It is illegal for women to get an abortion in Ireland unless the pregnancy directly threatens her life.
With no other options, two women live-tweeted as they traveled to the United Kingdom for the procedure.
@TwoWomenTravel live-tweeted from Friday to Sunday. The description of the Twitter account states “Two Women, one procedure, 48 hours away from home.”
The women kept their identities private, and the account of the trip could not be independently confirmed.
Many of the tweets sent out from that account included Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny's Twitter handle @EndaKennyTD as well as the hashtag #twowomentravel.
The first tweet thanked their followers for all the support, and added “Thanks to @EdndaKennyTD we’re about to hit the road.” It was followed up with a picture of a plane.
Abortion is illegal in Ireland because of the eighth amendment in the country's constitution, added in 1983. It states:
“The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”
It wasn’t until 2013 that the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act was passed. The law allows women to get an abortion if there is a real and substantial risk of loss to a women’s life from illness or suicide.
With such strict abortion laws, it’s not uncommon for women to travel out of the country to get an abortion.
In May, the UK’s Department of Health released its abortion statistics for 2015. In its report, the UK revealed that 5,190 non-resident women had legal abortions in England or Wales. Of those, 66 percent (3,451) were from the Irish Republic, and 16 percent (833) were from Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has a separate, but similar law that also makes abortions difficult to obtain there.
Ailbhe Smyth, chairperson for the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, said women leaving Ireland to get an abortion is common.
But, this is the first time she’s heard of a woman live-tweeting an abortion experience.
“It gave huge voice and visibility to that hour by hour reality of what it is like to have to take that very difficult and shameful journey,” Smyth said. “Those two very courageous women really brought it home to people in this country. This is something we need to end.”
In a sense it was a very simple thing to do, she said, but in another it was an extraordinary thing to do because, fundamentally, abortion should be a private experience for a woman.
“It shouldn’t be something that she has to broadcast to the entire world. It should be something which she is able to experience in the ways that are positive and constructive for her,” Smyth said, praising the women for sharing their experience with the public.
The @TwoWomenTravel account has more than 27,000 followers, and the account sent out a total of 28 tweets.
The account shared a photo from inside a taxi, saying the two women had arrived in the UK. The tweet said the sights are “pretty ordinary” but “can’t say it’s comforting.”
Afterward, the account shared pictures of waiting rooms, once with the wistful comment that they would have been able to be back home by noon if they could have had the procedure in Ireland. They even tweeted about running into other Irish women.
In an interview with the New York Times, the companion of the woman who underwent the procedure said, “We were talking to them at the end of the day because we were all waiting for our taxis back. If you see a woman on her own in an abortion clinic, the chances are that lonely woman keeping to herself is Irish.”
After waiting room tweets, the procedure tweet came, saying, “Friend is out & safe. Procedure was quick and staff very warm. Our Love to you all. @EndaKennyTD failed us. You did not. #twowomentravel.”
The next 24 hours of their journey was their trek home, and one of the first pictures they shared on August 21 was of bloodstained sheets.
They made sure to share their pain with the prime minister.
At the end of the journey, the women shared a photo with a handwritten card saying: “To everyone who has supported us, we thank you. We are all creating change together. To Enda Kenny, our Taoiseach — your silence speaks volumes & the world has heard you. #twowomentravel #Repealthe8th.”
"We wanted to share the very ordinariness of the situation. We wanted to show it for what it is; a series of waiting rooms, moments in transit, a sequence of tedium protracted by stigma. No filters, no monologue, just the facts," the women said as part of a concluding statement shared on Twitter. "We had to travel because our government insists that we pretend this isn't happening."
Smyth said there are a lot of people and organizations in Ireland working to change the laws against abortion, and @TwoWomenTravel’s journey is another voice in that effort to bring change.
“I admire them hugely,” she said, adding, she is full of gratitude that they shared their story.
Since the campaign went live, people have voiced their opinions about the women’s journey using the hashtag #twowomentravel. Here are a few.
A map on the world’s abortion laws can be found here.
More stories about Ireland’s abortion laws can be found here.
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