If you believe that there is absolutely no instance in which a woman should be permitted to have an abortion, this article isn’t for you. By the same token, if you believe that every woman should be able to make the decision herself with no necessary input from anyone else, it might not be for you, either.
This one is for the grey area.
And this one is personal.
Putting it in perspective
I am married. We have always wanted children. We have a lifestyle where we could provide for children, and we have a lot of love to give.
I live in a country where abortion is illegal. It is a western, modern, first-world country by all accounts, but it is against the law for a woman to make this choice for herself.
After a year of trying to conceive, we began investigations. I suffer from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which makes it hard for my body to mature and release eggs. In addition, I have an autoimmune disorder, which makes it hard for me to carry for more than a few weeks.
Already, the deck’s stacked against me.
And then it gets personal
I can honestly say that, at this point in my life, I couldn’t imagine desiring an abortion. I do, however, know that things are not always so easy to define.
For instance, did you know that a miscarriage is, medically, called a “spontaneous abortion”? Or that what constitutes an abortion can vary by region?
In 2014, I had my second miscarriage. Each pregnancy was unlikely to succeed at the start — my hormones were low and my body was fighting it. I knew that. I didn’t seek out a midwife; I didn’t want to find out information about a child I would never have. I couldn’t bring myself to invest in the pregnancy until I knew the odds were good. You have heard people refer to their “happy surprise” baby — I would have had the most planned happy surprise if it succeeded.
When I started spotting, I was skeptical. When I started bleeding, I was devastated. When I didn’t stop bleeding, I was worried.
After six days of intense bleeding, low energy, uncontrolled shaking, and moments of lost consciousness, I visited the doctor. As this was my second miscarriage, I had been here before. I hadn’t been HERE before, though. I’d never been scared for my own health. I was referred to hospital for further treatment.
That further treatment consisted of … nothing
What I discovered at the hospital was that literally nothing could be done for me within the law. If the miscarriage had not completed, then any course of treatment would be assisting in an abortion. Despite how desperately I wanted a child, despite how closely I was taking care of myself for the sake of any potential child I might carry, despite how much pain I was in and how much I just wanted the whole experience over, the prevailing suggestion was that I take iron supplements and return when the bleeding subsided.
I begged for more. I Googled for days. I was offered an ultrasound — then an internal ultrasound — which confirmed no heartbeat. I enquired after tablets that could make the process quicker. I asked after a D&C (a dilation and curettage), which would remove the excess tissue from my uterus. I was told, once again, that any actions to remove the tissue before the end of the miscarriage would constitute an abortion.
A modern healthcare system told me to go home, crying and bleeding, because a technicality (and a particular person interpreting that technicality) categorised a procedure — which is not exclusively used for miscarrying or aborting women — as potentially abortive.
Not the easy way out
While most of the health professionals were understanding of the situation, one nurse suggested that I was trying to ‘take the easy way out’. I was, honestly, not sure how to respond to her; I had never thought going under general anaesthesia, allowing my body to be forcibly opened, allowing an intimate part of my anatomy to be scraped and suctioned, and cramping for days afterward was easy. Add to all of it that I was still mourning the possibility of what might have been.
None of it was easy.
The process took 18 days. EIGHTEEN DAYS. For 18 days, I was at a standstill. I couldn’t leave the house. I spent hours sitting on the toilet because the bleeding often came in giant waves. I was nauseous, and I couldn’t stomach much more than water. I would lie on the sofa, on the bed, on the floor — anywhere I might could get a bit of relief from the fatigue and sadness. I kept a rotating stock of hot water bottles on my abdomen and lower back so warm that my skin was left pink. I took the longest showers of my life, crying and wishing I could wash it all away. I had to visit the hospital twice as an outpatient to receive fluids because my body had lost so much in the process. I had lost so much.
None of it was easy.
The next time I saw a doctor — and it was a fair time until I wanted to — I was told that the lining of my uterus was now very thin and depleted. It was unlikely that I would be able to carry further pregnancies; if I did, it would take my body a long time and a lot of effort to replenish and repopulate. She confirmed what I suspected: if I had received proper medical treatment during my miscarriage, the entire thing could have been less traumatic and had fewer long term consequences. The legislation that seeks to ensure women carry children (intentionally conceived or otherwise) may have prevented wanted children from being born.
NONE of it was easy.
You see, when you when you take away a woman’s ability to choose not to carry a child, sometimes you take away one’s ability to choose to carry one.