My Experience of Abortion
WORDS BY MADDY WARD
I found out I was pregnant last Tuesday. I had been feeling sick for some weeks, brushing it off as late semester stress and poor health. When I came to the awful realisation that I couldn’t remember my last period, I bought a pregnancy test. When it was positive I bought another, which told me I was three weeks pregnant. It was then that I began to cry, and then that I knew I couldn’t possibly keep the baby.
I called my best friend, my mother, my aunt and my father. They all said the same thing: I love you, I support you, do what is best for you. I messaged another dear friend who talked me through the process and gave me numbers to call for more information. When my partner came home from work he held me close while I cried, and we decided together to have an abortion. We ordered Chinese food and talked each other through it. I am so very, incredibly lucky that I am surrounded by people who love and support me in the way that they do, that I was able to reach out to so many people when I was scared and alone and in need of support.
On Wednesday I went to the doctors. I went to a different doctor than usual- my regular doctor is very good but I couldn’t risk losing an otherwise perfect doctor to an opposition of my abortion. The new doctor was cold and unfeeling, sent me for a blood test and told me to return the following afternoon. When I went home I made the critical error of googling “abortion” and waded through several hours of internet shit ranging from mild propaganda to full blown anti-choice sites, awash with images of aborted fetuses and self-righteousness. I have always been avowedly pro-choice, sure in my own moral convictions around personhood and bodily autonomy- but these websites and threads nearly broke me. The sense of guilt and shame that I began to feel made an already difficult choice an incredibly distressing one.
The next day I returned to the doctor, who told me I was 7 weeks pregnant and wrote a referral for a nearby clinic. The fact that it was relatively early in my pregnancy meant that I had a choice between a medical and surgical abortion, and I chose the former. I called the number of the clinic on my referral and they told me the total cost would be $500. I called family planning NSW and a kindly woman gave me the number of a good doctor that could prescribe me a medical abortion, and assured me it wouldn’t cost more that $20 for the whole business. I made an appointment for the coming Monday.
The three days before my appointment were largely characterised by sadness and guilt. I struggled to distinguish between my genuine feelings, pregnancy hormones, and the guilt brought on by anti-choice propaganda. I couldn’t help but think of what was inside me, about how it could grow to be a baby, about how things could be if I kept it. I also knew that I couldn’t, that it wouldn’t be right or fair for me to have a baby in my current circumstances. In short, I felt fucking terrible.
On Monday I saw the doctor. I had an ultrasound to confirm the existence and length of the pregnancy, as well as a urine test. I was given a shot in my hip to prevent rhesus factor sensitisation. I cried a lot. The doctor gave me a script for MS-2 Step and pain relief, explained the process, and sent me on my way. I was lucky to have a doctor that prescribed me the medication without judgement or question, who was full of good advice, kindness and compassion. I bought the medication at a nearby pharmacy. The total cost was $13.50 for the drug itself and accompanying pain medication. I took the first pill with a coffee on my way home. The pill was Mifepristone, an anti-hormone that blocks the effects of progesterone which is needed to continue the pregnancy. I felt instantly relieved.
On Tuesday afternoon I took the final 4 pills, the Misoprostol that would cause contractions of my uterus and relax my cervix in order to push out the contents of the pregnancy. The pills had to be held between my cheeks and gums for 30 minutes, after which I was able to swallow the remaining fragments with water and painkillers. After that I filled up a hot water bottle, grabbed a blanket and curled up on the couch in front of Antiques Roadshow. It took 2 hours for the bleeding to start, which was immediately followed by cramping. It hurt. It hurt so bad I was rolling around on the floor clutching my hot water bottle and sobbing. It hurt like the worst period cramps of my life but still more painful, like there was a fire in my uterus. I was vomiting in between cramping. When my partner called the aftercare line the nurse was useless, told me it was supposed to hurt but I could take ibuprofen if I really had to. I did and in half an hour the cramps subsided, replaced by a dull ache and steady nausea. I went to bed, my abortion effectively over.
My abortion experience was a very lucky one. Despite abortion being criminalised in NSW I found it logistically easy to have one. My concession health care card meant that my appointment was bulk billed and my medication cheap. It took less than a week from when I discovered my pregnancy to when it was terminated. I have a supportive family, friends and partner. I am in a healthy relationship and we have a comfortable, warm home where I felt safe to have my abortion. My doctors asked questions that pertained to my medical history in order to ensure the abortion was safe, and only once if I was sure. I live in a large city, and my pregnancy was early enough that I was able to abort it medically, prescribed by a doctor far away from the anti-choice protesters that stand outside clinics.
My abortion experience was lucky, and I am fortunate, but that doesn’t mean that it was easy. An otherwise simple choice was complicated by the myriad of false sources online, of the traumatising material spread by groups such as LifeChoice in order to shame those that choose to abort their pregnancies. I was firm in my decision to have an abortion, and yet these groups and the bullshit brand of morality and ethics that they pedal made me feel so awful at times I thought of ending myself along with the pregnancy. Groups such as these are treated relatively kindly by the media, often allowed to be actively harmful in the name of fairness and free speech. Lifechoice is a USU registered society on campus. I would argue that giving these groups any kind of platform is in fact cowardice, and those that do so are complicit in the push to harm the social and reproductive rights of women and those with uteruses. We do not need a fair debate around abortion, we need safe access zones and decriminalisation.