Abortion has always been a topic that has provoked extreme reactions and a topic that I have always felt incredibly strongly about. Ever since I found out what abortion was, it struck me as strange that it is illegal in Ireland. Surely, a democratic country that allows its citizens to vote in a government, pay taxes and generally live their lives should allow said citizens to decide whether or not they wish to have a child?

Abortion, to me, is a human right. We are humans with free will in a grossly overpopulated world. Surely if a woman or couple decide that they do not wish to bring a child into this world, they should be offered a service by which they can safely and legally abort a foetus, without having to make the journey across the Irish Sea to avail of an abortion?

For me, abortion can only take place up until a certain point; I am not in favour of late-term abortions. Safe and legal abortion up until 24 weeks is something that every woman is entitled to. Why aren’t we campaigning for this louder? Pro-life activists fail to realise that pro-choice campaigners are not pro-abortion. I am not forcing anyone to have an abortion: I am simply asking that the choice is there. If someone does not agree with abortion and falls pregnant, they are perfectly within their right to carry their child to term, keep it, or give it up for adoption. I simply do not appreciate the mentality that it’s okay to make a woman or a couple feel like guilty criminals for making an informed choice about their lives.

Pro-life activists seem to think that prohibitive laws like the ones in Ireland will stop people from having abortions, but this is simply not the case. According to one pro-choice website, at least 123,258 women from the Republic have travelled to the United Kingdom for an abortion between 1980 and 2005. This figure only measures women who choose to give Irish addresses at abortion clinics, and women that have travelled to the UK. The real figure is probably a lot higher. With this in mind, surely it is time to repeal these laws? They are not stopping Irish women from getting abortions – they are, in fact, putting them in grave physical and psychological danger.

The problem of rogue crisis pregnancy agencies is rife in Ireland. Crisis pregnancy agencies are unmonitored by the government, meaning that rogue agencies can advertise services using psychological methods to dissuade a woman from terminating the pregnancy. Former ‘clients’ report being shown pictures of foetuses, encouraged to name their child, and told that the guilt of an abortion will consume them if they go ahead with it. These agencies thrive on governmental apathy towards women’s rights, and would not exist should proper legislation be written on crisis pregnancy agencies.

In legislating for abortions, the government would be helping numerous citizens. We cannot put faith in a country that does not allow us to make basic decisions that affect our lives so greatly. Personally, I feel let down by a government that has allowed the religious minority to dictate to me how I should live my life. In a true democracy, a pregnant woman should have all of the options and should be fully supported by the people she has voted into the Dáil, regardless of what option she chooses.

The current laws are incredibly extreme. Women who have abortions can go to jail for life, and there are no provisions in place for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest, or for severely deformed foetuses that cannot live outside the womb. Our country denies our basic rights. To expect a woman to carry a baby that is the product of rape is not only negligent, but barbaric.

Ireland needs to move with the times. We live in an era that means that safe, sterile and legal abortion should be an option for all. We can no longer be slaves to those who wish to control our lives. I am not asking for forced abortion; I am simply asking for the opinions, rights and choices of people to be recognised. If TDs expect us to vote them into government, then they should be ready to represent us and our views. It is time that democracy truly meant choice in Ireland.