The impact of Ireland’s abortion law: “I didn’t feel like a human being anymore.”

By Rebecca H

The failure of Ireland’s 2013 abortion law is steeped in the 8th Amendment to the Constitution. The Amendment puts the right to life of the foetus on par with that of the woman.  Too often, what this means in practice for Irish women is poor medical treatment, as Rebecca H explains.  

It was always what was best for the baby, not what was best for both of us equally. His safety and well-being was of the utmost importance to me but I needed the pregnancy to end.

If the hyperemesis gravidarum [severe sickness] wasn’t cured by delivery I would jump in front of a train. I wanted him to be okay but I couldn’t go on another day. I felt like an incubator. I didn’t feel like a human being anymore.

The nausea was incredibly debilitating and even the motion of taking a few steps would cause me to vomit.

The longer my pregnancy went on the more despondent I became. I began losing hope.

I begged and pleaded with them to give me a planned section but they didn't listen to me.
Rebecca H

Admitted to hospital

I truly believed I was dying and I wanted to. I couldn’t live another day in this hell. At 36 weeks, I spent most days lying in my hospital bed with my fists clenched and my eyes shut tight begging for the world to stop spinning. The nausea was so crippling it was worse than the constant vomiting. I could barely walk to the end of the hall most days.

They would lie to me about when [delivery] would be. First it would be next Tuesday and then it would be next Thursday, then it would be comments about “well you say you love your baby, but you can’t love your baby if you want to deliver him early… You are putting your baby’s life at risk…” They said they would induce at 35 weeks then it was 36 and then 37 and then 38… it was just always next week.

[Finally,] I said to them just let me go home, if you can’t help me I will find another way. And then they said “well that’s it you can’t go anywhere”. They said ‘it’s our job to look after the baby, the baby comes first”. I told them that his safety was the utmost priority to me but at the same time, this is torture. Absolute torture.

The Eighth Amendment... is being used to treat women as objects and not as human beings anymore.
Rebecca H

Forced to endure 36-hour labour

[They] started pressuring me to have a natural birth. I was so weak and despondent and I asked them for a [caesarean] section and they said “absolutely not, you would be putting the life of your baby in danger”.

I didn't feel physically or mentally capable of a natural birth. I begged and pleaded with them to give me a planned section but they didn't listen to me. They induced me and coerced me into a myriad of interventions over the course of 36 hours.

The entire time I kept begging, telling them I knew what my body was capable of and this wasn't working. Nobody listened, nobody cared. They said it was safest this way but by this point I'd been in hospital for weeks and was beyond breaking point.

My son became distressed during the induction (which often happens in inductions before term, something I knew and which had informed my decision to ask) and he was delivered by emergency caesarean section. The first time we met was when I was wheeled down to the neonatal unit and pointed towards an incubator. We will never get back that first precious day.

The Eighth Amendment [to Ireland’s Constitution] is currently being abused. It is being used to treat women as objects and not as human beings anymore. I would fear for my life to have another child in Ireland.

I would fear for my life to have another child in Ireland.
Rebecca H

Through My Body My Rights, Amnesty’s global campaign on sexual and reproductive rights, we are calling on Ireland to change its abortion law. Take action with us today.