I’ve had an abortion. Several women I know have had an abortion. Some have had more than one and one friend has had four.
With one in three women having an abortion in their lifetime, why is it that we still can’t talk about it?
I made short film, Break the Taboo, because the shame that people expected me to feel when I mention having an abortion – quite frankly – filled me with frustration.
People would push me to show remorse with sympathetic funeral-like comments whilst looking at me as though I’m a slut who has just lost an arm to leprosy. My usual response is: I’m not sorry.
It’s a circumstance that I wish I had not encountered, but I made the right decision to have a termination. Without it I wouldn’t be who I am today. I wouldn’t have met and be engaged to the most wonderful man. I wouldn’t be working in a career I love. I wouldn’t be surrounded by the loveliest, warmest friends.
Where would I be? Well, taking into account where I was at the time of the abortion, I would probably be single, with no career and no friends that I can truly connect with. Lonely and struggling is probably where I would be.
91 percent of women who have an abortion do so within thirteen weeks and the majority of us chose an abortion not due to some tragic foetal abnormality, not because of rape, and not because our life is in danger. Our stories are neither exciting nor dramatic; they are everyday and sometimes even a little dull.
We choose to have an abortion because the time isn’t right, we want to focus on our career, our financial circumstances are difficult, or because (shock, horror) we just don’t want a child. As a result we continued to be ridiculed and victimized for choosing our future over our fetus.
As someone on Guardian comments put it: “once a woman consents to have sex, she consents to being pregnant.” This made me laugh aloud, whilst simultaneously wailing in fear of society.
When attitudes like this exist, why don’t us feminists speak out louder and tell the world that women have the right to choose? Why isn’t abortion firmly on the fourth waves agenda?
When Big Brother wannabe, Josie Cunningham, chose an abortion in order to pursue her career the social media erupted with hate. She received an avalanche of violent threats that would make a Guantanamo Bay guard take notes.
The right to an abortion is a basic human right that Britain has signed-up to. The 1967 Abortion Act has saved countless women’s lives from backstreet abortions. Why? Because whether abortion is legal or not, the demand will always be there.
Just yesterday I met a woman who had a backstreet abortion in 1965. She told me that ‘everyone had one’ and couldn’t recall anyone who had regretted it. It was a life-threatening procedure that around 40 women a year died from in the UK. For all those who mourn those aborted foetus’, who mourns the women so desperate that they risk death?
It’s time we stopped judging those who terminate their pregnancies and talked about their reasons for wanting an abortion by looking at a woman’s circumstance in its individuality. It’s time at we genuinely accept that a woman has a right to decide what her future looks like. Not the strangers who threatened to throw acid in Ms Cunningham’s face, or told her she should die.
When I speak about my abortion people are shocked because I’m not ashamed.
When Emily Letts posted a video of her experience online she received criticism because she is also unashamed. She shared her story to help make this horrible process easier to suffer which is in itself controversial – abortion mustn’t be an ‘easy’ experience. It must be a terrible and painful procedure to make women ‘learn their lesson’. Yet there’s no evidence that speaking about abortion and making the process more bearable will encourage more abortions.
We need to fight for abortion, because women’s reproductive rights globally are rolling backwards. It’s a devastating scenario that fills me with fear for women now and our future generations.
We need to fight for abortion to let the rest of the world know that, for 51 percent of the population, it is a health procedure and a decision that should be ours to take.
We need to fight for abortion, to tell women that they should not be ashamed. That one in three of us will have one in our lifetime, and it’s OK.
Let’s fight for abortion.
Melanie is a NGO-worker, feminist & film-maker. Follow her on twitter @51percentorg
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