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A Reflection on the Referendum

Since 2012 I have lived with M.E, an illness that is both deeply complex and largely misunderstood in equal amounts. While the trajectory of my journey of recovery has generally been on an upward curve, and for the past number of years I have found myself living as close to a normal life as could be expected, the past number of weeks I have hit a large impasse. I haven’t feared for my future this much in a long time, as I prepare for more hospital visits, journeys that I forgot filled me with such trepidation.

So what has all this got to do with the 8th amendment referendum I hear you ask? Today has been a tough day mentally, as I struggle to get to grips with the abject disappointment of my current health, and the impact this is having on my life today. As I spent much of this morning in silence, I began thinking about the issue of so called 'hard cases' that have been mentioned ad nauseam by both sides in the current debate. I have no doubt that I would not be considered a 'hard case' in this current debate; M.E is not even accepted as a clinical diagnosis by many within the medical field, even when the severity of impact it has on a persons well being and quality of life is so clear to see. So what if I were to be be pregnant?

I will never have to contend with carrying a pregnancy, but if I could, I could not imagine how I would do so in my current capacity. I hope, and truly wish, that my current issues are a minor blip in my continuous recovery. But I remain fearful. Is my life at risk? I'm not sure it is, but I am fighting to preserve my health. If I were pregnant, that wouldn't matter to those on the No side. My fear would not matter. The fact that I am exhausted with worry wouldn't matter. None of it would matter. Because the potential of another life that I would be carrying would be infinitely more worthy to those that don't know me. 

The No side have bandied about the figure of 97% of abortions in the UK being of 'healthy babies'. What about the women? What if I were one of those women deemed 'healthy enough to carry' in my current condition? No one knows the suffering of another person, or how large an impact a pregnancy could have on someone's health or well being. I sit here today, anxious for the future, unable to think of anyone else's health but my own. Yet amidst my anxiety, I am grateful that I only have to worry about my own health. I don't know how I would cope if that were not the case. 

Before you vote next week, think about what we are asking of women. I struggled with writing this piece because this referendum shouldn't be about how I feel today; it is about how women feel every day. But today is what brought it home to me. We must start relating to women more. It’s not enough to speak about this referendum in the absence of personal struggles. You need to imagine yourself in a very vulnerable position, whilst being forced to carry a pregnancy, when you are struggling to carry yourself. It's high time women were supported better and offered more choices. Now is our chance.

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