It was 1991 and I was 20 years old and not in a relationship. I was home from university and had to travel 400km, on my own dime, to access abortion services.
In order to have an abortion at no cost at the Victoria General Hospital in Halifax, I would have needed a referral from my GP. Since my sister worked at the GP’s clinic and I didn’t feel comfortable with her knowing I was planning to have an abortion (as the admin person, she had access to my file and would routinely read it), I had to go the private clinic route. This meant I had to pay the $400.00 fee, since abortions were not publicly funded out of hospital in Nova Scotia at the time. This meant I had to go begging for the money (through the friend who had introduced us) to the person who had raped me. He was happy to absolve himself and paid. But what if he hadn’t? Where in the world would I have come up with that money?
The staff at the clinic were very supportive. The clinic office administrator offered me a cigarette and we sat in the sunshine on the back porch and chatted about the demonstrators who were blocking the path outside of the clinic. It really helped strengthen me in crossing the demonstrators and for the solitary walk back to where I was staying. I had come to the clinic by myself for the abortion.
There was never a doubt in my mind about terminating the pregnancy. The instant I found out I was pregnant, I went into survival mode. Nothing and nobody was going to stop me from having an abortion.
I’ve never regretted my decision. I’m grateful for that period in my life. It made me who I am today and I like who I am.
I feel that women, especially with the anti-choice campaign around post-abortion trauma in recent years, are made to feel that they should regret their abortion and feel guilty about it. They are made to feel that they better have had a darn good reason, such as rape or incest, to terminate their pregnancy. And if not, they should feel regret, remorse and shame at having supposedly ended a life.
My pregnancy was a result of sexual assault, and for the first years following the experience, I would always preface my abortion disclosure with that bit of information. “I was raped. I had an abortion.” Then, it hit me one day that I was being a total hypocrite. I finally owned up to the fact that even if I hadn’t been raped, I would have had an abortion. Period. I realise now that I was letting the anti-choice perspective frame the language around my experience. When I talk about my abortion today, I don’t talk about the events that lead up to it.
I feel that my abortion experience was a gift. Prior to it, the universe had tried to show me the inequities of this world but I had refused to see. The abortion and the circumstances around it (pre and post) made me see that I could no longer be complacent, and indeed complicit, in the injustices perpetrated on the women and children in our society. I had my eyes wrenched open for me. I came to see that oppression insinuates its way into every aspect of our lives – from the words we speak, to the images we see, the products we buy and the leaders we elect to run our affairs.