By now most people have probably watched Amnesty International's video regarding Ireland's 8th amendment and why it should be repealed and what issues it currently causes (if not, watch below).
25 Annoying Things About Being Pregnant
It's probably best to start with a personal story.
No I was not pregnant, no I was not planning to become pregnant, and no I was not planning on having an abortion. Yet the tone was set for many a discussion around such subjects, the very minute I was diagnosed. One might assume this conversation would take the form of discussing options for egg preservation, in case of future fertility problems. Although this was never mentioned really, only glossed over very vaguely, and only when I tried to bring the subject up. A simple "I'm sure you'll be ok" was all that was given in this respect. Something I realised later was vastly different from the experiences of UK cancer patients, through discussions on support forums. I can only assume such options aren't granted free by the HSE, and perhaps some doctors just see it all as a bit "icky"? I really have no idea. The only guidance I was given with that side of things was the nurse whispering to me during chemotherapy inquiring about my periods, stating that a regular flow (sorry lads, not sorry) was a good sign at least.
No, this was not the route of the pregnancy conversation. The one and only topic was around what would happen if I became pregnant during my treatment. Of course I was advised to use all the contraception possible, to not purposely become pregnant during this time -obviously, that would be irresponsible. But as we all know, even with all the contraption in the world -shit happens.
In this scenario the woman has two choices (in other countries) -continue the pregnancy, reduce your treatment (or stop completely, although that wouldn't be advised by a doctor) or plan a termination, in order to give yourself the best chance of survival. Neither option is easy, and depend on so many factors as well as personal choice. Yet women make these choices for themselves, all around the world, every single day. And we trust they know what is best for them. Neither case in this regard deserves judgement, they are and should be, case-by-case decisions made by the women themselves and fully supported by both medical staff and loved ones.
So when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2013, I was quickly informed of what would happen if I became pregnant -They would reduce the treatment in order to give the foetus the best chance of survival. At first this seems like just good advice, a reassurance that if needs be they will do what they can to help me. I am a young woman of child bearing age, so it's all relevant. But this mantra was repeated again and again during my treatment, by various medical care professionals. Many a conversation about saving the life of my hypothetical foetus. To get the point across that in this scenario, in this country, I would have no choice.
It became annoying. Especially as there was no word ever made to discuss the possibility of freezing eggs for the future, if the treatment was to effect me in that way. Zero advice given. I only realised that many people have such procedures pre-chemotherapy, through reading stories from others on online, UK based HL forums. I tried bring it up a couple of times in the early days, before treatment commenced, but no one in my team seemed to know anything on the subject. IVF is not available through the HSE and so not worth discussing... Still and all, information on fertility (even if I had to pay for services) would have been a lot more beneficial to me as a patient, rather than the continuous discussion of current, hypothetical pregnancies.
But in MY case it should be MY choice.
No one can 100% truly say "I will never terminate a pregnancy", even when it seems completely unthinkable in our current lives -shit happens. Either way, the 8th amendment effects #EveryPregnacy. It is regularly cited to take away maternity care choices. It does not stop abortion from occurring, it simply sends it elsewhere (the UK). In the cases of Irish people who cannot afford to travel, it promotes the use of unsafe and unregulated measures. It separates society, brings about class systems in health care -those who can afford safe abortions abroad, and those who cannot.
This coming year we need to strive for better maternity services, practices, and laws.
We need to keep the church out of state and the state out of our personal, reproductive choices. We need to repeal the 8th amendment and allow for safe, free and legal abortions for all women of Ireland.
For further information on ways the 8th amendment may effect you or women you love, see:
❤ 20 Things You May Not Know About Choice In Ireland Today
❤ "It Was Horrendous, So Scary": Woman's Whose Son Had Fatal Fetal Abnormality Pleads With TDs
❤ All Pregnant Women Are at Risk Under The 8th Amendment
❤ How Does the 8th Amendment Effect Continuing Pregnancy in Ireland?
And for some general info about the 8th amendment:
❤ Explainer: What is the 8th Amendment?
❤ Abortion Rights Campaign
❤ Eight Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland