Today`s article is about the many young mothers in Ireland. Do religious motives play an important role? Are young mothers so numerous because of the impossibility to undergo an abortion in Ireland? I have been trying to find out today about the social position of young mothers in Ireland, the choices they make and what people think about the issue in general.
Tom (23), originally from London but living in Ireland for over ten years, has two Irish friends who underwent abortions in England in the recent past. In both cases, the girls were a lot younger than their boyfriends and in both cases, the girls thought of their pregnancy as a limitation in terms of their studies and carreers.
`I`m happy with my daughter`
He claims education is not to blame, as it is largely prevalent in schools and families alike. Tom mentions the `shag week` as an example how colleges attract attention for safe sex. During the shag week, people dressed up as condoms hand out condoms and educate people on safe sex. Pharmacist Kate (21) confirms that young people find their way to the pharmacy to buy contraceptives. She does specify however that the amount of condoms sold are on par with the number of pregnancy tests sold. The difference being that the latter are mostly purchases by women, while the contraceptives are generally bought by men.
It hasn`t always been like that. In the old days, women who got pregnant before they married were sent into convents and in a way banned from society. Contraceptives were intentionally banned until halfway the 80s and for a long time, pregnant women were not allowed to travel abroad. Margot (55, librarian) tells me about recent changes in legislation, and how a group of women travelled to Belfast to buy condoms and have themselves arrested when the ban was still on. Although slowly, their activities have certainly aided in the public opinion towards safe sex having changed since the early 70s. Another case that helped was the X-case, where a suicidal mum was not allowed to undergo an abortion in England. The rules have now become slightly more flexible, making it possible for women to travel to England in case their situation is considered life threatening. Also rape is slowly included in the list of acceptable reasons for abortion, but that is about the end of it.
Altogether, women who unintentionally get pregnant now have more options than they used to, but abortion is still seen as a source of shame, especially among the older generations. Many Irish, young and old alike, are greatly attached to the `Right to Life` of the unborn. Matilda (17) claims that she would `go to England` or `drop herself from the stairs` if she got pregnant tomorrow. Her two friends Jennifer (16) and Molly (15) are more hesitant. Jennifer is confident she would keep the child and raise it herself, while Molly would consider adoption as an option. All of them are especially scared of their parents` reaction. Matilda thinks that after a first shock, they would be helpful anyway. Generally speaking, all people I spoke to reported that they felt their choice was purely personal, and that they really felt free to decide for themselves.
That is also the opinion of Dennis (62) who has a 19-year old daughter. If she got pregnant, I would be more worried about her being fine than anything else. Dennis also explains how single young mothers can count on substantial government aid. Hagen (53), a German emigrant, says his main concern would be that the child be raised by a man and a women together.
Suspecting that the general attitude towards abortion originates from the Catholic Church, I also questions some people returning from prayer about their opinion on the matter. An older lady who wishes to remain anonymous says that abortion is completely unacceptable to her personally. When asked whether she would be able to remain friends with somebody having undergone an abortion, she replies: "It`s between them and the lord."
I am happy to find out that women feel they can make their own choice, in spite of or in line with the prevalent legislation. Ireland has always had a young population and having children at an early age is not seen as a general social problem. Having finished my research work for the day, I ask Jessica (21) whether I can take a photo of her and her daughter. She lets me, and I am happy that I will be able to talk about an easier subject tomorrow.
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