As someone who has undergone multiple abortions, what was possibly the most excruciating part of the process was the experience I had with the healthcare system, which was terrible and extremely uncomfortable. As an independent woman who made this choice about her body, when I arrived at the abortion service provider, I felt extremely judged.
After the blood test was conducted to confirm the pregnancy, instead of confirming or denying it, the staff congratulated me. Moreover, once I confided that I wanted to terminate the pregnancy, the counsellor asked me questions like “Where is your partner?”, “Why don’t you have a partner?”
I was also quite shocked and unsettled to find that the counsellor just couldn’t grasp the fact that it could be my choice to terminate a pregnancy. Although I did get the abortions, the experience left me feeling very judged and stigmatized. And it is exactly this cycle of silence and shame that women often have to endure when they choose to get an abortion, that I want to break by sharing my story.
I had my first abortion when I was 16, and it was rape that led to it. But I am not sure I want to call it that – I just never felt confident calling it that. Isn’t it crazy how society can make you feel that you were not raped when that is exactly what happened? When someone you did not consent to having sex with, forces you to do things that you don’t want to? At the time, I was seeing this older guy. He was violent and constantly harassed me and my family. I was 16 and too scared to do anything. I never reported the rape because silence is a choice sometimes.
I told my mum but she was too scared to talk about it ever again. So my friend helped me out. And you know, when you are 16 and you have an abortion, it’s so hard to talk about it – in your school where everyone slut-shames you, or at home or just in your own head because people around you are judging you constantly for being pregnant – for being 16 and not believing you when you tell them about your abuse. I didn’t know what I was doing, and had little awareness about sex, pregnancy and abortion.
The last two abortions were when I was 22 and 23 – I was seeing someone then, and it was consensual. My abortions during this time were completely my choice, with no regrets and a complete understanding of my own body and the decisions I made with it. This in no way implies that undergoing an abortion isn’t hard. I do think it’s important that you share it with people whom you trust and those who respect your choices. After all, it is your right to make decisions about your own body.
But what we need to do is go beyond judging women for why they choose to have an abortion since they are the best judges of what’s in their best interests, for their own bodies and lives. We should respect their decision and acknowledge their agency and autonomy to make decisions about their bodies and sexuality.
And by sharing my abortion story, I am doing just that. I am taking that important step to stand up for myself and for other people to be able to make decisions around their body, sexuality and reproduction, free of shame and stigma.