Documentary follows Irishwoman’s journey to Britain for abortion

Documentary follows Irishwoman’s journey to Britain for abortion

A HARD-HITTING BBC documentary follows a young woman on her journey from Cork to London to access an abortion.

Tara, 24, shares the wide spectrum of emotions she experiences while travelling with her boyfriend to a West London clinic for the procedure, which is illegal in her home country.

Reporter Alys Harte is there both before and after the termination, where Tara — who fell pregnant while on the pill — is left feeling angry and “criminalised” at a time when she should have been protected.

“It has been a long day and I’d love to be home cuddling my dog, in my own bed right now,” the young Cork woman explains from a bench close to the Ealing clinic where she has just ended her pregnancy.

“It’s been tough and it makes me feel angry that the law at home is basically ignoring women at the moment. I should have this choice at home. It should have been so simple; I should have been able to do this two weeks ago, at home, when I found out. I deserved that choice; but it has been taken away from me by my government. I deserve to be treated as a human not as a criminal.”

Tara’s traumatic experience is one of many revealed in the one-off BBC programme Abortion: Ireland’s Guilty Secret which airs on BBC Three this week.

For Harte, who hails from southern Ireland, it was an opportunity to document both sides of the campaign around the issue of abortion in Ireland, which remains an illegal act and contentious issue across the island.

The programme begins in Belfast, where a pro-life rally has brought thousands of people out to the streets to march against abortion and in favour of the rights of the unborn child.

“Living in Belfast I am used to rallies like these,” claims Harte.

“These protesters look like they are fighting for change, but they are not. In Northern Ireland, unlike the rest of the UK, all abortions are illegal except when a woman’s life is in danger and they want to keep it that way.”

She adds: “The Pro-choice movement however think a woman should have the right to terminate a pregnancy if she chooses and they want the law changed to match the rest of the UK. 

“In Belfast this is a massive issue, but I don’t think I even realised how big it was until I stood here between these two groups.”

A number of young pro-life activists are happy to share their views with Harte for the production, with 16-year-old Gemma claiming “my job is to encourage a culture of life rather than a culture of death” and her friend Aiden adding “we’re defending the people who have no voice — the smallest in our society, the weakest in our society and the most vulnerable”.

The pair set out a pro-life stall in Belfast city centre every Saturday and claim there is no circumstance where an abortion is acceptable.

That message is reinforced by a number of campaigners when Harte travels to southern Ireland — where the unborn child is afforded the same legal rights as the pregnant mother — most vehemently among the Youth Defence pro-life campaign group.

“A baby is no less human because its dad is a rapist,” Youth Defence activists tell the reporter, while upsetting shoppers by setting up their graphic pro-life stall on a busy day in Galway’s city centre.

Yet Harte’s documentary serves to share some of the more emotive circumstances where women in Ireland feel they have no option but to abort their baby.

It features Sarah, who enjoyed five months of a very much wanted pregnancy before doctors informed her that her baby would not survive outside of the womb.

But despite the fatal foetal abnormality diagnosis, she was expected, under Irish law, to carry her baby to term.

Instead Sarah travelled to England to undergo a termination. 

 “I could not carry a baby knowing that at the end of the pregnancy I would be planning a funeral,” she explains.

Since then Sarah has been campaigning for an amendment to abortion law in the North of Ireland to allow terminations in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities and has had an audience with First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Some progress is being seen to be won in the south of Ireland also, according to Harte.

“The abortion debate is getting louder and angrier here on both sides of the border,” she claims.

“In past years the women at the heart of this have barely been heard, but in making this film I discovered that this is changing.”

She added: “Women are talking about this in a way they never have before and in the end that has to have an impact on this debate.”

Abortion: Ireland’s Guilty Secret airs on BBC Three at 9pm on Wednesday, February 4