an After abortion

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Thursday, July 15, 2004

From The Age, a leading Australian newspaper, My abortion: one woman's story.

Some excerpts:

Thank you, Julia Black. Even if watching your controversial documentary on
abortion, My Foetus, is the hardest thing I ever do, I know I have to do it.
Like you, I grew up strongly "pro-choice", in the era of women's liberation.
Like you, I found out I was pregnant in my early 20s, at the end of my
degree. And like you, I had an abortion.

I was majoring in women's studies at Monash University at the time. I
thought I knew about abortion. One of my best friends had done her social
work placement in an abortion centre. I had worked as a phone counsellor at
a women's crisis line. Several of my friends had had abortions. I saw it
almost as a rite of passage.

It was only as I was slipping into unconsciousness from the anaesthetic that
I realised. Until that moment the word had always been "foetus". I had had a
stressful few weeks, trying to work out what to do, cope with morning
sickness, finish my degree, go to work, and keep everything a secret. But as
I was slipping under from the injection, suddenly, for the first time since
I learned that I was pregnant, my mind became clear. I thought, "I'm killing
my baby". And then I was lying on my side, with the nurse calling my name,
and it was over, and it was too late.

I contacted the Royal Women's, because they had offered support after the
termination. They referred me to a community health centre where I went on a
waiting list. After several months I saw a social worker, fresh out of uni,
who said, "I haven't had an abortion, tell me, what's it like?" I returned
to the Royal Women's and was told they couldn't offer any more support.

I believed that what was growing in my body was a foetus. I attended
counselling at the Royal Women's to help me make my choice. I understood the
physical procedure, about not having a bath in case of infection. I called
the Council of Single Mothers to find out if I could afford a child. From my
work at the Women's Crisis Line, I knew which unplanned pregnancy support
services were government run and "unbiased". I knew which phone counselling
service to avoid because it was run by "Right-to-Lifers". I knew they gave
"biased" information. I knew to avoid the "emotive" language and images the
Right-to-Life movement used. I believed I was well informed. I did my best
to be.

Afterwards, I realised I had not been well informed at all. If anything, I
had been misinformed. At no point had I been told that going through an
abortion can be extremely psychologically distressing. I did not know that
women's lives can fall apart the way mine did as a result. The "unbiased"
information and language, supposedly feminist, did not make me feel
empowered. It denied my truth, and saved society from the inconvenience of
another single mother.

I wish I had known more before it was too late. I am not a Christian, or a
'Right-to-Lifer', but I do know that it was my baby that I killed.

To find out you are pregnant when you didn't plan to be is a big thing. You
are faced with an intense choice, possibly the most significant choice a
human being can face - have a child or have an abortion. There is no
compromise, no trial period, no thinking time. Either way, your life will
dramatically change. You need all the support and knowledge you can get.
There is no turning back if you get it wrong. You have to live with your
choice for the rest of your life. It is beyond me why pro-choice
organisations would be against women being able to make informed decisions.

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