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#Repealthe8th: woman shares powerful teen abortion story in bid to challenge Irish laws

The 3rd Annual March for Choice, Dublin, Ireland - 27 Sep 2014 - abortion protest.jpg

One in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime in the UK.

In England, Scotland, and Wales, women have access to legal and safe abortion procedures up until 24 weeks in the pregnancy, so long as they have the permission of two doctors.

In cases where the mother’s health is at risk, or the baby will have serious disabilities, abortion is permitted beyond this 24 week period.

However it is a very different story in Ireland.

Due to the country’s Eight Amendment, which was passed in 1883, unborn babies are granted the same rights as their mothers.

This means that a termination 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 fatal foetal abnormalities, rape, and incest, are not circumstances in which abortions can be performed legally.

This anti-abortion law has led to many women desperately working around the clock to save the money they need to travel to England and pay for an abortion.

If they can’t find the money, many turn to home remedies, or search for abortion pills online.

When Kate Bedfiord was 19 years old, she fell pregnant but did not feel ready to become a mother.

With no money, no support, and no one to talk to, the young teenager was forced to go to extraordinary lengths to terminate the unwanted pregnancy.

Now, at the age of 23, she has shared her powerful story on Twitter.

Her story, which is split over several posts on the social media site due, can be read in full below:

“I’d been pro-choice my whole life and I was terrified of telling people who loved me a decision that I wholly knew was right for me. I didn’t have any money to travel, and I didn’t know any alternatives. I didn’t know if there was anyone I could take to, or any support.

“I spent endless time searching online for ways to have a home abortion. I did all sorts of desperate things to myself, to no avail.

“I worked evenings after college, and double shifts to save. I cried constantly and couldn’t eat. When I finally had an abortion I was terrified of the blood. I had agonising pains in a hotel room. I thought I was just going to die. I didn’t even mind, sadly.

“When I got home I went to a clinic. I said I thought something was wrong with me. The doctor scraped me, felt my insides, told me I’d had a miscarriage and should “be more careful”. I was careful, but that didn’t matter.

“I’ve carried that as a burden for years. A sense of shame that I didn’t deserve, that no one does. I read endless posts online about how terrible someone like me must be, how heartless. Sometimes I forget that when I talk about abortion rights, I’m talking about something that’s shaped me irrevocably.

“It doesn’t even feel like my story. Ignoring the needs of women like myself doesn’t make the problem go away, and it doesn’t make this country any safer of a place to be a woman, or a mother.”

She concludes powerfully: “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.”

Kate’s post has since been retweeted 290 times, generating a wealth of support for the #Repealthe8th movement on Twitter.

And the messages of love and compassion have been overwhelming.

One wrote: “I can't even begin to fully understand what you or other women have had to do, all I know is we need people like you.”

Another added: “This is very courageous. Well done for telling your difficult story and let's hope women needn't suffer like this much longer.”

“I'm extremely sorry for what you had to go through. You're a credit to all and a true ambassador for women's right to choose,” agreed one user.

And another said: “I'm so sorry you were so alone when this happened. Well done for sharing, it's important & valuable to do so, much love.”

Speaking to the Metro.co.uk about her decision to share her story, Kate explained what she feels repealing the Eighth Amendment would mean to women and girls all over Ireland.

She explained that “the constant reminder that your body is not your own in the eyes of the law, and of other citizens, creates a sense of guilt that feels impossible to overcome.

“Acknowledging women’s autonomy would create an open discourse, a fairer debate, and alleviate some of the destructive shame that currently surrounds a choice that isn’t ever lightly undertaken.”

Sophie’s message went viral shortly after a mural in Dublin, Ireland - which featured a heart reading “Repeal the 8th” - was removed by the city’s council.

They claimed that this decision had been made due to the fact that the artwork – which had been commissioned  by The HunReal Issues (an Irish website set up to promote women’s issues) - “violated planning control”.

However Irish citizens have since taken to Twitter to express their anger over the mural’s removal, with many claiming that the act was a form of “political censorship”.

The HunReal Issues have vowed not to let the mural’s removal stop them from getting their message across.

In fact, they are now planning on bringing out a range of t-shirts featuring street artist MaserArt (who originally created the artwork)'s design.

A spokesperson for the website also told Independent.ie that they are “working with Project Arts Centre and Maser to try and get it back up again”.

It was recently confirmed that Ms Justice Mary Laffoy, a serving Supreme Court judge, will chair the 100-member citizens’ convention which has been asked to consider a number of issues, including that of the Eighth Amendment.

Ireland’s ageing population, fixed-term parliaments and the manner in which referendums are held are also to be examined.

All matters will be determined by a majority of the votes of members present and voting, other than the chair who will have the casting vote if required.

The convention is to be established by October, according to The Irish Times, and the Eighth Amendment is to be the first issue that the assembly will examine.

All conclusions will be forwarded to an Oireachtas committee.

In the meantime, many people continue to campaign for a referendum on the Eight Amendment.

Why? Because they believe that women deserve a choice.

Amnesty International in Northern Ireland said: “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.”

Northern Ireland's leading pro-life group, Precious Life, disagree, saying: “It is vital that the lives of both mother and unborn child are respected and protected equally in hospitals throughout Northern Ireland.”

Main image taken at the 3rd Annual March for Choice, Dublin, Ireland - 27 Sep 2014

Images: Twitter, Rex Features

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