Two years ago, I went through the difficult journey of an unplanned pregnancy and abortion. While I gained positive things from the experience, including a renewed focus about what I want to do with my career and life, it was both the most difficult and most empowering decision I have ever made.
For over five weeks I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I have always been a very maternal person and the possibility of having a child was a very happy one. After much contemplation, however, I decided that terminating the pregnancy was best for me and my situation at the time.
For some women, the decision to terminate a pregnancy is a straightforward one. For others, it is very hard. Sometimes the reaction may be a feeling of relief, other times it may be pain and sadness. For me it was both a hard decision and very painful to deal with. Despite being difficult, it was the right choice, because it was my choice.
In healthcare, especially with choices as complex and emotional as this, it is crucial that women are given the space to own their own decisions.
Having an abortion taught me about the right I have over my own body. It empowered me to be in control and it allowed me to have children when I choose to. It also highlighted to me, however, that the Australian healthcare system is not supporting this right in the way that it should.
At many different points along the way I felt judged and vilified. I felt like I was being questioned about my choices. The throwaway lines of some healthcare practitioners undermined my prior struggles to find the right contraception, as well as the emotional toll the decision to terminate the pregnancy was having. Hospital policies stripped back my autonomy, by not explaining why the date I conceived had to be recorded as two weeks earlier than it was, and by pushing me into decisions about contraception I was not ready to make. I left feeling I was no longer trusted to manage my own reproductive and sexual health.
Due to the caring aspect of healthcare, it is an industry which has the potential to transcend politics and be a pioneer in striving for gender equality. It is also an industry which must be a pioneer, as peoples’ lives depend on it. To do this, women’s autonomy over their own sexual and reproductive health must be maintained and championed.
At the time, if I had known or could have spoken to another woman who had gone through an abortion, I believe the stress would have been more manageable and the self-doubt less overwhelming. Too often in our society, we are silent about issues which are deemed personal, private, but which are a common experience. We allow stigma to continue when silence is maintained, when we fail to challenge assumptions. In speaking about my experience, I am upholding my right over my body, and my decision, and hoping to support others in doing so.
So, to others facing the difficult experience of an unplanned pregnancy and potential termination: you are not alone. Even when you don’t feel supported by those around you, know that there are millions of people who know how you feel, want to give you strength and who will remind you that you have the right to make your own decisions, based on what is best for you and your body.
Eloise Noske is a midwifery student in Melbourne. She shares her story so that women who experience unplanned pregnancies know that they are not alone.