days after learning the final tally and I am still struggling to pull myself together.
You see, I don’t have an abortion story so in some ways I felt this wasn’t about me…but it is. It’s about all of us. An event in my early teens left me shattered and in ruins and allowed me to learn, too young, that things are not always black and white. I also learned that the health professionals in Ireland won’t always be able to offer you the care of compassion you need at a vulnerable moment in your life. Vulnerability…I cannot fathom the horrendous torture that a crisis pregnancy would have introduced to my very personal situation. I don’t think I would be sitting here writing these words if I had learned I was pregnant. At 12. Neatly summarised as a “hard case” for others to fight over.
So today I am still exhaling. I am still celebrating. I am still reeling. I am hopeful that now my nieces, my friends’ children, the future generations of Ireland won’t have to defend themselves to nuns at the age of 13. I am hopeful that they won’t have to take positions on this subject and justify themselves for their lives. I am hopeful that healthcare can now be seen as healthcare, and that sometimes it is not just appropriate but absolutely fucking imperative for your own survival. From my core I am hopeful. I am hopeful and celebrating as it flows over me in a strange form of exhausted, drained relief.
May 25th, 2018.
We got our shit together.
We changed our story.