I had an abortion.
I’m not going to tell you how old I was when I had it.
I’m not going to tell you what the circumstances around the pregnancy were.
I’m not going to tell you whether birth control was used or not.
I’m not going to tell you whether it was a wanted or an unwanted pregnancy.
I’m not going to tell you how far along the pregnancy was.
I’m not going to tell you whether there was a genetic abnormality, or whether my life was endangered by the pregnancy.
I’m not going to tell you any of those things because I think answering those questions, creating the situation from which my experience unfolds offers someone, everyone, anyone, the chance to say, “She deserved to access abortion,” or “How dare she get pregnant and have an abortion,” or find some pity in their heart for whatever piece of my situation offers them the opportunity to justify their judgment, or their sense of false safety.
When I was in high school (so many years ago) we had a speaker come to talk with us about HIV and AIDS. He told us about what living with AIDS was like. What it was like to defecate in his bed at 3am and be unable to move by himself and having to call for his parents to come clean him. To live with the stares that people gave him when they saw the sores on his arms. To be asked, over and over and over, “Well, how did you contract the disease?” He said it was a question he never answered. Because the answer would muddy his message with pity or feelings of false safety. How he contracted the disease was irrelevant to the fact that he had it.
This is how I feel about my abortion. None of the, “How did it happen?” matters. It’s irrelevant.
What matters is that I was able to access abortion when I needed to. When I wanted to. When I was pregnant and had the need to no longer be pregnant. When I was desperate to not be pregnant.
I walked past anti-choice protestors with their signs, and listened to their shouting, “Don’t do this! Think of your baby! We’re praying for you!” I pushed past them as they blocked the sidewalk.
The facility that did the abortion had, what I’ve come to understand is, an abortion doula. She held my hand, asked me if I was okay. If I needed anything. She tucked the stray hairs from my ponytail behind my ear and told me that everything was going to be all right.
When it was over, I threw up.
I have never regretted my abortion. For a long time I didn’t talk about it. In fact, I’m only just beginning to talk about it. I’ve always felt that my experience was just that, my experience and didn’t need to be shared. (I will admit, I did fear negative repercussion. I feared facing hostile judgement.) But I’m learning that things we don’t talk about – abortion, miscarriage…are things that we NEED to talk about. *I* need to pipe up when I hear someone struggling and say, “I’ve had this experience, too. This was how it went for me.”
Silence equals shame. And I am not ashamed.
I’m going to let the Better Health Channel cover this part for me: Abortion is legal in Victoria. In 2008, The Abortion Law Reform Act decriminalised termination of pregnancy and set out guidelines for when abortion can take place. Any woman of any age can attend an abortion clinic in Victoria and access abortion until she is 24 weeks pregnant. Abortion after 24 weeks is legal, but isn’t commonly performed. Two doctors must agree the termination is appropriate, considering the woman’s relevant medical circumstances and her current and future physical, psychological and social circumstances.
Under Victorian law, a health practitioner who has a conscientious objection to providing abortion information must refer any woman seeking information about abortion services to another doctor who doesn’t object. Doctors and nurses must perform an abortion in emergency situations where it’s necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman, even if they object to abortion in general.
On Saturday the Right to Life group had their annual March For The Babies. The Right to Lifers are mad that women are allowed to have abortions if they want one, and every year a bunch of angry white men (because they are always white men) trot out their clergy, their kids, their rosary beads and their pictures and statues of poor old Jesus and Mary to make their point.
SO. There was a counter-rally organised. We were a small group, but we were present. A small area of the steps at Parliament House had been cordoned off for us, and we stood their with our banners and our placards and our speakers and megaphones, took a small walk around the city and then returnted to our post where we waited for the Right To Lifers to come up Bourke St. We were told, by the leaders of our group, repeatedly, not to engage with the Right to Lifers. Not to yell back if they yell at us, not to let them get under our skin. We were told to remain in our area and not cross over into theirs. Pretty simple, right?
