The husband shouting at the abortion protesters video that’s been doing the rounds today made me cry when I watched it. Maybe this is because in March 2000 I had an abortion. If I hadn’t, I’d most probably have a child celebrating their 10th birthday any day now. And of course I think about it – as I always do this time of year. And lots of other times.
I’m not saying this because I’m desperate to over-share, but because roughly 30% of adult women in the UK have had one, and yet most people don’t talk about it. People go around feeling like they are the only one and it makes it harder. Harder to deal with, harder to talk about and make sense of your feelings, harder to come to terms with the decision you’ve made.
30 years ago in this country most people thought they didn’t know any gay people, and it was easier for many to be unreflectingly homophobic. A much bigger visibility for lesbians and gay men – in the public sphere, but also in the private sphere – has meant that far fewer people are knee-jerk homophobes. It’s also made it easier (hopefully) for people coming to terms with their sexuality. They aren’t the only gay in the world any more.
It would be nice if we could do the same for abortion.
I got pregnant unintentionally. I’d been in a relationship for 3 years, we’d got a bit lax, we were on holiday and had been drinking and the condoms were in the other room. My spur of the moment calculation had suggested I was well away from the danger zone. A schoolgirl error.
I wasn’t ready for motherhood – although I would have coped – but I felt that the minimum moral action to count as a human fucking being was to seriously consider keeping it. He didn’t. A child right then wasn’t in his plan – five years, he thought. It may sound stupid but I stopped loving him. I didn’t want to tie my life forever to someone who was being such a heartless cunt about the whole thing. An abortion seemed to be the best option.
Yes it was my (our) own fault. Yes, I berated myself for the consequences of my laxness for an innocent ball of cells. Yes, it was emotionally excruciating and I wouldn’t forgive myself if it happened again. I could never have another abortion.
I was 29 when I had mine. I knew friends who’d had them and who I could talk to. But it still fucked me up. I still found it an incredibly hard decision to make. I still cried and cried. I still worried I was being selfish and a terrible person. I still tortured myself looking at pregnancy websites and working out likely due dates, star signs and considering names.
How much harder must it be to be a teenager and feel like you might be the only person in the world who has done this terrible thing? When wankers like this are putting pictures of foetuses on the side of buses to give you an entirely unnecessary guilt trip? When you might be hiding it from your parents, your classmates, your teachers, and having to go round pretending everything is OK, while certain smells make you want to vomit, glimpses of prams make you cry and you know perfectly well, every second you are awake, that an alien creature is growing right inside your body?
I feel sad sometimes, but it was still the right decision for me. It’s the right decision for a lot of people. And better than the alternatives. I want those scared teenagers – I want everyone in that situation – to hear that and be able to talk about it.
I’ve never met a woman who took the decision lightly. We don’t need sanctimonious pricks giving us a guilt trip and making us feel more terrible than we already do. We need to be able to say, you know what, I had an abortion, lots of people have. We’re allowed. Stop sticking your bloody noses in and trying to make us feel shit about it. I refuse to feel ashamed.