I joined Medical Students for Choice (MSFC) during my first year of medical school at Trinity College Dublin. Before moving to Ireland, I was unaware of the strict abortion laws—all medical and surgical abortions are illegal unless continuing the pregnancy endangers the woman. I had worked with Planned Parenthood during university in Michigan and witnessed antichoice protests, but training in a country where up to 5,000 women have to travel abroad each year to access abortion services truly shocked me. Like the individuals Kathryn Joyce presents in “Meet the Medical Students for Choice” (Vol. XXXVI, No. 1), I knew I wanted to help advance abortion rights in my clinical training.
Joyce describes some of the complications prochoice medical students face in the US, where they are sometimes cautioned that advocating for choice could come at the cost of professional opportunities. I quickly learned that advocating for comprehensive reproductive healthcare in a predominantly conservative country has even more basic challenges. Medical Students for Choice Ireland has yet to achieve university society status, making recruitment and seemingly simple tasks like campus room reservations difficult. We are also a unique chapter in that we represent all of the six medical schools in the Republic of Ireland—another challenge when recruiting members and organizing events.
Several of the students in Joyce’s article were inspired by encountering communities where choice was limited or nonexistent. In the same way, I’ve found that Ireland, a country with a long history of strict reproductive legislation, has mobilized a number of inspiring prochoice groups. We invite many of these activists to speak at our annual conference—an event that functions not only as a teaching opportunity, but also as a setting for students, healthcare providers and advocates to collaborate.
As I enter my final year, I look forward to continuing MSFC’s work with this diverse group of allies to help make reproductive and sexual health equity a reality in Ireland. We may be working in different contexts, but Illinois med student Taylor Stanton said it best: “I can’t shake that feeling that I need to bring access to women who don’t have access.”
Medical Students for Choice, Trinity College Dublin