One Reader Shares Her Personal Account Of Terminating A Pregnancy
I’ll keep my introduction brief because this article isn’t about me.
By now you’ll have seen the news that 25 white Republican men passed a bill in the Alabama state senate last week to ban abortion, even in the instance of rape and incest. You’ll have read countless tweets and “takes”, talked about it with your girlfriends, sisters and mothers, and maybe even considered what you’d do if you were forced to make such a deeply personal decision. Because that’s what this is: personal. So how is it, that in 2019, women all over the world are still being deprived of bodily autonomy?
Abortion is legal in New Zealand under The Crimes Act (1961) to women of all ages who are less than 20 weeks pregnant, providing the patient has the agreement of two certifying doctors who say that continuing with the pregnancy would result in serious danger to the woman’s mental or physical health. “Extremes of age” and “sexual violation” are not grounds in themselves but may be taken into consideration when the doctor is making their decision.
Here’s Jane*, in her own words.
*The names in this article have been changed.
“My decision to remain anonymous in this essay is not because of shame and I hope people don’t view my anonymity as contradictory to my message. I was lucky to have the full support of my loved ones throughout the experience and continue to feel that support now. The only shame I feel is that women are told not to talk about it; that abortion is a secret we must keep to ourselves. My objective with sharing my story is to provide comfort to those going through this or who have already been through it, and to show that there are all kinds of women facing an entire spectrum of circumstances that will influence their ability to bring a child into this world.
I’m 28 years old and work as a buyer in the fashion industry. I terminated a pregnancy a little over 14 months ago when I was 27 and my partner of seven years was 30. I was living at home due to financial circumstances and my partner was living an hour away because of his job but commuted each week to see me on his days off. We were in the throws of figuring out our next steps and had some overseas travel planned for the coming months. I was using an IUD as my contraception method and while we had yet to make a decision about kids, I found myself leaning towards the “most likely not” basket. This was hard because at 27 years old I felt like maybe it should have been something I wanted, some of my friends were starting to “try” or talking about having children and I felt embarrassed that I wasn’t in the same headspace. My partner and I were just happy living our lives and figured we’d tackle those more serious steps when we were ready.
I was six weeks pregnant when I officially found out, although I suspected I might be pregnant when I felt my body changing and missed my period, and because I had an IUD it came as a huge shock to both of us. It immediately forced my partner and I into a conversation we never imagined having. We considered the financial side; neither of us are big wage-earners and we knew that if we were to have the child we’d have to find a house we could rent together in a very expensive New Zealand town and then pay for that rental on one sole income while my partner commuted 2.5 hours every day for his shift work. I never wanted any of that responsibility to fall on my parents, even though they said they’d be hugely supportive of any decision we wanted to make. I know these circumstances might sound more privileged than most women, but I can’t say for certain that if our financial situation was better that we would have made a different decision. Finances aside, I knew I didn’t want a baby and I simply was not ready. I honestly hoped that because I had an IUD – which comes with a high risk of having an ectopic pregnancy – that mine would be ectopic and that the decision would be made for me.
Family Planning wasn’t available to me due to where I live but I was incredibly lucky to have an amazing GP who I saw first and she immediately gaged that my partner and I weren’t thrilled with the news and asked us what we wanted to do. As I had an IUD in place I was sent straight to the hospital, a three hour drive away, as there were no scans available where I lived. The hospital confirmed that it was a healthy pregnancy and that they would remove my IUD the following day. Every doctor I met with was surprised to hear I had fallen pregnant with an IUD and were incredibly empathetic towards my situation. I was then phoned a couple of days later by a nurse at the hospital to book my appointment for an abortion the following week. The day before my abortion I was required to have two doctors’ appointments, a chat with a counsellor, a set of blood tests and see a nurse. This was time-consuming, another additional day off work, another nights accommodation that needed to be paid for and a lot of sitting around. I want to stress that my partner and I had to cover all travel costs and accommodation costs ourselves and it was not cheap. I can only imagine the incredible stress this would be on other women needing to travel to obtain an abortion who don’t have financial aid from family. The upside is that you have two different doctors talking you through the procedure which can help trigger any questions you might have forgotten to ask earlier and you receive two separate perspectives on what to expect. Contrary to popular belief I did not have to declare that having a baby would make me mentally unstable, I just had to explicitly say “I do not want a baby right now”. I was required to discuss my personal life with both doctors and a counsellor including my current relationship, employment, family situation and personal history in order to justify why I didn’t want a child right now. This was exhausting but I found the counselling session helpful because it was really the only opportunity I had to talk to an anonymous, unbiased person who could validate that my feelings were normal.
I was then informed I would be having a medical termination (where you take two pills that create a miscarriage) and that if I wanted the surgical termination (where you go under general anaesthetic and have the foetus removed from the uterine lining) I would have to come back again the following week. Thankfully, I had been leaning towards the medical termination anyway as I was told you can sit in the comfort of your own home or hotel while you experience the “heavy period” and cramping, and it’s all over relatively quickly. The pills took a couple of hours to kick in and unfortunately I had a bad reaction and was very sick for the afternoon with a fever, vomiting, heavy cramping and bleeding throughout the evening. Hormones are a powerful thing and on the days that followed there were some ups and downs, mostly random crying for no reason, and I was still bleeding quite heavily for the next few days with cramping and bloating. After about ten days, my hormones settled, the bleeding stopped, and I returned to normal life.
I think about it a lot – actually most days – and how my life would be different. It’s taken time to get to this point but I am so grateful for the right to choose my own path. I have gotten to know myself so much this last year and figure out what really makes me happy. My partner and I are still together, we’ve been able to do some traveling and are soon to build a house; a massive economic opportunity we would not have had if we had to rent a year ago with a newborn. We’ve discussed having a child one day, but only once we are ready.
The news of the proposed law change in Alabama stirred a lot of anger in me for the women who will have their rights taken away from them. It also made me reflect on our own country and how in a lot of ways New Zealand sits on the fence with this issue because we say, “It’s a criminal act, but you can still have one.” In the wake of Alabama it is now time for New Zealand to set an example of what it actually means to be pro-choice and I urge anyone who feels the same to sign this petition to legalize abortion in our country.”