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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Adding my voice on choice

Please excuse how confrontational this post is. I'd been reading the many posts at The Hand Mirror on abortion and the comments in those posts. Unfortunately some of the comments aren't particularly nice (understatement of the year) so was feeling rather pissed off at people making judgements and assumptions about women who access abortion services and women who have unplanned pregnancies in general. I decided to make this post because many of those people probably have friends or family who have had to make that choice and yet don't realise it. I'm one of those women and I needed to tell of my experiences.

With all the debate going on in blog land at the moment about the proposed bill to decriminalise abortion, I had a whole big post about my tale of two unplanned pregnancies in mind. Especially because people seem to forget that these pregnancies involve people that do actually have a brain. Yeah, women have brains.

But then when I started writing and tried to deal with all the stupid comments I've seen around the place, it seemed like the individual stories don't freaking matter. I'm not going to change the minds of those that consider me a baby killer or a slapper who should have dealt with her actions. So screw 'em. I'll write a general post on the decriminalisation of abortion if I want.

So, what matters to me is that we have access to abortion should we choose to go that path. The decision whether to continue a pregnancy and keep the baby, adopt out, or get a termination should be made by the one that is most affected, the pregnant woman. She is able to take into consideration as much or as little as she needs, given that she is the one that is going to go through pregnancy and birth, or the abortion.

Right, I just figured out where I am going with this and why I wanted to tell my particular story: I was able to make a choice. Two of them in fact.

I chose to go through with my first pregnancy. I was 16 weeks pregnant when I found out, at University in Dunedin, and 19 years old. I heard a lot of shit in the week or so that it took to make the decision to continue with that pregnancy: my friends declared that I'd have to give up studying (I didn't), the guy involved (who turned out not to be the father) telling me that I was selfish bringing a child into the world that would potentially be affected by fetal alcohol syndrome (she wasn't), and on and on. I knew I'd made the right decision when I admitted to myself that I could continue with that pregnancy and still achieve everything I wanted to do and I'm so glad I had that choice.

When I found out I was pregnant a second time, I had a completely different experience. I was in a fairly stable (at the time) relationship and my friends were completely supportive of my choice either way. I had Hannah already so I wasn't dealing with the unknown. In fact, that was it. I knew exactly what I could handle and exactly what I couldn't. My partner at the time was clear about what he wanted and was there for me where he could be. I knew there was no way I'd be continuing that pregnancy as I just couldn't fathom being a single mother of two children and I'm so glad I had that choice.

And here's where I give up on my idea about not responding to idiots whose minds I cannot change, and comment on the assertion by some of them that terminations are used as birth control. No. No they are not. In my experience, I had what felt like a zillion appointments. Most of them involving time off work or trying to fit in around lectures. Hardly the easy access that using an abortion as birth control is made out to be. And then I was given news that the time between getting sign off from the first doctor and the first appointment at the women's clinic would be two weeks.

Those two weeks waiting were the worst few weeks of my life. It was insulting that it seemed like the health system was trying to make me question my decision and also depressing that our services are so stretched that they have to make a woman wait for so long for the procedure. I grieved for lost possibilities; I'm not doubting that there is emotion involved when you decide to have an abortion, but it was even more stressful remaining pregnant when I didn't want to be.

And let me tell you now, the actual termination procedure isn't pleasant. I had support from my boyfriend throughout but I still felt so alone. And that isn't even dealing with the physical aspects, I'll save you those particular details (although feel free to ask me any time). Using that procedure as birth control is just laughable. And let's not forget that was my second unplanned pregnancy so I probably do fall into the category of those who "they" consider use abortion for birth control. But that shit does happen. Especially when there isn't a perfect contraceptive option; and with the options that are available, the risks or invasiveness seem to directly relate to efficacy.

So, the alternative, continuing with that pregnancy and giving birth to a baby I didn't want, was unthinkable. I really do applaud those who are able to do that and adopt. I've come across so many couples who really want a child and struggle to conceive one themselves, so I totally support that as an option. But it wasn't the choice for me, I am glad I had that choice.

In the end, the choice is personal. The whole point of this post is to say hey! Let's change our laws and take abortion out of the Crimes Act and stop treating women like they don't have brains. Yuhuh.

P.S. I happen to want to reduce the number of abortions, like most people. I believe this is best addressed with good quality sexuality education and building the self esteem of our kids. It's also part and parcel with the aims of the feminist movement more generally. I intend to do my bit with my own kidlet in this regard.P.P.S. This is a personal blog so I reserve the right to delete comments that I wanna delete and too fricking bad if you don't like it.

16 comments:

  1. Great post.

    In the UK we are fortunate to have the choice.

    I like to think it would never have been something I'd have opted for, but who knows. I've known intelligent women whose sterilization failed. I've known a young woman who fell pregnant after her prescription interfered with the contraceptive pill (she's now a single mum). I've also known friends who work with children (yes children) of 14, 15 years of age who have become pregnant, sometimes as a result of abuse.

    I certainly don't believe it is a decision any woman takes lightly and from those I know who have taken that path the repercussions are longlasting.

    I like to think (perhaps naively) that choice means just that, choice. Can it ever be a fully informed choice? I don't know - who can tell what the consequences of the decisions we make today will be on the future.

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  2. Thanks for posting your thoughts.

    I think this is such a huge issue and not something that can just have a 'right' or 'wrong' slapped on it...its bigger than that.

