If you’re an avid user of the internet you more than likely will have seen the #shoutyourabortion movement. Started by American, Amelia Bonow, who said she was devastated when she heard about the vote to de-fund Planned Parenthood in the states. The hashtag has, as it was intended to, raised a huge number of conversations and although I didn’t tweet my abortion story, it led me to write the following.
For some, the sight of a blue line appearing brings with it crashing waves of joy filled emotions. For others, it brings nothing but dread. There’s stigma in the UK, despite being a country that supports a woman’s choice to terminate. It’s spoken about in hushed tones, like periods, it’s seen to be undesirable taboo.
Ten years ago I had an abortion. I was in love, and loved in return, but knew before I took the test that if it was positive my immediate response would be to book an appointment and have it dealt with. I was on the pill, however had been ill so on antibiotics. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.
Luckily, I live in a Western society that affords me that right without prejudice or hindrance. Now I would love to tell you that my experience was how I had hoped it would be – prejudice free – however sadly that was not the case.
First up, although I won’t be sharing his name in this, the guy I was with at the time was exactly what I needed whilst all of this was happening. He was more than my boyfriend during what turned into an ordeal, he was my friend, and that was a blessing. And should he read this, I am eternally grateful.
The process is the same for any woman when they find out they’re pregnant. You go to the doctors and they do a number of tests including urine and bloods, as well as asking lots of questions to determine how far along you are. If like me, you knew from the get go that you won’t be continuing with the pregnancy, this is tough. Mostly it’s tough because the nurses are upbeat and excited on your behalf, they asked how I was feeling? Had we been trying for long? Had I thought of names?
I was feeling a whole host of things. Dread. Anger. Upset.
No, we hadn’t been trying for long. We hadn’t been trying at all.
No, no names. No names at all.
I felt numb, knowing that having a baby wasn’t on my radar at 19 and not because I was young, but because I knew from a young age I didn’t want kids.
Once the tests were done it was back to see the GP, a woman, who sat me down and explained to me what the next steps were; start taking folic acid, stop drinking, plus about 1,847 leaflets to read. At this point I reiterated once more that I didn’t want to keep it and wanted to know what my options were.
Her response was to inform me firstly it wasn’t an ‘it’ it was a baby, and secondly that I was already at 11 weeks. It was already about 4cm long and had all of its parts from toenails to fingers and toes. She was hoping to inspire me to keep it, to realise that it was a real being and not have the abortion. All it actually did was anger me, when I pushed her on the matter, she told me she wanted me to go home for two weeks and ‘think about’ what I wanted.
Being naive, I headed home, booking an appointment for 2 weeks later as instructed.
14 of the longest days passed and I was back in her clinic room. My feelings were the same, no baby for me. Her reaction has stayed with me for the 10 years that have passed;
“I am morally opposed to abortion so I will have to refer you to another GP”
MORALLY OPPOSED. She sent me away for two weeks knowing full well that on my return she would refuse to refer me herself. I have no issue with people not wishing to have abortions themselves, but as a GP she basically lied to me, in the hope I would leave for two weeks and entirely change my mind about an abortion.
I need to point out at this stage as well that I was 13 weeks pregnant, which is officially too far along for the abortion pill. Two pills taken at stages over 24 hours, which terminate the pregnancy, similar to a very heavy period. My only option now was a medical termination, a full-scale operation, that involved days off work, anaesthetic and a stay in hospital.
Add to this the very daunting fact that I was beginning to show. I had a bump. A bump I didn’t want. A bump I had no intention of stroking or bonding with. A bump that was a daily reminder of how this GP had monumentally let me down.
I can only imagine the joy that a woman wanting a baby must feel at the first sight of a bump, the first kick, the first everything. I can tell you that as a woman not wanting to be pregnant these firsts were some of the hardest moments in my life, not because I was hesitating, but because they were a daily reminder than my body wasn’t my own, even for this short amount of time.
When I finally saw a GP who was happy for me to have the abortion, she was fantastic, and to this day is my GP. She referred me to the hospital and the ball was rolling. I was wheeled into my termination at 16 weeks. At 16 weeks it was about the size of an avocado.
The operation is brutal to say the least. It’s invasive and involved. I woke up groggy and emotional, but no longer pregnant.
It’s been ten years since my termination, and there has not been one moment I have wavered over or questioned my decision. I still don’t want children, and that is my choice.
The knowledge that not every woman in the world has the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy, as she does continue with one, boils my blood. Hilary Clinton said it best. Trust me not as a woman, but as a human being. As an effective member of society. Trust me to make my own choice.
I salute you, Amelia, for being the voice of many, for giving women the confidence to share their stories. For fighting for women’s rights. Thank you.
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