A topic that has been relentlessly debated over the years, abortion continues to attract strong opposition. In a recent radio broadcast, parliamentary aide Ed Rennie argued for an abortion-free society, something he believes would be supported by the majority of the population. With better education of young men and women, he argues, it ought to be a possibility. What struck me, however, was the implication that all unwanted pregnancies are caused by irresponsible youths who don’t use contraception, and that too many women have abortions and then just shrug them off as though they never happened.
I was nineteen years old when I fell pregnant and opted for an abortion. Two years on and it is still painful to think about, a stain on my memory that can never be removed. I vividly remember the moment I found out. I was in the staff toilet at work thinking the test would show up negative, thinking that it was just my body playing havoc with me that month. My boyfriend and I were diligent with contraception and I thought pregnancy was impossible. Looking back, it seems stupid because all the signs were there: I felt sick when I ate, I’d put on weight, I was tearful all the time, I had stomach cramps everyday. But I still delayed taking a pregnancy test because I just didn’t believe it could happen to me.
I was distraught when the test showed positive. I couldn’t have a baby, not at nineteen. I didn’t even really think about it. I made an emergency appointment with a doctor and it was all the more horrible. I burst into tears as I explained what had happened and unfortunately found myself landed with a very unprofessional doctor who didn’t ‘believe in abortion’. It got much worse when he told me, as yet more tears rolled down my cheeks, that when a life had been created, it wasn’t for us to decide whether or not to end it.
A week later I had a scan and was told I was six weeks pregnant. Another week later, at seven weeks, I had the abortion. It was a ten-minute procedure – I was sedated, crying all the while, and then wheeled into another room, where I was put under anaesthetic. When I came round I was taken to a recovery area, where I sat for a while and saw, through a small glass window in the door, another woman being wheeled in. One in, one out. I felt numb.
I tried to tell myself that it was just a ball of cells, that it wasn’t a baby yet. I’d mentally blocked out my knowledge, from school biology lessons, that it would already have been the size of my thumbnail and developed the beginnings of a digestive and respiratory system, eyelids, toes, fingers and, most importantly, a heartbeat. After a few days it finally hit me, and I started having nightmares in which I was surrounded by pregnant women. In my waking world it seemed that wherever I went, everyone was pregnant or had newborn babies.
I am consistently disappointed by those like Ed Rennie who look down on women for choosing to have an abortion. Yes, some people do need to be more aware of using contraception, but for whatever reason women should be allowed to live in a society where they have the right to choose. Anti-abortion activists don’t know every individual woman’s story or the torment of going through with an abortion. It left me utterly heartbroken, and I must live with the guilt that I got rid of my own baby.
However, I don’t regret my decision and I think I did the right thing. I wouldn’t be here studying now had I gone through with the pregnancy and although some might argue that this is selfish, I think it would have been more selfish to bring a child into the world without a stable income or a home for it to grow up in. Right now I’m concentrating on creating that stable environment for the children I hope to have one day. I just wish people weren’t so quick to judge – they really don’t know the half of it.