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Here's why 'In Her Shoes' is an extremely important resource for people who are undecided on the 8th Amendment

The Facebook group gives a voice to those directly affected by the 8th Amendment.

shutterstock_289010831 Source: Shutterstock/KieferPix

AT THE BEGINNING of April, a Facebook page set up by Irish pro-choice campaigners made headlines internationally after members of a pro-life group launched a deliberate attack on the page.

The attack began when a member of a Facebook group called ‘Pro-Life Community’ wrote that her friend had sent her a text which said:

Hi we are leaving 1 star reviews on ‘In Her Shoes – Women Of The Eighth’ page explaining it’s spreading misinformation, emotionally manipulating the public and we’re reporting it as a scam. If as many of us could do this as possible please.

This call to arms could not have been further from the truth.

Emotional manipulation? In Her Shoes aren’t holding graphic abortion pictures outside of schools and businesses. They’re not drawing cartoon women with speech bubbles coming out of their wombs saying “I hope I can play for Mayo some day”.

They’re giving a voice to the people who have the best insight on how the Eighth Amendment affects Irish people. What ‘In Her Shoes’ aims to do is highlight the experiences of people who have been directly affected by the Eighth Amendment.

On their Facebook group, they explain why:

After speaking with members of the public on the streets, we realised that people don’t understand the various and complex reasons why women would seek to terminate a pregnancy.
We wanted to offer the opportunity for undecided voters to ‘take a walk in her shoes’. We know that when given the chance to look a person eye to eye, when we stop and take a moment to place ourselves in their shoes – we gain empathy and compassion for their lived experience.

Since 1968, nearly 200,000 Irish women have had abortions. When we’re dealing with big numbers like that, it’s very easy to forget that each one of these people has a story and a reason for choosing to have an abortion.

PastedImage-65693 Source: In Her Shoes

In Her Shoes has been giving these people a platform and a voice to anonymously share their stories.

One pregnant woman described how she had been trying for a baby for years, without much luck. The first time she found herself pregnant, she was elated. Unfortunately, her obstetrician could not detect a heartbeat, even at 10 weeks. In her harrowing story, she described how difficult this was for her.

At this stage I tell them I can feel the inevitable miscarriage coming on. I ask for the medication to help it along. I can’t wait another agonizing week. The doctor says ‘no’. Apparently hospital policy dictates that we have to wait another week. At this stage, I’m clinically over 10 weeks pregnant with no heartbeat. The jig is up. She knows it. I know it. My husband knows it. I ask her is there any hope that the heart will be beating the following week. Another ‘no’.  

Had this happened in virtually any other country in the world, this woman’s request would have been granted. Instead, she experienced the ugly reality of the 8th Amendment.

Go to work, bleeding. Pretend everything is ok. That wasn’t my choice. I didn’t have a choice. It was taken away from me by the 8th Amendment to the Constitution. I come back a week later after a partial miscarriage, to be told that there was still ‘foetal products’ and I had to undergo an evacuation procedure.
Highly unpleasant. But nothing compared to the soul destroying journey women must take on a daily basis. I can’t begin to think about how a lady feels when she discovers she is over 20 weeks pregnant and her baby has a fatal foetal abnormality. The other stories I’ve read here have moved me to tears. Frustrated tears.

Another person told the story of how they had previously been completely been against the idea of abortion.

She explained that she was in her twenties and was a mother to two children, one of which had special needs.

“How could anyone do such a thing?” “I’d never have an abortion.” “Why can’t people give babies up for adoption. Plenty of couples would die for a child.” These were some of the ridiculous comments I would have come out with at the time, and it wasn’t until Savita’s untimely death.

In January of this year, this individual found themselves pregnant once again.

You could have knocked me over with a feather. I instantly felt fear, regret and anger. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me when I knew in my heart now was not the right time for another child. Our children now were our priority and our child with special needs needs us more. What use would I be to him with a newborn taking up all hours of my day? This living breathing child needs me 100%.

This person decided that the best course of action would be to order abortion pills online. The first time they took the medication, it did not work. They had to repeat the course of tablets and became increasingly anxious about the cost of travelling abroad if the medicine did not work. The only assistance they received during this frightening experience was via email.

I don’t know anything about the person on the other end of my emails who was there for me through this whole experience, but what I do know is, this complete stranger in a different country provided me with more compassion, support and understanding than this country has ever given to a woman facing a crisis pregnancy.

shutterstock_567276619 Source: Shutterstock/Ekaterina Pokrovsky

There are stories from people from all walks of life.

Some are people who simply had not got the economic resources to carry on with a pregnancy. Some are people who would have loved nothing more than to have a healthy pregnancy.

Some people just got pregnant when they did not want to be pregnant. Some were raped and sexually abused. Some of them are/were victims of domestic abuse, who would have only become more dependent on their abuser if a child was brought into the situation.

Ireland abortion laws Source: PA Archive/PA Images

In Her Shoes is an invaluable resource because it shows us that there are countless situations that people can find themselves in where an abortion is necessary. If you believe that even one of the hundreds of stories on In Her Shoes is justified, you’re in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment.

You can disapprove of abortion and think that it’s morally wrong, but you cannot decide what another person does with their body. Abortions will happen regardless of any of our feelings about the procedure. It does happen and it always has happened.

Ireland abortion laws Source: PA Archive/PA Images

We can’t control other people, but we can make their situations safer and far less distressing by allowing them to receive the medical care they need at home.

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About the author:

Kelly Earley

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