January 08, 2014 at 5:09
My name is Tara, I'm 27, and I have taken responsibility for my own health care. I use herbal remedies and preventative health measures where possible, due in part to a mistrust of the health care system as an unbiased support facility.
The first time I had a health issue I felt I couldn't discuss with my Mam was when I was 21. I had been living with my boyfriend for a few months and we'd had an accident with a condom (it had split). I was out of my mind with worry that night, knowing that getting pregnant was not an option for me. I didn't know who to speak to, or where to go for the elusive morning-after pill.
I ended up asking a friend of my boyfriends, as I knew he was well experienced in these matters. He told us that the only way to get the pill at an affordable price (he wasn't aware I could get it free on the medical card), was to drive over the border to a chemists in Newry.
After pooling together the thirty-or-so euro the pill would cost, my boyfriend's friend drove me and him to Newry. I was mortified having to go through this with two clueless guys but I was glad they were there, as I felt I had no-one else to turn to or speak with, and they tried their best to keep the nerves away.
When we arrived, the chemist invited me to leave them and go with her into what looked like a time-out corner, a cupboard-sized room in the back to have a "chat", since this was my first time getting the pill. What, an inquisition? Surely not. In I went and she proceeded to ask very invasive questions. Had I not been expecting the impending judgement, the questions may not have cut so close to the bone.
But inevitably, questions ended and she began lecturing me on having "responsible sex". I thought living with the guy and using a condom was being as responsible as possible. But apparently, 'responsible' means using a regular contraceptive pill.
Having used and been unsatisfied with the contraceptive pill for some years in my teens, I told her I would rather not go back on it. She seemed to disapprove but handed me the pill and a cup of water and watched me take it.
I left feeling small but relieved, as well as a little angry and a lot ashamed. I have since gotten the morning-after pill three more times for myself (including one more trip to Newry before I learned about getting it from my GP), and once, in secret, for a friend, who was too embarrassed to go herself. Each time, the GP or chemist involved gave me the same patronising speech, the same judgemental and pointless inquistion. Each time, I wonder to myself, has the morning after pill really been approved of, or just approved for sale?