Every woman experiences an abortion in a different way, so we asked some women to share their stories. When they’ve requested it, we have changed their names.
A warning: some of this things discussed in these stories may be upsetting.
I was 29. A condom broke during sex; I used the morning after pill the next day, but it didn’t work. I immediately knew I wanted an abortion. It sounds crass, but the first thing through my mind when I found out I was pregnant was “get it out, get it out, get it out”.
As the person who impregnated me was someone I was seeing on a regular basis, I consulted with him (after setting the wheels in motion already), but he knew from the start that I never want children so he agreed with me. He didn't really have a choice, but I thought it was the polite thing to do.
I found the process extremely difficult. I had to have two blood tests and two ultrasounds (one was vaginal, and I had no idea that it was not usual; I had quite a surprise when the vaginal ultrasounds controversy started in the US), and other appointments at Family Planning, and I didn’t understand why. I’m not sure if staff explained it to me – I think that they didn't but I was extremely stressed and my memory of the first few days is pretty hazy.
Once the first flurry of appointments was over, I waited. I waited for three or four weeks without knowing why, and no one would tell me anything. Any time I tried to ring Family Planning or the [Auckland abortion clinic] Epsom Day Unit, the staff said that they’d call me. This was absolutely the worst part. I had no idea what was going on, or if I would be turned down, and of course I was going through some serious hormonal changes.
When I went to the appointment with the first certifying consultant, I also had to see a nurse and a social worker. It was a very long day, and again I wasn’t expecting it to be that full on. While there, I had to prove that carrying on with the pregnancy would be detrimental to my mental health.
I have problems with depression and also I turned up to the appointment so hungover I could barely speak, so it was pretty easy to convince them I shouldn’t have a kid or be pregnant. At this appointment, they also wanted to make sure I was on better contraception, and I arranged to get an IUD.
“The first thing through my mind when I found out I was pregnant was ‘get it out get it out get it out.’”
I’ve have never had any other minor surgery, but I imagine getting an abortion isn’t much different than any other type of surgery. It was pretty straightforward. The second certifying consultant was also the surgeon and just asked if I was sure before giving me the pre-abortion drugs.
After lying around while the drugs loosened my cervix or sedated me or something (I’m not clear on the details – I just did as I was told), they took me into the surgery room and gave me an anaesthetic and did the procedure, and also put my IUD in.
It seemed like it was over pretty quickly, but I was kind of out of it on all the drugs. Then I had to wait for what seemed like ages just in case there were any complications, but there weren't and I went home to recover.
There have never been any social repercussions because I am very careful who I tell. No one in my family knows, and only a few close friends do. We need to talk about the current abortion process more. So many people think that the law, as it is, is fine: you see two consultants and then you get an abortion. But it is much more complicated than that, and it’s stressful and difficult to navigate.
I could afford the ultrasounds (the procedure itself was free) and any other appointment charges there were; I was able to take time off work without being asked a lot of questions (and every appointment was during work hours); I had support from the few people I told about it; and navigating bureaucracy isn’t terribly difficult for me. (I am also Pakeha, middle-class, straight and cis-gendered – where gender identity matches the gender assigned at birth – so most stuff is on the lowest difficulty mode for me anyway.) If I didn’t have all of those privileges I really don’t know if I would have been able to cope.
(Cover image: Flickr user M.Markus)