So, before I begin, I’m not writing this anonymously because I’m ashamed in any way but because I like to choose who I share personal things with. Abortion is often spoken about in hushed tones or not at all. In the last decade or so people have begun to speak about their experience to help others. Busy Phillips started #youknowme and shared her abortion experience. Comedian Michelle Wolf talks about her experience on her Netflix Special, “Joke Show.” These are very American examples so I thought I would give the perspective of the experience in Australia.
In Australia, each state has had different abortion laws. The decriminalising of abortion started in 1998 and South Australia was the last state to decriminalise abortion in 2021. Recent statistics show a reduction in abortions across Australia at 13.5 per 1000 women.
In comparison in the US, where Roe v Wade is the current hot topic, 1 in 4 women have an abortion before the age of 45. Recriminalizing abortion will not stop abortion, it will stop SAFE abortions. Read that again.
When abortions were illegal in Australia, people still got them. There is an episode in A Place to Call Home (an Australian drama set after WWII) where the main character goes to a back-alley abortionist where she changes her mind. However, abortionist ends up killing a young girl due to negligence. That is not right. All women regardless of age, class, race or country should have access to safe medical care.
When I had my abortion, I was 19 and I had been with my boyfriend for less than a year. I was also in the early days of learning about and addressing my mental health so emotionally I was a mess. When I told my partner he was supportive, and we discussed our options. We came to the conclusion that we were not emotionally or financially ready to be parents so he booked me an appointment at the Marie Stopes clinic and took the day off work to be with me. I was sad and nervous about both the procedure and the moral implications of my choice. Abortion was never talked about in a positive way, so I had no idea what to expect.
I was only about 6 weeks pregnant at the time, so it was very early, but I chose to get a surgical abortion rather than the chemical one. The chemical one requires a few medications, and the tissue passes on its own over a few days. I thought the best option for me was to get what they call a D and C (dilation and curettage) procedure where they clean out your uterus while you are asleep. I chose this because I felt like experiencing the loss over a few days would be more intensely traumatic. This way, it was all done, and I could work on the mental side of recovering.
When I got to the clinic, the nurse took me to a small room to discuss the paperwork and procedure. She was wonderful - she explained everything well and as per protocol she did an ultrasound. She asked if I wanted to see it which surprised me because I know that in the US some doctors insist you look at the ultrasound, but I had a choice. I chose to look, and I actually asked for a copy. Although I wasn’t staying pregnant, I wanted the ultrasound to remind me. I wouldn’t be able to bury anything or have a memorial, so I wanted something to honour the sacrifice.
After all the paperwork was done, I got changed into a gown and they took me back to the operating room. I laid on a table and they gave me twilight sedation. It’s funny, I was passed out but I do remember the nurse controlling the meds in my arm holding my hand and patting my head which was nice considering the situation.
Afterwards I recovered in a small room. My partner wasn’t allowed in there, so he waited for me outside. Once the sedation had worn off, they gave me a snack and I left as soon as I could I just wanted to get home. I had cramps and I was very sleepy for a few days, but I was OK.
At first, I was ashamed, and the only people who knew were my partner and a friend who hung out with me for two days while my partner was at work. I am grateful to them both. I was so sensitive and fragile that I didn’t want to be alone. I was anxious, depressed and ashamed.
That is until I decided to tell my parents. I actually messaged my Mum’s best friend and asked her to tell Mum ( I wasn’t sure if I could do it) and then Mum told Dad. I thought I was going to be in trouble but they were amazing. My Mum actually shared with me that she had gone through the same thing and my Dad told me that he had gone through it with an old girlfriend.
It was like the heaviness of the abortion had halved. I didn’t feel so alone. Since having an abortion, I have met so many other people who have gone through the same thing themselves or with a partner. One common thing among all of those people who had one was that they did so because they were not in a position to care for a child, which in my opinion is a form of responsible parenting.
One thing I hear a lot, is that men shouldn’t have a say in reproductive rights but I disagree. My partner was a part of every decision and his opinion mattered just as much as mine. Most men who want to speak on this feminist issue want to do so because they have seen the women in their life go through it. For example, I have a friend who has 2 kids with his ex but she also had an abortion. She was overwhelmed with the kids she had so it was understandable. He wasn’t happy but he supported her right to choose.
I think men should absolutely be a part of the discussion. My partner was supportive but he struggled as well. He was just as traumatised as I was. He was watching me break down and struggle with my mental health, as well as dealing with his own emotions. He did everything he could to make sure I was OK but I was in no position to even notice that he was suffering too. We have since worked through it, but it needs to be said that it is just as traumatic for men as it is for women sometimes so they should be a part of the discussion.
One of the roll-on effects from my experience was that I finally admitted I needed help with my mental health, and I got myself a mental health care plan. It took two years for me to even tell my psychologist. Up until a few years ago when my mental health finally got under control, I still felt shame and guilt but I know that my life as it is would not have existed.
I am studying, my relationship with the same man is going strong and I have a handle on my mental health - none of which I could have done if I had a child to care for. I still wonder what life would be like if I hadn’t had an abortion, but I can’t imagine my life being as good as it is right now. One day I will have children, but it will be when both my partner and I are ready.