New research discovers illegal abortion cases in Twentieth Century Ireland
Academic looks at the history of abortion in Ireland before decriminalization in Britain
Prof Delay explains that these methods were not novel or unique to Ireland. They had been used for generations.
One woman, Sheila D, in 1950 in Dublin, who was later tried for a surgical abortion, first tried gin and hot baths, while her lover had told her to try very high jumps.
When physical harm or folk methods didn’t work, women turned to drugs. These would include swallowing Epsom salts, disinfectants, Dettol, Jeyes Fluid and laxatives.
Cases involved a Donegal woman, in 1932, was charged after she attempted to miscarriage by taking “six pills, the nature of which is unknown, two Beechams pills and a bottle of Castor Oil”.
A case from Monaghan in the Coroner’s Book, in 1862, discusses the death of Rose who died after she consumed large amounts of Savin and Juniper to induce miscarriage. According to the coroner’s remarks, Rose’s sister admitted that Rose had taken drugs to terminate a pregnancy six years earlier and was successful in that attempt.
Lastly, women turned to surgical abortions.
Professor Delay also found a 1944 letter from a single woman, called Karmel, who had an abortion. She had been seeing a man Dennis for a few weeks. One of the letters she wrote to him:
As I have been feeling desperately ill all week, I have been wondering whether it would be possible to give the operation done next Sunday afternoon. I have had to knock off work three times this week and of course there are questions being asked. I have been taking very strong doses of ergot and this has left me very weak—as I was warned it would do—and standing eight hours a day doesn’t improve matters. Please don’t think I am complaining (after all, I haven’t done so up until now) but frankly I’m in dread of losing this job. Anyhow, I will keep the appointment on Sunday morning at 11 for an X-Ray… I’ll fall in with any suggestion you make.”
Karmel had a surgical abortion but ended up in Holles St as an emergency case and, a few months later, wrote another letter to Dennis:
You’ll be relieved I’m sure, that everything is successfully over, with no (apparent) ill effects. I ended up as an emergency case in Holles St hospital! These last four months have been like a horrible nightmare. I cannot tell you how relieved and happy I am to know that the worry and sickness is at an end. The operations were naturally painful and an horrific nervous strain. However, that was my side of it and I would like to think I faced up to it as decently as you did to yours. Very many thanks for you help, Dennis. Good luck and good wishes.
In almost all of the correspondence Delay has studied, women portrayed abortion as their sole responsibility.
In her research, Prof Delay also finds that the networks, in which women sought help, were almost exclusively female.
She recounts one case from 1940, where an 18-year-old woman Nell turned to her grandmother for help after she found out she was four months’ pregnant. Nell’s grandmother told Nell’s mother, Mary. Mary turned to her two best friends, Margaret and Emily. The three women attempt an abortion on Nell, using soap and water, on Mary’s kitchen floor. The procedure went horribly wrong and Nell died. While she lay dying, likely from an embolism, Margaret and Emily ran down the road and knocked on the door of a retired maternity nurse, who lived two doors down. The nurse told them to get another nurse, who lived five streets away. The second nurse arrived and said ‘get the doctor’. The doctor came and said ‘call the guards’.
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You sat back on your effen arses and let the only real leader of Irish men since 1916 starve to death instead you went for the worm Ahern,Cowen &Nelson Mandela was against IRA decommissioning its arms during 2000 talks
We are noy plastic paddy's. WE ARE AMERICANS!! Stabbed in the back by Gerry Adam's backing of the PLO after the well went dry.Unionists regret US envoy Haass’ call for new flag for Northern Ireland (VIDEO)
Gerrymandering has long been a British tool to get their own way,.is dano saying that "gerrymandering" a new border is illegal? Then hes admNelson Mandela was against IRA decommissioning its arms during 2000 talks
Of course I salute Sands.