Some lies are particularly prevalent when people are discussing figures about repeat abortion. Some people have had more than one abortion. This is true. There are figures which show this clearly. Many imply (or outright say!) that these people should have “learned their lesson” the first time, or that these people are simply lazy or ignorant of contraception, or should “keep their legs closed”. (At this point, it seems prudent to point out that many people who would like others to “learn their lesson” are also people who do not accept that pregnancy is a burden which someone may not be able to bear, but insist that every child is a blessing.)

Let’s address these points in order.

The sex education system in Ireland has a lot to answer for, not the least is the woeful understanding that many people seem to have about contraception. So here comes a primer.

Contraception is not perfect. It is incredible to me that I have to say that aloud. It is not perfect. Even with perfect use, contraception is not 100% perfect. And it doesn’t have perfect use. With typical use, pregnancy happens. Even when you are using contraception.

In fact, in 2014, over 50% of people accessing Marie Stopes services were using contraception when they became pregnant. Over half of the people were using contraception. Let that sink in. Almost 60%, actually. Not lazy, not about “lessons”.

Contraception failure happens. More often than you think. It’s insulting to imply that person didn’t “learn a lesson”. What’s more, contraception failure happening once certainly doesn’t preclude it happening a 2nd or 3rd time. The idea that you should just use contraception and then you would never need an abortion is laughable. Contraception isn’t magical, it fails. And it can fail more than once. There isn’t a lesson to be learned, or a conclusion to be drawn. You can do everything by the book, and even everything by the restrictive “good, moral sex” book, and still end up pregnant. It happens.

Further, the idea that one can simply keep their legs closed in order to avoid pregnancy, in our current culture, is laughable. Marital rape in Ireland was only made a crime in 1990, and since then, just two people have been convicted of it. Two. Some people seem very concerned that people will be coerced into abortion by doctors after a FFA diagnosis, but they do not seem to be as concerned about the fact that many will end up pregnant as a result of being coerced into sex.

Leaving aside the issue of imperfect contraception, we also know that many people are faced with the diagnosis of a FFA (fatal foetal abnormality). What people seem to be ignoring is that abortion may not be a one-time choice for these people either.

If you are a carrier of a genetic condition, and your partner is too, then your child has up to a 50% chance of developing that condition (This percentage varies depending on autosomal dominance, etc.) The chances vary depending on the type of genetic disorder, and whether both parents are carriers, or whether it is autosomal dominant, recessive, etc. There are many factors which play into this. But with two autosomal dominant parents, the chance of a child inheriting a particular condition can be as high as 1 in 2. It may be possible to lower these odds, but it usually requires significant medical intervention – IVF, embryo selection, donor sperm or egg, etc. It is not trivial.

But, importantly, it doesn’t disappear because you’ve had more than one pregnancy. The chance is always present. In fact, if you’ve had one pregnancy with a genetic malformation, the chance of you having a second is often higher.

There are too many iterations of different conditions and different ways of inheriting conditions to go into in extensive detail. A decent overview of some of this information can be found here

It discusses, in easy to understand language, the different risk factors for genetic disorders.
In short, having a pregnancy where a foetus is diagnosed with a condition which is incompatible with life may not be a once-off for prospective parents. Unfortunately, they may find themselves having to travel more than once for the same reason. Tarring these women with some sort of “too lazy to use contraception” brush helps no one. It is insulting and hurtful in the extreme.

People like to imply that women are just lazy, or just casually using abortion as contraception, but the truth is that we can’t know for sure why women have more than one abortion. We do, however, know that contraception is not infallible. We do know the risks of genetic conditions being passed from parent to child. We do know that those risks increase when a previous pregnancy has had issues. It is lazy and ignorant to imply that women are simply too lazy or ignorant to use contraception, and I’m tired of hearing it.

Women are not helped by judgemental comments about their decisions. They are not helped by implications that they are too stupid or lazy to use contraception. This is not how you love both.

Women need access to free, safe, legal abortion, without judgement about the reasons for accessing abortion.