Abortion in Exile, 1967–2018
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Irish women travelling for abortion hailed from all corners of Ireland, from Belfast to Bandon, from Armagh to Waterford: the border was of little consequences to the reality of the Irish abortion experience. Any woman resident on the island of Ireland who wished or needed to assert their ‘reproductive autonomy’ and terminate a pregnancy for any reason other than her imminent death in the Republic of Ireland and long-term and permanent risk to her health in Northern Ireland had to leave the island. This chapter explores the impact of the secrecy, silence and shame that dominated Irish abortion history on the women at the centre of the experience. In both states abortion implicitly became a woman’s problem; one she must resolve outside the state. There was little discussion or engagement with what abortion travel meant in health, psychological or real terms for the thousands of people impacted. This chapter highlights how it was women themselves that finally forced a reframing of the Irish abortion journey, by speaking out and breaking the silence.