Friday, May 3, 2013

Guest Post: I Had An Abortion

I've made a lot of great new friends since starting this blog, and I've had the opportunity to interact with folk who I wouldn't normally expect to spend time with. It's been an interesting journey. What I've also found is that having some involvement in pro choice activism has changed my relationship with those I already knew.

I recently learnt that, years ago, a friend had had an abortion.

It's something she'd rather keep anonymous, but I felt glad that in some small way I could help give her a way to talk openly about her experience.

I take two things from this. First, I'm glad that being openly pro choice means my friends feel comfortable talking to me about their experiences. Second, I regret she worried people might judge her. If you're pro choice, please let your friends know. They might need someone to talk to. But enough of me. Here was my friend's experience:

Like a lot of young, Irish people I set off after college seeking excitement abroad. And I got it – in abundance. I lived a fantastic few years working and travelling. I met a lovely guy; we were young and really fell for each other.
Then disaster struck. I confided in a friend that I didn’t feel myself and she suggested that I might be pregnant. That and a sick day from work worried me enough to buy a test. It was positive. I was 25, and this wasn’t part of the plan for my boyfriend, or for me.
We talked and neither of us thought that we should go through with the pregnancy. I knew my family would be very disappointed in me, and I didn’t want a baby anyway. My boyfriend wasn’t Irish, but felt the same way about his family as he was from a conservative society in which babies aren’t welcome outside of marriage. It was not the right time for a baby.

An appointment was booked for the following Saturday morning. I can remember taking the subway the evening before to meet my boyfriend. I can honestly say that I was very frightened. It was a frightening thing - going into the unknown, which was made worse by my inability to speak the local language well. Although I knew that I had made the right choice, I was awake most of the night crying; not knowing what was ahead of me was terrifying. My boyfriend was concerned for me, but was a great support.

The next morning at the hospital I was given a scan and told that I was likely seven or eight weeks’ pregnant. We were then sent to a waiting room. I can’t honestly remember how long we waited, but in that clichéd way it felt like an eternity. There are three things I remember very clearly:

A young woman there alone. This saddened me enormously;

The absolute fear made worse by not having anything communicated to me in regards to what to expect, etc.; and

My boyfriend’s hand clinging mine and telling me that it would be okay.

The real reason I was compelled to write this, though, is not to describe waiting rooms, etc. It is because I am sick of recent commentary that ‘there is no evidence that abortion is good for women’, that abortion is an ‘extremely invasive surgery’, that it is ‘extremely dangerous’ and that it can have ‘lasting psychological impacts’ on the ‘poor woman’ who had to go through with it. I am quite confident that not one of these commentators (and not least because they’re predominantly male) have any experience of the procedure. I would like to debunk some of these myths and gross misrepresentations by sharing my experience, as well as my feelings. (I should probably point out at this stage that most of those comments were made by pro-choice campaigners who I believe meant the best.)

Like so many other procedures, I was given an anaesthetic. A doctor safely and meticulously aborted the foetus. My foetus. In my body. I woke up and slowly walked to another room with a bed to sleep off the anaesthetic. All of my belongings were waiting for me. When I woke up, I was able to walk to the bathroom and back; able to change into my clothes; and able to leave with some medical advice - especially important for the following 24 hours – and my boyfriend. The bumpy taxi journey home was slightly uncomfortable but after resting for the weekend, I was able to go back to work – in full health – on Monday morning.

It was not a hugely invasive surgery. The only profound psychological impact it had then, and has ever had, is utter relief.  Mental health was always on my mind. I was concerned about, and watched out for, eventual negative effects. I waited for something to happen. I don’t know what. Inaccurate information over the years had led me to believe that there was bound to be something. Something had to happen. I now know, however, that the majority of women who go through with an abortion don’t regret it.

I have never been depressed or needed to talk to a counseller. For this, obviously, I am very grateful, but I am not the minority. Please stop suggesting that we are an emotional wreck. That we live lives riddled with regret and self-hatred. We are not delicate like we are thought to be. We are strong. That is my point. Give me credit for being strong. And give all the other women who have had abortions – for whatever reason – credit too, because they are also strong.

We are also intelligent. We understand our bodies. We understand our minds. We know what is best for us, for our families, and for our circumstances. We don’t deserve to be dictated to. We deserve to have input into our care. We can handle the tough decisions.

Whether you are pro- or anti-choice, please hear this: women use careful consideration when making decisions with such consequences. We can handle it. It being bodily integrity; it being autonomy. Let me make my own decisions. I am strong. I am intelligent. I am compassionate.

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