Content warning: this blog contains graphic descriptions of abortion
Recently in /r/relationships (a Reddit forum where people can ask for personal advice), there was a post by a woman seeking support after a traumatic abortion. The post has now been removed, but it’s been preying on my mind. The responses by a large portion of users to her requests for help were frankly awful. They accused her of being a troll pro-life account, and insisted that her description of her experience was completely made up. Few people seemed to grasp the fact that women’s bodies are all different, and just because one woman reacts to an abortion in a certain way, it does not mean that anyone with a different experience must be lying. When I said I believed her and that my experience of an abortion was very similar, all I got was downvotes in response.
It seems to me that amongst pro-choice people there’s often a need to “sanitise” abortion. It’s presented as a no muss no fuss procedure with few side effects. To go against the grain can bring on accusations of being a secret pro-lifer, or of giving pro-lifers more ammunition. I strongly feel that this is a dangerous trend, and silencing women who have had traumatic experiences is not only unkind and invalidating, but potentially detrimental to the cause.
One commenter said something along the lines of:
“I don’t want any young women considering abortion and reading this to think that this will happen to them”
I disagree. Perhaps traumatic experiences are more unlikely to occur but I think anyone considering one should be adequately prepared. That way they’ll be less scared, and more able to advocate for themselves. I certainly wasn’t.
I was 17 and pushed into an abortion I didn’t really want (though am now very grateful for). I was driven to a city two hours away, and checked into a hotel with my boyfriend. We walked over to the abortion clinic where I was given an ultrasound and two pills. I was warned that I might bleed a little, and sent home to the hotel. I bled everywhere. I and the bedsheets were soaked in blood and clots. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t stand up, and I passed out for 30 minutes. I’ve had broken bones, kidney infections, etc, and that abortion is still by far the most physically painful thing I’ve ever gone through. When I woke up and dragged myself to the toilet (I’d sent my boyfriend away as I didn’t want anyone to see me like that) I found I’d passed the foetus into my underwear, and when I tried to pick it up to flush it, I squished it. No one prepared me for that.
The cramps and excessive blood loss lasted for weeks, but worse were the emotional aftershocks. I fell into a deep depression and cried every single day. I felt utterly bereft*. It must have been a hormonal thing, because I had never imagined I could feel such guilt over what I viewed as something akin to a tumour removal. I struggled with my feelings because I felt to voice them would be to condemn abortion or those who had had one. In my social circle abortion either wasn’t talked about, or it was joked about. It was, and still is, sanitised.
NB: I am by no means trying to suggest we should only talk about “bad” abortions. Many women truly do have minimal side effects and experience no feelings of guilt or regret. If that’s you, awesome! I encourage you to talk about your experiences also. I just feel that it would be helpful for those considering abortion and those feeling confused about the aftermath of their abortion to have a range of stories from women who have been there, to know that they are not alone.
*(This isn’t supposed to be a sob story - I got counselling and made peace with the decision long ago. In fact I’m now looking into adoption with the very same then-boyfriend/now-husband! This baby will be loved and wanted by two parents who are financially stable and emotionally mature enough to care for it properly. Consider it more a long-term abortion success story, but with some bumpy patches along the way, which others might benefit from hearing about.)