Women brave to challenge the stigma of abortion, says documentary-maker

Women brave to challenge the stigma of abortion, says documentary-maker

WOMEN campaigning for the pro-choice movement in Ireland are “breaking new boundaries” on abortion.

The younger generation refuse to entertain the “silence and stigma” around the topic, according to Alys Harte, the Irish journalist who documented both sides of the controversial debate for BBC Three.

“Speaking from my experience with the people we met with for this documentary, the fact that they did speak to us about their experiences of abortion and that we travelled with a young woman as she went to London for an abortion showed them to be pushing the boundary in a way that I hadn’t seen before,” Harte told The Irish Post this week.

“I do think there is a new bravery among the pro-choice movement,” she added, “one that is not without its risks for them personally and in connection with the law.”

The Donegal native spent a summer in pro-life and pro-choice camps across Ireland to document the debate around the issue of abortion, which remains an illegal act and contentious issue across the island.

Her work led her to a woman named Tara, who allowed the BBC Three film crew to accompany her to a London abortion clinic, offering a unique insight to British television viewers into Ireland’s divisive laws around terminating a pregnancy. 

“On day one on this project we sat down and said wouldn’t it be amazing to speak to a young woman who was travelling, because more than 4,000 Irish women travel for an abortion every year but they so rarely speak because of all the stigma attached,” Harte explained.

“So we put it at the top of our wish list, as it has not really been done before, and that’s the most important outcome of the programme for me — the fact that this young woman Tara came forward to do something which in my mind has not been done before and she did it with extraordinary bravery and honesty in the face of what is not always a friendly environment.

“People don’t always react well to stuff like that in Ireland so it was an incredibly brave thing for her to do.”

Many more Irish women were willing to talk to Harte about their experience of abortion for the ground-breaking documentary, some who are even willing to break the law in order to force change in Ireland.

“Tara was very impressive, she is a really capable woman,” Harte told us. “But lots of women spoke to us and I kind of think that in the last few years the issue around abortion in Ireland is changing. 

“It used to be uncomfortable. It used to be a wall of silence, but events have taken over and some really tragic, unthinkably sad and difficult cases have brought it to public attention in the last couple of years.

“For Tara’s generation, and the younger generation, they are moving away from that silence and stigma. She was very determined that that silence would be broken because she knows that she is one of thousands of women in her situation in Ireland and that someone should speak out.”

Abortion: Ireland’s Guilty Secret is available to view on BBC iPlayer.