WOMEN have spoken. Ireland has voted in record numbers to liberalise abortion laws and repeal the Eighth Amendment to Ireland’s constitution, the amendment that professes love and equality while costing women their life chances, health and lives.

In 2012, Savita Halappanavar died a painful death in the name of this traditionalist, patriarchal standard of morality. A brutal, unnecessary and entirely preventable death. She suffered because her life mattered less than that of the 17-week-old foetus she was miscarrying. Preservation of her life was an afterthought, way down in the list of priorities after appeasing God, the Catholic Church and the state.

Six years on, the tragedy has reshaped a nation. Her story is just one in a country where the draconian law has not only failed to maintain the religiously motivated social order, but also failed women entirely, forcing them to take extreme measures to access the same standard of reproductive healthcare as other women in the Western world. One in four women will seek a termination in her lifetime, something that should can and should be safe, easy and universally available.

The amendment has allowed Ireland to avert its eyes from the truth, that women have and always will need abortions. They just don’t talk about them. Shame and social stigma fasten lips. They tell us what we should be, punish for us for what we’re not. They isolate women from one another and make us afraid of owning our truths.

When I was 18, I had a termination. I never thought I’d write that sentence, let alone in a newspaper. Those four words have been locked away in a reliquary of brackish, painful things for 13 years, with all the memories that still bite when I reach for them.

For years, I thought that to talk of my choice would be to confess I was the wrong kind of woman. Shame secured my silence and my complicity in a lie about bad women and good women. I couldn’t imagine a time when that sentence could be formed aloud and offered, without worrying about its potential, though in the last year that has changed as the Repeal project brought story after story out of the depths.

I told my daughter, my partner and my friend, and added my voice to those on social media, to show how normal and quotidian ending a pregnancy can be. I no longer see my body as negotiable, as something that anyone else has a say over other than me. I’m not ashamed of it. No woman should be. It’s taken more than a decade to realise how fortunate I am to live in Scotland. In my lifetime, abortion has always been an option for women and girls here. It wasn’t casually announced, nor free of judgment, but it was there should it be needed. When I needed one, I had options. I didn’t have to travel, I wasn’t picketed, I didn’t have to buy drugs on the internet and face prison for choosing not to have a child. I wouldn’t have to keep the baby and suffer the double bind of maternal expectation and the shame of moral transgression. All I had to do was ask and help was available. My pregnancy was not a crisis. I had not been raped or suffered anything graver than bad luck. The unremarkable truth of it is that I was at university, a relationship had ended, and I noticed after a while that my period was late. One test in a public bathroom and a lot of swearing later, I had an unwanted pregnancy. There was no question of having a baby. I lived in a shared flat. I worked part-time. I had blue hair, a broken heart and exams. There was no baby in this messy, incomplete diorama, and there didn’t need to be.

I saw my GP in secret. The one who’d seen me for sniffles and anaemia, in the company of my mother and sisters. The one who knew I was going off to university and who asked me how my exams were going. This time I was on my own. I told him, and he confirmed the pregnancy. He made the referral, and I went on as usual in the weeks until the procedure.

I switched to soft drinks and tried to sleep on my side instead of my stomach. In those weeks, I allowed myself to imagine a different future in the interim, in case I succumbed to a natural, maternal surge on the way to the hospital, fate and biology intervening. Safeguards in case a different future materialised, where I wasn’t skint, or 18, or raising a baby myself on a student loan.

It didn’t happen like that. There were no signs, no theatrics. Just a quiet attempt at succour to the not-quite-thing, an explanation and an apology for not having my life together yet. I made peace with my decision, went inside, and joined the sorority of women who did the unmentionable and told no-one.

Terminating a pregnancy is a private thing. It’s not something you announce or share without careful consideration, without understanding the ramifications of that honesty. If it is mentioned, there’s an accepted way to talk about it, with caveats and trauma and quiet reverence, especially when you’ve been raised a Catholic.

You talk about hard decisions, about emotions, about invasive medical procedures. You speak with resignation and regret and seek forgiveness for your actions. If you do, you might be spared the full opprobrium that accompanies such a brazen, unwomanly act.

You might be made an exception of for being pious, and put-upon, and forced into the hardest of decisions. The only “right” way to view your abortion is to be ashamed. Only then might you be spared full magnification of that shame in others.

My abortion involved none of those things. It was an easy, instant decision, and I’ve never regretted it. I needed no counselling, was neither grief-stricken nor injured in any way. The hospital staff were understanding, efficient and discreet. I entered a situation and left free to continue my life, without impacting on others or closing the doors I’d worked hard to open. I was relieved. But this was not something to be shared, because to be those things in the face of such profundity was to wade into the waters of fallen women, where labels stick like vandal grease.

But there are no fallen women. Only women who make decisions others disapprove of. That only stops when we get in beside them, reach a hand out to them and swim together until the tide changes. That’s what’s happened in Ireland. The referendum result has reached out to all who made the decision to terminate, unshackling the weight of shame from those of us who have carried it in secret.