They called her Ms Y: Migration and abortion

pro-choice-protests-6-310x415They called her Ms Y. She is a young asylum seeker who had been raped in her country of origin. When she arrived in Ireland she realised she was pregnant during the medical examination; she asked for an abortion and was told she could have one at eight weeks. But by the time she had spent weeks in hospital, being assessed by a variety of psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and obstetricians, she was told that the only way of ending her unwanted pregnancy was to have a Caesarean section.

Like many other pregnant migrants, going for abortion in England was not an option for Ms Y. Although the process seemed to be in train, she found out that the estimated cost of travelling to England, having the abortion and possible overnight accommodation could be over €1,500 and that the State would not fund the costs. At this stage she was 16 weeks pregnant and although being pregnant because of rape is a source of great shame in her society, she had no option but to have that Caesarean section at 24 weeks.
A new December 2014 report by the IFPA, Right to Travel for Abortion Not Reality for All Women in Ireland (http://www.ifpa.ie/node/601) reveals that at least 26 asylum seekers or migrant women with travel difficulties who had used its counselling services in the 12 months prior were unable to access abortion abroad due to insurmountable legal, travel and financial obstacles. As a result at least five of the women were compelled to continue with their pregnancies and gave birth against their wishes.
In Ireland it is almost impossible for a pregnant asylum seeker to arrange travel to access abortion abroad. The first obstacle is obtaining an entry visa to the country they wish to go to; the UK has been reluctant to issue entry visas to women with temporary travel documents, so pregnant asylum seekers often prefer the Netherlands.

Continue reading “They called her Ms Y: Migration and abortion”

Book review: Pregnant on Arrival: Making the Illegal Immigrant, Eithe Luibheid

pregnant-on-arrivalPublisher: University of Minnesota Press 2013     Price: $25

ISBN 978-0-8166-8100-6

In January 2002, a Nigerian woman appealed to the Irish High Court to prevent her deportation on the ground that she was pregnant. Her lawyers argued that her deportation contravened Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution which guarantees to defend and vindicate the right to life of the unborn, who, Irish law considers to be ‘a person’. The woman, who became known as Ms O, had lost her asylum application and her appeal, but in a judicial review of her deportation order, building on the right to life of the unborn, she argued that due to high Nigerian infant mortality rates, the rights of her unborn child could not be guaranteed if she was deported. The Supreme Court rejected her appeal, apparently concluding that in the case of some (non-Irish) women, the unborn is not a person. In this book Eithne Luibhéid employs Ms O’s case alongside the infamous X case to draw attention to the long history of Irish women travelling across borders, both as emigrants and as women seeking abortions abroad, and the shorter history of women immigrating into Ireland, to suggest that the Irish state’s pro-life position is one of the factors shaping its approach to managing migration in and out of the country, and thus, that (hetero)sexuality is a factor in shaping Irish immigration policies.

Considering the plethora of recent books on the topic of immigration to Ireland and, to a lesser extent, emigration from Ireland, and though there had been several previous studies of Irish women emigrants,   it is surprising that Luibhéid’s Pregnant on Arrival: The Making of the Illegal Immigrant is the first volume to fully engender migration which, she argues, illustrates Ireland’s heteronormative regime. Luibhéid’s main argument is that constructing pregnant migrant women, and in particular pregnant asylum seekers, as illegal immigrants, has implications not merely for Ireland’s immigration and deportation regimes, but also for the future of the children born to these women through what she calls ‘reproductive futurism’. Continue reading “Book review: Pregnant on Arrival: Making the Illegal Immigrant, Eithe Luibheid”

Rest in power Christine Buckley – social reformer and fighter

christinebuckleyI was very saddened to hear of the death of Christine Buckley, the Irish-Nigerian woman survivor of Ireland’s gulags – the industrial school system run by religious orders. Christine has been battling with cancer and, in view of her suffering at the hand of the nuns during her childhood, her achievements are more than admirable.

Born in 1946 to a Nigerian medical student and a married Irish woman, Christine spent her childhood in several foster homes before a foster parent put her in the Sisters of Mercy’s Goldenbridge Industrial School, where she, like the other girls, was put to producing rosary beads for the nuns, where she was humiliated, beaten and not given a proper education. In the early 1990s, having survived cervical cancer, Christine decided to track down her parents. Encountering huge difficulties – the nuns were not amenable to share the vital information about her parents with her – she eventually managed to find first her Dublin mother, and then her Nigerian father.

I know quite a bit about Christine, as in 1996 my partner Louis Lentin, having heard an interview Christine had given to the Gay Byrne radio show, made contact with Christine, a meeting that led to the documentary ‘Dear Daughter’ about Christine tracing her parents and her experience in Goldenbridge. We lived with Christine’s story for many months, and when it was screened, ‘Dear Daughter’ had the highest viewing figures for any documentary on RTE, watched by a third of Ireland’s population at the time. Continue reading “Rest in power Christine Buckley – social reformer and fighter”