The pro-choice movement is about just that, choice. However, living in a country where most states are yet to fully legalise abortion, and where people with uteruses continue to be questioned, shamed and vilified for their reproductive choices, a pro-choice struggle is often conflated with a pro-abortion one. Importantly though, there are many choices that people can make when faced with an unplanned pregnancy.
It is a shame then, that we are forced to fight so hard for one (very important) option, that there is little time to discuss others: have and raise the baby, have the baby and give it up for adoption, have the baby and co-raise it with a family member. All options have the potential to be viable and should be considered by the accidental incubator if they are at a loss. Just because you
are pro-choice doesn’t mean you have to choose to terminate the pregnancy. Just because a person may have cultural, religious, socio-economic or personal barriers to abortion, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to exercise choice.
When I was 16, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome and told that it would be impossible to have a baby without some sort of hormone intervention. An unplanned pregnancy was the furthest thing from my mind. I never planned on having kids then, nor did I when I was 22. It seemed like a blessing.
I found out I was pregnant a few weeks after I arrived in Germany* to embark on a 6 month exchange. I went to the doctor complaining of stomach pains. He gave me a pregnancy test, which I assured him I didn’t need, but took it dutifully anyway. It came back positive.
I spent a lot of the next day just sitting in my room. I always knew I would have an abortion if I needed to, So when the doctor asked me what I wanted to do it felt like I was on autopilot. I don’t remember saying “I would like to book a termination appointment”, but I must have.
You have to wait 5 days between the health clinic receiving your referral for the termination and it actually taking place. Still only in the early stages of exchange, I hadn’t met a lot of people I could come to with this. I got drunk every night to try and numb my body even though it already felt dead. I didn’t ask myself questions, I didn’t let myself entertain any other option.
The day approached painfully slow. I took the 2 hour train ride to Berlin at 8am by myself, arriving 90 minutes early because I’ve always erred on the side of ‘too cautious’. I filled out various forms and paid $800. I wanted to scream – but I also didn’t want to spend anymore time there. I forced my way through the consultation, convincing the counsellor I was ready. In hindsight, I probably wasn’t.
The procedure itself was fine. I’ve had many procedures and inspections of my vagina through the years, and this felt no different. The doctor didn’t speak English and never asked me if I felt okay. I wish he did.
It was over in 20 minutes. I was given some heavy-duty sanitary pads and some medication to slow the bleeding, before being ushered out and told I was free to go. I kind of wanted to stay. I don’t know why. The thought of leaving terrified me.
It’s only now I look back and realise how much more difficult it could have been. What if I couldn’t afford that huge sum of money, $800? What if I hadn’t been a white, Australian girl on
exchange – would I have been treated differently at the clinic? What if I had no safety net to return to at all, not even when I returned home?
Autopilot kicked in again once I left the clinic. It wasn’t until I shut and locked the door behind me at 2pm, that I felt it all of it. For some dark and twisted reason, I thought having an abortion
as a feminist would be liberating. You read about women owning their bodies and saying “Hell yeah! I had an abortion, my body is my body and this was my choice!”, that when your body and mind reject the choice you’ve made, you feel like a bad feminist.
It’s still the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about when I go to sleep. I don’t know why I feel guilty, or sad– it’s certainly not because I think having an abortion was wrong. Whenever I see a baby, or change my blood-soaked pad, I feel a pang in my chest. Whenever my brain goes quiet for a second, my inner monologue kicks up with “Oh no! No peace for you! Remember that thing?”
In the end, I always would have ended up terminating this pregnancy. But I wish I’d known about other options. It’s so much more productive for us to have an open conversation about
unplanned pregnancy– to acknowledge that you can choose to have a child, or choose not to have an abortion, and still be pro-choice.