"It was absolutely my choice to make" - Kitty Holland

The Irish Times journalist spoke to Newstalk Breakfast about her experiences of having two abortions

"It was absolutely my choice to make" - Kitty Holland

Kitty Holland. Photo: Brian Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Journalist Kitty Holland says she received a "very mixed" response after opening up about her experience of having two abortions.

Earlier this year, The Irish Times social affairs correspondent spoke and wrote about her experiences, while calling for more diverse voices in the ongoing campaign to change Ireland's restrictive abortion laws.

In an interview with Newstalk Breakfast, Kitty began by explaining the reasoning behind her first termination.

She recalled: "I was in my late 20s - 27 - and I had just started freelancing at The Irish Times [...] I was guaranteed no shifts at all, so I had no regular income and was working week-to-week. I was coming to the end of a relationship - we both knew, he and I, that the relationship was going south. We hadn’t been careful enough and I got pregnant.

"In my mind, I was not financially secure. I was just starting out on my career in The Irish Times [and] I really wanted to make a go of it."

She made up her mind 'immediately' to not continue with the pregnancy, but first went to a counselling session in Dublin where she heard the options available to her.

"We all knew why I was there," she said. "They give me the details of their clinic in Brixton, in London. I flew over to London without himself... I went over to stay with a friend. He offered to come, but I said ‘no, I just want to go and get this done’.”

Several years later, Kitty (who was 30 at the time) had her first child - Rosie - who is now 15.

"That was fantastic," she told Paul. "I was in a more financially secure situation, and I was able thankfully to be able to choose to have that baby - and I’m delighted I did."

"I had to decide what was best to do"

When Kitty became pregnant again in her mid-30s, she found herself in a very difficult position.

She observed: "When I found out I was pregnant, it was a huge shock. My instinctive reaction immediately was to have another termination - which is never an easy choice to have a second one.

"I suppose I had to decide what was best to do. I was trying to do the best thing by Rosie, who was very happy with her life, [...] I was trying to do the best thing by the man I was in a relationship with, because he didn’t want to have a baby."

She added: "There was a part of me that was surprising myself in that I was thinking ‘maybe I do want to have a baby’ [...] I kept suppressing that - there was the head and the heart going all the time, and the head was telling me not to."

For Kitty, making the decision to have a second abortion was "agonising".

"I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t concentrating at work, I wasn’t concentrating on Rosie," she said. "I spent endless long conversations with the father talking about it - and he was very clear, he didn’t want to become a father.

"I was pushing down my own feelings to try and please other people, and keep other people happy. Looking back… I wasn’t being true to myself at the end of the day, because I travelled to have a second termination."

Ultimately, she travelled to Amsterdam for the abortion, which she described as a 'much nicer experience' than going to London. Initially, she felt relieved - but soon she started questioning whether or not she had done the right thing.

"I just really couldn’t get past that - it just began to dominate everything," she recalled.

"Sometimes we make the wrong choices for ourselves"

Kitty visited the Well Woman clinic in Dublin for counselling, and she was soon paying regular visits as she attempted to come to terms with her decision.

"I was in for about a year, and in fact I’ve been back a few times over the years. But certainly for that year, I was going back every week and doing a lot of crying."

However, she stresses that it was her choice and decision to make.

"It might not have been the right decision for me, but it was absolutely my choice to make," she argued. "Sometimes we make the wrong choices for ourselves, and we often make wrong choices - whether it’s a wrong marriage we go into, or the wrong career we take up. In this case, it was a wrong decision about a termination.

"One hopes you learn from them, but at the end of the day the Irish women must be trusted to make the decisions for themselves, even if sometimes that’s the wrong one."

Kitty said that getting pregnant again a year or so later helped her get over the sadness she was feeling about her second termination.

"One abortion I have no regrets about," she said. "The second one I have to say now I don’t regret, because I wouldn’t have had Alfie otherwise."

Kitty says the reaction to her speaking out publicly has been "very mixed".

"I got a lot of people [who were] very supportive, particularly from people not involved in the campaign," she observed. "Four Traveller women were in touch with me, to say how much they were happy that I’d said marginalised voices weren’t enough to the forefront in the campaign."

She says that despite some defensiveness from those involved in the Repeal campaign, the points she raised about broadening the campaign have since come up in discussions about the movement.

Ultimately, she suggests that while it was difficult to speak out as she did, she hopes that the conversation she started has been a worthwhile one.

"On social media I got called pathetic, wrong-headed, irritating," she concluded. "I got a lot of abuse - but I hope people have taken a step back and maybe taken something from it."