The Right to Life group made it’s way up Bourke St at around 3pm, and there were THOUSANDS of them. There was maybe, at a stretch, about 50 of us, but probably fewer. We were a very small group, though when we took our little march through the city, and while we were standing at Parliament House, we got lots of support in the form of applause and horn toots from passers by. This, I think, is testament to the fact that most Victorians now believe that the battle has been won – that because abortion has been decriminalised and made freely available, that there’s nothing to defend. Unfortunately, this is not true – just because a right has been won, doesn’t mean you don’t still need to stand up to protect it.
Anyway. The Right To Lifers arrived, and they were scary. They filled up Spring St, and spilled over into our area. Several of them made Nazi salutes at us, one lady stepped right into our small space and threw salt on me and a few other people. They came right up onto the kerb and shouted in our faces. The police had to get between us and the Right to Lifers – protecting us “Nazi baby killers” from the “love thy neighbour Christians.” I found it really confronting. I felt sad for all the kids there who were brought along by their parents, to serve their parents’ agenda. None of the people in our group had their children there, and I felt like it was a really inappropriate thing to bring your kids to.
I really felt like, had the police not been there, or been reluctant to protect us, that the Right to Lifers would have been quite happy to use violence to make their point. It was an appalling display of pseudo-dominance from a group of desperate people. It was kind of like, when you’re watching the footy and Collingwood are losing, and they start getting a bit elbowy or a bit fisty, in order to get the opposition out of the way, to intimidate them. That’s what it was like. It was like they knew they were a minority (despite being the bigger group on the day) so they had to start using pushyness and violence to try to change our minds. We weren’t there to change any minds. We were there to be present, and to show the people of Melbourne that this sort of anti-choice nonsense will not go unchecked.
The man in the centre of this photo, with his arms outstretched, was a particularly repugnant creature and I wanted to smack him right in his smug face. This guy reminded me of Rickety Cricket, from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
In the end, it was a good day. It was confronting being Nazi saluted at, though that wasn’t a big shock for me, as I used to work at a theater and while we were showing The Producers, we used to greet each other with Nazi salutes, it was very tongue in cheek. But having someone throw salt at me was VERY confronting. That made me feel sad, and angry, and dehumanised. It made me feel like the lady who threw it at me didn’t think of me as a person in my own right, with my own sense of agency. I laughed, at the time, but looking back on it, I just feel angrier and sadder. She just saw me as a demon baby killer, despite knowning nothing about me at all.
I didn’t go out on Saturday to tangle with anti-choicers. I went out on Saturday to be present with a small group who represent most of Victoria, to remind a large group who only represent themselves that they will ALWAYS have us on their back. That they will not succeed in undoing the rights we have come so far to achieve.
A lady from Radical Women gave me a coathanger to wave around just before Right to Lifers arrived, and I present, complete with a bad taste joke, the photo of me holding the coathanger at Parliament Station:
I went to the pro-abortion rights rally, and all I got was this stupid coathanger!! (LOLOLOLOLOL)
Lastly, you can see some great photos of the day here, from Kenji Wardenclyffe at Wardenclyffe Photography. He always takes kickass shots of civil actions. Hopefully the link works – it’s to a Facebook Page, not a profile, so there shouldn’t be any privacy issues.
And on an unrelated note, I posted something on Facebook in response to a link posted on the SlutWalk Melbourne page, and Helen Razer liked it! THIS IS THE BEST THING THAT’S EVER HAPPENED TO ME.
This is a great idea, because everybody’s knows that abortions are a classic impulse buy — one of those things you toss into the cart at checkout, like Us Weekly or Sugar Babies! …That’s why I am giving a well-deserved tip of my hat to South Dakota. Now let’s be clear, folks: this abortion law (requiring a three-day waiting period to get an abortion) is not limiting a woman’s rights. As South Dakota Dennis Daugaard said, ‘I hope that women who are considering abortion will use this three-day period to make good choices.’ See? He’s clearly pro-choice, in that he sometimes uses the word ‘choice.’
Now personally, I think any procedure a doctor performs should have a three-day waiting period — unless that procedure is to save the life of a handgun, because in South Dakota, there is no waiting period for guns of any kind! South Dakota backs a woman’s right to choose — as long as it’s between a .45 and a semi-automatic.
– STEPHEN COLBERT, on South Dakota’s Neanderthal laws restricting abortion, on The Colbert Report (via inothernews)