By Amanda Eirene – Guest Writer
I am so sad and infuriated at America for stripping away reproductive rights of its residents and citizens; and while I am thankful that New Zealand is not as restrictive as the US we still have a long way to go to remove abortion from the Crimes Act and to have abortion seen as a health matter. Abortion should not be a crime and I believe that all people should have the option to have an abortion without being considered a criminal.
Despite my fears of backlash and judgement I have decided to share my story of abortion inspired by the brave people featured on Abort the Stigma. Even if one person gains strength and understanding from this article, it will be worth it.
I have had two abortions. A year apart. Both were entirely the same and entirely different all at once.
The first time I was in a loving relationship. I was on the pill, although it was the type you need to take it within the hour every day and you could never forget it, which unfortunately I often did. I can’t remember how I worked out that I was pregnant, I think it was the morning sickness. I took a home test which confirmed the worst. My boyfriend said all the right things, that he loved me, that he would support me, and that it was entirely up to me. But he was also honest, he said he wasn’t ready to be a dad, and as soon as he was honest that he wasn’t ready to be a dad I realised that I had not even thought about myself and the truth was, I was not ready to be a mum. I did not want to be a mum.
I was a year out of high school, in a job where I earned minimum wage, living with my parents. To put it simply, I was not in the position that I wanted to be in for becoming a parent.
So we went to a doctor, who made me do another pregnancy test – just to be sure – then booked me in for a blood test, and a scan, and after those results came back I was booked in to the Greenlane clinic for a consultation.
Admittedly this is 15 years ago so my memories are slightly hazy but there are some things I remember strongly – the way the person who took my scan seemed disappointed I was not engaged with my scan, the way their face changed when I said I was getting an abortion, how I felt when that scan turned up in the post a month after my procedure. I remember the fear that I went into the Greenlane clinic with because I knew that it was not my legal right to get an abortion. I will forever be grateful to my friend who had shared her abortion story with me; she was the one who told me that I would only get approved for an abortion if I said that my mental health would be ruined if I went ahead with the pregnancy. I had to get approved by two separate medical professionals and the questions were hard and uncomfortable but somehow I made it through and gained the approval I was desperately seeking. I was scheduled to come back in two weeks for the procedure.
During this two weeks I bumped into my step cousin at the supermarket. I hadn’t seen in her years and given her history of being a drug addict, that I had never judged, I thought I could safely confide in her. Her response? She may have been abusing drugs during her pregnancies but at least she never murdered her children.
I went home in tears after this exchange and in my despair I finally told my mum who gave me the “I am disappointed in you” talk. She made me promise to never tell anyone in our family because of the stigma she would endure.
The procedure came and went; the medical team was wonderfully supportive on the day and I cannot thank them enough for all they did, Although the only truly clear memory I have of it is the mobile of blue butterflies I stared at during the procedure.
Fast forward a year, my boyfriend and I have had a nasty break up, but for some reason we had occasional ex sex. Literally a year later I was in the same position again. I knew that I only had one choice – there was no way I was ready to, or wanted to, have a child and be a parent. As someone whose birth father was estranged there was no way in hell I was going to be a sole parent.
This time around I did not have the support that my boyfriend had lovingly provided the previous year. I didn’t even have the strength to tell him, I didn’t want him to think that I had done it deliberately to trap him. So I went and bought three bottles of the cheapest nastiest sparkling wine available and sat on my bedroom floor drinking and crying, so angry at myself to be in this position again. I was still living with my parents and my mum came up to see what was wrong, and when I told her I was on the receiving end of the disappointment talk, again.
Thankfully despite her disappointment my mum came with me to be my required safe ride home after the procedure. The second abortion I went through the whole process pretty much alone (compared to my first one), drowning in the judgement and disappointment. The only consistent thing from my first experience, was those blue butterflies hanging above me during the procedure and the caring medical staff on the day. This time I got an IUD put in; which has been my choice of contraception ever since.
For me, the worst part of my story is not the procedure itself. The worst part was that I had to lie about my mental health to be considered eligible, However I did not lie when I said “I would kill myself if I am forced to continue with this pregnancy” when getting screened for my second. The worst part was that my mother had sworn me to secrecy to save face only for me to find out years after the fact that she had betrayed my privacy and told her siblings that I had terminations. The worst part was learning that my aunt had used my abortions as an example of what not to do for my younger cousin. The worst part of an abortion, for me, is the stigma that surrounds it.
When deciding to write this I touched base with my ex boyfriend and told him that I will be sharing my story in case it was linked back to him and as always, he gave me his support but he did also say, “our kid would be 14 this year, imagine that”. And the truth is, I don’t imagine that. I never think of it. Not even when I react with a love heart emoji to photos of the two beautiful children he has gone on to have.
I do not regret my abortions. I credit them with saving my life. I doubt I would have left the small town I grew up in if I did not have them. I doubt I would have the career that I have if I did not have them. I doubt I would be studying to further my career, like I am now, if I did not have them. I doubt I would have the life, the memories, and the friends I have in my life now, if I did not have them.
I just wish that I could live without the stigma that surrounds abortion. I wish that we could discuss abortion with straight facts and without all of the misinformation that surrounds it. I wish people and governments would stay out of the body autonomy of others.
There is a petition in New Zealand, which closes on the 5th July 2019, to have abortion moved out of the Crimes Act 1961 if you would like to see more information on this please click here.