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#TwoWomenTravel: Irish women live-tweet journey to the UK for an abortion

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Ireland's restrictive abortion laws have been under scrutiny for years.

The country's Eighth Amendment, which was passed in 1883, means that an abortion can only be performed in situations where the mother’s life is at risk, or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental health.

And because Irish women face up to fourteen years in prison for seeking an abortion, even in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities, rape, and incest, many are forced to turn to alternative, and often extreme, methods.

At least 4,000 Irish women travel to England and pay for an abortion each year.

However, as abortion is only legal up until 24 weeks, and the majority of women only learn they are pregnant after they miss their first period, this gives them just over a month to scrape together the £570 needed for the journey.

Many are forced to work extra shifts, go without food, or take out expensive last-minute loans.

Countless others, unable to find the funds necessary for such a trip, buy abortion pills online, or adopt dangerous methods in a desperate bid to induce a miscarriage themselves

Over the weekend, an Irish woman and her friend decided to bring the issue to the eyes of the public by live-tweeting their trip to an English abortion clinic.

They described their mission as:  “Two women, one procedure, 48 hours away from home.”

Directing all of their tweets at Irish Prime Minister Taoiseach Enda Kenny, they showed the whole journey, from their early 5am start, to the flight over, to the waiting room at the clinic.

Revealing that they were joined by a number of other Irish women in the waiting room, @TwoWomenTravel explained that the procedure was carried out safely and quickly by staff who proved to be “very warm”.

After a sleepless night in a hotel, the pair woke up to bloodied bed sheets – a stark reality which they photographed for those following their journey on Twitter.

“Not the first or the last bleeding women about to face a long trek home,” they wrote.

The two women made sure to document the minutiae of their journey, such as the train rides, the curtains in their hotel rooms, and the taxis they were forced to take when they were unexpectedly sent to a different abortion clinic.

They explained that had made a conscious decision to “share the very ordinariness of the situation… a series of waiting rooms, moments in transit, a sequence of tediums protracted by stigma.

“No filters, no monologues, just the facts.”

They continued: “We had to travel because our government insists that we pretend that this isn’t happening… [and] our journey ends here tonight, but the struggle for our reproductive freedom continues.”

Addressing the outpouring of support they had received online, from celebrities such as James Corden, as well as countless members of the public, they added that they hoped that more Irish women would be encouraged to document their own experiences.

“[We need] to highlight the issue, and to stand with us in the battle for control over our own bodies.”  

Their journey – the very same journey that is made by at least ten of their fellow countrywomen per day - comes just months after the UN’s human rights committee ruled that the Irish government subjected a woman to "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" for forbidding her an abortion in 2011.

Amanda Mellet had been refused an abortion of a foetus with congenital defects that meant it would die in the womb or shortly after birth.

It was initially believed that the ruling, which stated that Mellet's human rights had been violated, was expected to set an international precedent.

However Taoiseach Enda Kenny has since said that the UN’s ruling was “non-binding” and “not like the European Court”.

He added that he believes any immediate attempt to reverse the abortion ban would be defeated, saying: “My view is that if we were to decide to have a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment in October, it would not be passed.”

His comments have sparked a huge #repealthe8th movement on social media, with over 56,000 people signing a petition which demands that the out-dated law is changed.

One young woman, who also shared her own abortion story on social media, wrote: “The Eighth Amendment is not just arbitrary linguistics, it affects so many people you know, so many people you love.

“Irish women deserve more than this; more than being reduced to a sad figure on a website, more than another signifier of Irish shame, more than being disregarded and denied autonomy and respect by people who have never, and will never, know them.”

Her message was retweeted almost 300 times, with many praising her for having the courage to speak up.

Meanwhile Amnesty International in Northern Ireland has offered their support to the #repealthe8th movement, saying: “Instead of sanctioning women and girls for seeking the healthcare they need, the Northern Ireland Executive should lead the way in reforming abortion laws to bring them into line with international standards.”

It remains to be seen whether their words will be taken to heed, although it was recently confirmed that Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, a serving Supreme Court judge, will chair a 100-member citizens’ convention which has been asked to consider a number of issues, including that of the Eighth Amendment.

A decision will be made on the future of this law later this year.

Image: iStock Pictures

For more information on UK abortion laws, or support and advice, visit the Marie Stopes website now.

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