My wife and I have an intellectually-disabled daughter. She’s autistic. She will never understand consent. If she were ever pregnant, it would be through rape. If that ever happened, would you come to our house and tell us what is best for our child? Because that is what your No vote on May 25th would mean, in practice.
She’s on the cusp of puberty. She’s terrified of blood. She will scream (and I mean SCREAM) when she’s cut, and scream even louder if we approach her to help. That can escalate to scratching, kicking and biting. Any trip to A&E might mean restraint or sedation. Can you imagine what it would be like trying to get her through pregnancy?
She doesn’t handle it very well when a DVD gets stuck, so how would she handle labour? Are you going to provide support? Because, at the moment, we’re struggling to get speech and language therapy for her.
Do you really think that a zygote’s right to grow, for example, trumps our disabled daughter’s right not to have her rapist’s baby?
If we did decide that she should have an abortion, have you ever travelled with an autistic person like my daughter? To say that it is stressful for all concerned is an understatement. And we might arrive in the UK, to find people outside the clinic, roaring at us, calling us murderers.
And if we didn’t make that choice, we would have to raise the baby. You might say that we could “simply” put the baby up for adoption. And how would we explain that a girl who can keen for days over a lost doll?
Before this referendum was called, I was ignorant. I had no idea of the myriad of ways that the eighth amendment has affected Irish women’s healthcare and rights. I have heard some truly tragic stories, and I would never dream of standing in any woman’s house and forcing my choice upon her, especially when I don’t have to live with the consequences of that choice.
If tragedy ever strikes our house, don’t offer me your sympathy. Sympathy doesn’t buy a lot of nappies in Tesco. And don’t offer me your “support.” That can only be an empty promise.
The only thing I want from you is to vote YES on May 25th, so that WE – and not YOU – could decide what best to do for OUR family.
And if you are still set on voting No, and there’s an argument forming in your head about disabled people and abortion…just don’t. It isn’t relevant to this referendum. And in any case, this is my life, not a point-scoring exercise. Instead, re-read this post with an open heart and an open head.