    I dont have any children myself but I am really looking forward to that part of my life when it comes :)

    Thank you for sharing your personal experiences - you are very brave

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  3. Bravo for posting something so personal! Behind you 100% there. I used to work for Family Planning and saw plenty of both sides - the 'Oh well, I'll just have an abortion' types and the 'holy shit, i CANNOT DO THIS' types.
    Kudos to you lovely, not easy, not easy at all. xoxox

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  4. My first pregnacy was also unplanned and I must say, given different circumstances I would have chosen another path. It definately crossed my mind (shhhh). Unplanned pregnancy is a hard thing to deal with without the added pressure from outsiders urging you to make the "right" choice. And some pregnancies just happen, despite how many precautions are being taken at the time (take my word for it!)...

    anyway what I wanted to say was good on you for being so brave with this post and sharing your personal experience. It's a very hard thing to do.
    xx

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  5. Thanks for sharing your story Nikki. Unfortunately it seems like personal stories are being lost in this whole reform debate and it's important people are reminded of what's really at stake. I feel like 'The choice is personal' should be repeated over and over again. So true!

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  6. All i can say is thank you for sharing your personal experiences, its very brave of you.

    I think the issue here is whether we as a society think we can tell people how to live their lives. In England we are lucky that abortion services are relatively easy to access, but it Ireland, it is illegal and this forces many women in to difficult and desperate circumstances.

    We have to face up to the fact that unplanned pregnancies do happen, no one is perfect and no contraception method is perfect either. If abortion was to be made illegal it would be the imposition of one set of morals held by the minority on the majority. We have to give people the choice to choose other wise we are limiting their personal freedoms and becoming a dictatorial state which chooses its citizens lives for them.

    Having a child is a commitment for life, and it is a commitment which needs to be made in a circumstance which are unbiased and free from discrimination and pressure. Only then will child poverty decrease and living standards as a whole rise.

    Once again, a very good post.

    Ros xxx

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  7. big nods, big hugs, big ups (nothing profound to say)

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  8. Mazzy8:05 pm

    Thank you Nikki, you are very brave to share all this.
    I agree, it's so important to be reminded that behind the debate, there are individuals who have to deal with the reality.
    I'm lucky never to have had to make this decision. I tend to think that if I don't know how I would deal with it myself, how can I expect to tell others what to decide?
    Reading posts like this helps me put it in perspective.

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  9. Pivotal memory for me - 1975, in town on Friday night with my mum and nana. Outside Woolworths are a couple of women at a table with a petition on it. It was to feed into abortion law reform, and I've always been proud of my mum and nana for signing it without hesitation, even though I didn't really get it at the time.
    Good post.

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  10. Anonymous9:38 am

    Thank you for sharing and thank you for always telling it like it is. You are thoughtfull and wise beyond your years.

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  11. Hi Nikki, I read your blog from time to time and haven't left a comment before (rude of me I know) - so I wanted to tell you what a brave blog entry it was, thank you for telling your story. You're right - many have similar stories it's just that we don't necessarily hear them. I too had my first child very young - he's your age now - and I used to feel like you sometimes, life was passing me by while my friends were having fun. 25 years on I have a different view - I had my children when I was full of energy and had all the time in the world for them, and then in my 30's I studied and embarked on a whole new career, without the pressure to beat the biological clock and juggle day-care. I know it seems like a long time now, but honestly, snap your fingers and Hannah will be babysitting for your friends kids and you will be swanning off after work for a drink whenever you feel like it :)

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  12. Thank you for telling your story, Nikki. I think this is what we need to hear - real stories about how and why women make their decisions about whether or not to continue a pregnancy.

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  13. Hi Nikki - your blog was recommend to me by my friend megan at mousehouse.

    Wow, I had no idea NZ was not pro-choice. I got quite a shock reading the link you put up. Originally from Napier, I have been living in Japan for coming up 12 years. On my last visit home, at 18 weeks with my third, I had a visit with a midwife clinic in Napier - they sent me for an ultrasound for the 17 week anatomy check or whatever - the one that tests for downs. I was in NZ for two months. The nurse said that 'if the test came back positive' and 'if I was so inclined' I would have choices to go down to Wellington and terminate the pregnancy if it was before 24 weeks. I am pro-choice but 24 weeks seems wrong to me.

    Over here in Japan, where the pill is not so readily available and most women I know have never been on it, the abortion rate is a lot higher than in NZ and when i went to the doctors at about 6 weeks for all my pregnancies the first question I was asked was 'will you keep it'??

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    Katy

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  14. Anonymous6:06 pm

    Hats off to you my friend for sharing your story and being so honest. I hear you and completely understand what its like to go through this.

    Because I had a baby that died people now assume that I am a right to lifer - why? I am not. So don't think that I am going to get all weird on you or anything. They are 2 completely different issues, so far removed from eachother its not funny. I have been through both so I get it.

    Good on you again for being so open and honest.

    xxx Rach
    (in Oz, you know the one)

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  15. Whilst i have no opinion on anyone else's abortion choices (because i do not live their lives) i would be interested to hear what methods of contraception failed you and why? I think too many times we hear "it does happen" but other than unprotected sex girls are not told of other ways they could end up in this situation. Antibiotics void the pill, vomiting (think young girl with a hangover!) would mean your pill wasn't ingested. Condoms break or expire... the list goes on. We need to share how to avoid the pregnancy just as much as what to do once you are already pregnant surely?

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  16. Goosey chew - not that it makes any difference whatsoever to the debate over decriminalising abortion, I was on the progesterone only pill both times - with my first pregnancy I wasn't taking it reliably enough to work so also took the emergency contraceptive pill. The second time I was on the mini pill as a method of contraception and took it as religiously (as humanly possible). I had also just stopped breastfeeding which may or may not have had a slight contraceptive effect in the previous 13 months.

    Needless to say, I went on a much more effective contraception after that - depo provera (although that had its own issues). And should have also heeded the warning my midwife gave me that the mini pill might not be enough.

    But yes, I agree that we need to talk about how to avoid pregnancy - and just as much how to avoid sexually transmitted infections. I mean, that wasn't the point of this post but I do get your point.

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