One Family is calling for a YES vote on 25 May to remove the 8th amendment as we know from our work over 45 years with women experiencing unplanned or crisis pregnancies that it harms their mental and physical health.

We know that the issue of abortion in Ireland is sensitive, divisive, shaming and often secret. We know that it has been hard for some of our clients that we have taken this position as they may not agree with us but we do still really respect their position. We know that this referendum campaign has been hard for many, many women who have had unplanned pregnancies or had abortions. We know that this national conversation is polarised, sometimes misinforming and can overlook real people’s lived experiences.

Whilst we have always provided non-directive counselling to people experiencing a crisis pregnancy looking at all the options including abortion where requested; we want to take this opportunity to clearly explain why we are asking you to vote Yes on 25 May.

In our work we deal on a daily basis with the reality of lives in Ireland – not just the theory or the abstract. We deal with the lived reality of women, their children, their families, their partners, in relation to many intimate aspects of their lives. We deal with their parenting concerns, their pregnancy concerns, their financial concerns, their separating concerns, their family law concerns and above all their concerns about their children.

The lived reality of many women in Ireland is that when faced with an unplanned or crisis pregnancy they experience despair. Despair at whatever difficulties they may be experiencing in life already; despair at what their very limited options are; despair at trying to make the best decision they can for themselves and their family at the time.

No woman wants to have an abortion – but they may need to avail of one. They may resent having to have an abortion, or be fearful or be ashamed – but they still need one. We have repeatedly seen that the need to travel to another country compounds the difficulties that women in Ireland face. We have repeatedly seen that even though we have made it really difficult for a woman in Ireland to have an abortion they still need them and they still have them. They just do so at a horrendous price to themselves and their families.

There are as many reasons for needing an abortion as there are women. Each situation is unique and everyone’s feelings about their abortion are unique.

We know that we have worked with women who might be perceived as being ‘hard cases’ – women who have been raped, who have experienced severe domestic violence, young women who have been abused, women whose happy pregnancies became tragedies as they realised their babies would not live. We also know that we have worked much more often with women who might be perceived as having ‘ordinary abortions’. Abortions because they cannot cope with another child, because they are homeless, because their sister has just had a baby with special needs and they are supporting her, because their partner has just left them, because they are ill, because their parent is ill, because they are living in poverty, because they know they cannot become a parent right now.

Does it matter why women need to have abortions or is it more important that we do not make it more difficult for them than it has to be? Should we get to decide which abortions are most acceptable for women to have? Should we get to decide whether a situation is bad enough for a woman to need an abortion or should we just respect her reality?

In previous referenda, people debated what kind of marriages people should be allowed leave – how bad did they need to be? What should be borne by a wife or husband? But we have moved on now and we mostly do not blame people for marital breakdown, we try to be supportive and kind and compassionate. After all, nobody planned on getting divorced when they married.

Equally no woman who has ever sat in one of our counselling rooms planned on having an abortion. For One Family this referendum is about the opportunity to be able to really see and respect the full reality of life in Ireland, including women’s lives in relation to abortion.

We do not want to harm women any more. We do not want women’s mental health and that of her children and family to be harmed by her having to travel in secret and at great expense for an abortion. We do not want women’s physical health and lives harmed anymore by her taking abortion pills illegally or by having complications in pregnancy.

When One Family was set up 46 years ago as Cherish, the founders were struggling to be allowed by a rigid and judgmental Irish society to be able to keep and raise their own children. Tens of thousands of women, men and their children since then have been helped by the work we do. Many hundreds of thousands of people have been brave and true to their own families, to the love in their families and to their own truth. Over time Ireland has become a more compassionate and reflective society – nobody wants to go back to the horrors of forced adoption, Mother & Baby Homes, and harsh judgments.

Abortion is part of this story, it is part of real life, it is here for good and we cannot make it go away. We can do our very best as we do in One Family to make Ireland a better place for women to be able to raise children on their own – but nobody will be able to remove all the myriad of unique reasons why women need to have abortions in Ireland. No sound bites about loving both or the joy of adoption will make this possible.

This is our opportunity to show women we really see them, we care about them and we respect them. For all the women with all the different kinds of abortions that have happened in the past and will happen into the future – please vote YES so that we can stop hurting them so much.

If you would like factual information about the referendum please see the following sources:

The Referendum Commission of Ireland

Legal information about the 8th amendment:

Medical information about the 8th amendment and what would happen in the case of it being repealed from the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists:

Listen to the Irish Times Women’s Podcast ‘Ordinary women and the 8th referendum’ where One Family Counselling Manager, Marguerite McCarty is interviewed.