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This blog is the first in a series Caroline will be writing for us, and explores some of the discourse surrounding disabled women in Scotland.
Since I saw the video of Elin Ersson preventing the deportation of a man to Afghanistan from Sweden a few days ago, I just haven’t been able to get it out of my head. When I tell people about it I get goosebumps. It gives me hope in a world where hope seems naïve.
As young women, we are told not to take up space. To sit down and shut up, and never, never to inconvenience others. Elin does none of these things.
Just imagine the bravery that takes. You know that people on the flight are keen to get home, to start their holidays, to visit loved ones. You know that flight attendants are just doing their jobs, and have enough to deal with without this. You know that there are children on the flight who are scared (more by the shouting man who just stole your phone, than by your calm act of bravery). You know that you are drawing attention to yourself online, with all of the dangers that poses for women.
And still you stay standing, voice shaking, to save a life.
Imagine two women; one lives in Belfast; the other in Edinburgh. Both women have decided to terminate their pregnancy. The one in Edinburgh is covered by the 1967 Abortion Act. She’ll need to seek approval from two doctors before proceeding, and has other barriers to overcome, but she has access to a safe and legal abortion. For the woman in Northern Ireland, the situation is one of the worst in the western world. The abortion law dates to 1861, so it’s hardly surprising that terminations are heavily restricted: an abortion is only available if there is a serious, permanent or long-term risk to the life or health of the woman. For the woman in Belfast, a termination will involve extensive planning and travelling, as well as emotional and financial costs. As she cannot exercise her reproductive rights at home, she will have to leave and travel across the sea to terminate her pregnancy, purchase illegal medicine online, or continue with an unwanted or unviable pregnancy.
The images of the Yes campaign in Ireland are still imprinted in my mind: pictures of women campaigning under banners of “Together for Yes”; the bold white “REPEAL” letters on black jumpers; the red heart emblazoned with “Repeal the 8th”; and #hometovote. It was only last week that the Yes campaign won, but it already feels like an age. Almost as soon as the last constituency results were announced, our collective gaze shifted north to focus on the punitive, regressive law that remains in place in Northern Ireland. While mainstream attention to the abortion law in Northern Ireland is long overdue, confusion has set in over how women’s reproductive rights can be realised in Northern Ireland.
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