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Irish women who had abortions say: “I was exiled”

Women are going public about being forced to travel for an abortion

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By Lynn Enright on

Irish women who have been forced to travel to the UK and Europe for abortions are “going public” today, International Human Rights Day, to highlight the fact that every day, 12 woman go abroad for an abortion they cannot get in Ireland. 

The women have been photographed as part of the X-ile Project, an organisation that aims to “to give a much-needed face to women who have effectively been exiled from Ireland and ignored due to unduly strict abortion laws”.

Megan Nolan, one of the women photographed for the project, told The Pool: ”I wanted to support the aims of the X-ile Project because I feel no shame about having had an abortion. The only people who should feel shame about what I went through are the Irish government."

The X-ile Project’s Katie O’Neill, who took the portraits of several of the women taking part, says: “What we are trying do with this project is to force the Irish public and the government to look at these women that they are exiling out of the country and to see that these women are their sisters, their mothers, their partners and people that they see every day in the street.

“Everyone knows someone who has travelled over to England and we want to put a face to those stories.”

The online campaign will be accompanied be a protest at Trinity College, Dublin, where people will gather at 12 noon, and stand for 12 minutes, in solidarity with those 12 women who are forced to travel for abortions every day. 

The campaign comes as women and men throughout Ireland are beginning to talk more openly and honestly about abortion and the eighth amendment, the piece of legislation which grants an unborn child and a mother equal right to life and effectively outlaws abortion.

In October, the Father Ted creator Graham Linehan and his wife Helen shared their abortion story in the Irish and British media to highlight the Amnesty International campaign that aims to force the Irish government to decriminalise abortion.    

As a general election looms in Ireland, the issue of the eighth amendment, and the decision to call a referendum on whether it should be repealed, is becoming a key element of the debate, with the Labour party saying it will be a red-line issue on who they would enter into a coalition with. The taoiseach (prime minister) has said that he would order a constitutional review into the eighth amendment if re-elected.


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