In today’s Irish Independent there is an article by Celine Naughton entitled “Why women shouldn’t think of abortion as a ‘dirty little secret”. The article is about a new website which has been set up by two women Lynn Coles and Bernadette Goulding and which aims to provide support to women who are struggling after having had an abortion.

Bernadette Goulding is quoted as saying “we can’t change the past, but we can spare people years of suffering and help them move forward to a brighter future.” A good idea surely. Not according to the National Women’s Council of Ireland.

The article quotes Susan McKay, director of the NWCI as saying “the NWCI supports a woman’s right to choose. Abortion is a serious undertaking and women don’t go into it lightly but for many it is the right decision. And while there may be sorrow, there is no need for remorse or regret.”

This position of the NWCI underlines beautifully one of the fundamental problems with the feminist movement in Ireland. It does not embrace all women. Just like the constant campaigning for better child care and shared parenting, we hear little about supporting women who choose to take a break from the world of work to stay at home and look after their children. It seems to be assumed that all women want the same thing. That we all define ‘success’ in the same way – and we don’t.

Now it seems that our reaction to abortion should be the same – no remorse, no regret. Women (like men) are not a homogenous group. We are not all the same. I am not at all surprised that some women feel deep hurt and regret after an abortion. Why are these emotions not considered a valid response to a huge event in a woman’s life?

I support a woman’s right to choose – in every sense. In her choice of work, in her choice of childcare and I certainly would wish to see women who are hurt by abortion being supported in their journey back to wellness.

As I have written before, march on sisters but remember many of us are hearing a very different drum.

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  1. What a ridiculously sweeping, general statement! How could anyone say “there is no need for remorse or regret”? There might be no need for those, or any, emotions; but that does not mean that they are not experienced. You can't legislate against emotion.

    It's certainly a regrettably short-sighted statement if nothing else.

  2. I agree there is so much complexity in the lives of humans. On the other hand I am glad that the Women's Council is there because at least there can be an official focus on women's issues. It's very hard to keep flogging these old horses, been there, done that have a lot of T-shirts!!
    Healing form hurt is a universal and intimate thing, whatever gets you through the night is alright! Thanks for your thoughts as ever.

  3. Couldn't agree more! I think the founder of that group said that she herself had gone through trauma afterwards and of course it's important that these women have somewhere they can go for help and support. I hate the way a certain cohort of 'feminists' just discount the life experiences of some women when it doesn't fit in with their beliefs.

  4. Hear hear!

    I don't believe that NWCI can categorically say anything along these lines. I'd have thought that even the most ardent pro-choice campaigner would think long & hard about choosing abortion, and that many who do make this choice will have many conflicting thoughts on their decision before & after.
    It's unfair to dismiss those thoughts in such a cavalier way in my view.

    I was also very uncomfortablea about the comments made by Susan McKay on VINB one night when the victims of symphisiotomy were featured.

    I (genuinely) don't know where NWCI / SMK gets a mandate to speak for women in Ireland, but neither the Council nor SMK represent my views on this matter, and on many others.

  5. I googled that women site and its founders, and came to the conclusion that they are a anti choice christian group parading as support, …support I wouldnt trust as far as I could throw.
    interesting post, as usual:)

  6. Susan Mc Kay also said – I feel it is counter-productive as it sends out the message that women should feel guilty – which I think might be closer to the truth of her issue with the site? As you point out, the womens council dont speak for us all, but I dont think they claim to either?

  7. Hi ladies… thanks to each of you for reading and for taking the time to comment.

    I guess the central point is that the National Womens Council of Ireland say that are working for equality for women in Ireland. But I have found that only for women that fall within their idea of how or what women should be. The freedom to choose means that women can be whoever they want to be and should be supported in that. It also means that if there are women who are hurt emotionally by abortion and need support they should have it.

    Not all women want the same thing! I know I keep banging on about that point! And The National Womens Council of Ireland should represent all women – otherwise they need a new name!

  8. Feminism is mostly a patriarchal creation designed to fool women into believing they are now equal to men and free to choose.All wombmen are different. However,society still does not put women and children first.Society sees women as free labour still.The patriarchal system still has control over women's fertility. Guilt is the gift that keeps on giving.

  9. I am disappointed that you appear to have fallen into the trap of believing in a cliched characterisation of the Women's Council.

    I've worked in the community sector for a number of years, and for a number of different organisations, and I can genuinely say that the Women's Council is one of the most inclusive organisations I've come across – of women in all their diversity.

    You say that they don't seek to support women to take a break from work to look after their children, but you're clearly not familiar with the organisation's work, which includes leading the campaign against cuts in Child Benefit, not least because it's such an important source of income for the mothers you describe, as well as campaigning for longer and better paid maternity leave, and for paid paternity leave so that both parents have the opportunity to take time out of work to spend with their children when young. They argue that poor women should not be denied the opportunity to parent young children full time, just because their only source of income is social welfare. And yes they campaign on childcare – arguing that this should be available to mothers who are not in paid employment as well as those who are (at a cost related to income). All of these policy positions etc. are freely available on the organisation's website.

    Words A Day above noted some of the reasons why Susan McKay might have concerns about this particular organisation. No one should feel guilty about an abortion, but women who are hurt deserve better than be faced with a covert ideological agenda when they are vulnerable and need support. That the Women's Council might have concerns about this particular organisation is not the same as denying the validity of different emotional responses. You don't appear to have given this point much consideration.

    I'm often struck by how critical women can be of each other. Maybe if we spent a little less time criticising other women, and a little more supporting each other, we'd all be in a better place.

    Have a look at the Women's Council website – you might find them much more accommodating of different choices than you think!

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