#BBCtrending: The woman in Ireland who tweeted her abortion story

  • 17 February 2014
A composite image showing Janet Ni Shuilleabhain now (right) and 20 years ago (left)
Image caption Janet Ni Shuilleabhain was 18 when she travelled to England for an abortion

Some women who have an abortion don't even tell their closest friends and family - but one woman in Ireland has used Twitter to tell the story of her abortion 20 years ago, in the hope it will help lift the "taboo".

"I actually didn't intend to share my story," says Janet Ni Shuilleabhain, a blogger and mother of two teenagers who lives in Dublin. But share she did. And in a very wide forum. For the past week, Shuilleabhain has been running the @ireland Twitter account, which has 20,000 followers. Set up in March 2012, it is an example of a "rotation curation" account - with a new guest tweeter taking the reins each week.

Ni Shuilleabhain decided to tell her story after getting a series of "nasty" messages from anti-abortion activists. "I got sad, and then I got angry," she says. "Then I thought, sod it, I was going to tell my story, I wasn't going to be silent."

On Thursday afternoon, over the period of just over an hour, she tweeted almost 100 times, telling the story of how she travelled with her boyfriend to England when she was 18 to have an abortion - telling her parents they were off on a "romantic weekend".

In the tweets, she explains how the "pale, serious faces" of three women on the flight made her suspect they were there for the same thing. After waking from the anaesthetic, she explains how she "cried from relief and sadness". "There are so many of us who have had an abortion, but the shame and stigma has kept us silenced for too long," she tweeted.

Ireland has strict rules on abortion. In 2013 - after a referendum and huge political debate - the law was changed to allow abortion in cases where the mother's life is in danger, but it remains illegal in other circumstances.

Ni Shuilleabhain deliberately didn't look at any of the responses until she had finished her story. When she was done, she says: "I took a deep breath and braced myself."

The reaction was mostly positive, with many people praising her courage and honesty. Some were critical, saying the @ireland account should not be handed over to someone with a clear agenda. Ni Shuilleabhain would like to see the law on abortion relaxed in Ireland and is a campaigner with the Abortion Rights Campaign. Darragh Doyle, who curates the account, defended the choice - saying they are careful to select people from a wide cross section of society. "We're looking for interesting people who have something to say on behalf of our country."

Reporting by Cordelia Hebblethwaite

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