I had an abortion. No biggie, right? Right! And yet, despite feeling totally at one with my choice, an air of something lingers over it: a weirdness. People not quite knowing what to say or how to act. Should they comfort you? Should they commend you? Should they buy you a card? (Answer: No. But I will accept chocolate.)
Peak weirdness, I’ve found, arrives when you find yourself surrounded by buns in ovens. Only the other day I had to stop myself chiming in with an exclamatory remark regarding the ferocity of my morning sickness as a friend was discussing hers. Was it weird to talk about my morning sickness when I so clearly had no child? Would it make the conversation awkward? Would my friends feel obliged to throw me a sad and meaningful look? Would they believe that I was entirely A-OK with my child-free status (especially so after the wretchedness of the aforementioned doesn’t-just-happen-in-the-morning sickness)? I decided not to pipe up – even though I had a marginally funny anecdote that involved getting off at every stop on the Central Line to throw up into Elle magazine – and spare everyone the awkwardness. Because that’s what these things are shrouded in: awkwardness. And, often, shame. But I feel no shame, and no awkwardness of my own, and I am at liberty to be as uncensored and vocal about my experience as I please.
Here’s what happened: I peed on a stick to discover, to my horror, that I was pregnant. The decision was relatively easy: Did I want a baby? No. I had no plans to have a child, no money with which to raise a child and, most importantly, no desire to have a child. I did not want a baby! Simples. I briefly toiled with the idea, debating whether this unexpected turn in events meant that this was a path I should follow: maybe I should have a child, maybe this was some sort of divine intervention and, whilst I’d been driving myself insane scrambling to find my purpose in life (an ongoing quest that appears to lack any finality), my purpose had fallen into my lap. Or into my womb. Whatever works for you.
No. Ultimately I decided that I had too much to do, too much frivolity and freedom to experience, before I wanted the responsibility of a child. So I called the heaven-sent Marie Stopes and within a week of finding out I was pregnant, I wasn’t pregnant anymore. Done. Chapter closed. Sort of. Would the thought of what could’ve been linger in my mind, intermittently appearing at points when I, yet again, debated my purpose? Yes. Would that thought be entertained? Mildly. But it’s all too easy to entertain the comparative thoughts of a restless mind; you can literally wile away your life debating whether you chose the wrong path. “Should I have ever gone to uni? Should I have been with him? Should I have changed course? Should I have taken that job? Should I have eaten that week-old fish?”
We are wired to produce ‘what if’s’. Am I sad or regretful over having had an abortion? Absolutely not. I’m happy with my choice. Because it is, when all is said and done, my choice. My body, my looming motherhood, my life spent providing for another human, my vagina, my choice.
#ShoutYourAbortion has taken social media by storm, as most mildly ‘controversial’ topics tend to do. (Note: It shouldn’t be controversial that a person chooses not to pursue a pregnancy, but sadly it is.) One in three women has an abortion and, despite the numbers, the conversation encompassing it is relatively muted and the accessibility to legal abortion is limited (see the world’s abortion map here).
The purpose of #ShoutYourAbortion is to bring abortion to the forefront of conversation, prompted by the voting – by the US House of Representatives – in favour of defunding Planned Parenthood. A step so incredibly backwards I CAN’T EVEN DEAL. As a hashtag, it has unified people and gone some way to de-stigmatising abortions.
As feminist activist Amelia Bonow so eloquently words it: “Plenty of people still believe that on some level – if you are a good woman – abortion is a choice which should be accompanied by some level of sadness, shame, or regret. But you know what? Having an abortion made me happy in a totally unqualified way. Why wouldn’t I be happy that I was not forced to become a mother?” To that I say: HELL YEAH. But where there’s a topic, there’s a troll, and it’s these 140 character-count bites of idiocy that had me itching to pen this post…
#ShoutYourAbortion My son became a Dad at sixteen.He's 26&graduates pharmacy school this year. Overcome your obstacles, not dispose of them
— mjhubbard (@mjhubbard1) September 22, 2015
— Mathews Michelle (@TheMathews04) September 22, 2015
close your legs and there wont be any abortion #ShoutYourAbortion
— Siya Hleba (@51ShadesOfShade) September 22, 2015
the fact that #ShoutYourAbortion is even a thing disgusts me. That people are taking pride in taking away someone's life and will to live.
— mack (@macccckenzzziee) September 22, 2015
In summary: I’m a murdering mother of a dead child, as well as a person who has not only failed to keep her legs closed, but has also failed to recognise the blessing of new life. Who knew?!
It’s because of the above comments (and literally so many more) that this hashtag exists. #ShoutYourAbortion is a shedding of shame and silence. It’s a tool with which to empower people to speak openly and freely, without fear of reprisal (an outlandish thing to wish for on Twitter, I realise), about their abortions. It is not a hashtag built for you to project your feelings onto people who have experienced abortion. Who are we to say how a person vocalises their experiences?
I find comfort in being an over-sharer (however personal and unpalatable the topic), and I realise and respect that that’s not the case for everyone; different strokes for different folk! But the unwillingness of others to be vocal about their experience shouldn’t be a permissible reason for people to shame others about their own vocality. The absence of sadness surrounding an abortion does not determine the compassion of a person. To some, abortion may weigh heavily. To others, abortion is a means to an end. A child-free end. We are all different. But we needn’t feel shame. With that in mind, I’ll leave you with some sense-filled tweets…
Abortion is a medical procedure, not a moral quagmire. It is more dangerous to give birth than it is to have an abortion. #shoutyourabortion
— Clementine Ford ?♀️ (@clementine_ford) September 21, 2015
Not becoming a parent while I was still a child was wise & merciful. I send love 2 providers & to all ppl being shamed. #shoutyourabortion
— KarenHarrisThurston (@OliveMercies) September 21, 2015
I've never wanted to have children, so I had an abortion. I'm thriving, without guilt, without shame, without apologies. #ShoutYourAbortion
— favianna rodriguez (@favianna) September 21, 2015
I haven't needed an abortion yet, but I don't know of ANY regrettable ones. If you need a ride to yours, let me know. #shoutyourabortion
— Taffy Brodesser-Akner (@taffyakner) September 21, 2015