A woman in a lovely sparkly pink jumper with a beautiful Northern Irish brogue sat giving evidence in Belfast to the Women and Equalities Committee inquiry into abortion. Before proceedings had started, she and I had chatted – I asked her where she got her jumper as I really liked it. This same woman said, while giving her evidence: “I’ve never met a woman who had an abortion and doesn’t regret it.”
Now, this was a factual evidence session, so obviously we probed her on the details – but even with that, her statement couldn’t possibly be true: because she had met me. I don’t regret my abortion. I don’t regret it one bit.
I told her she would have to update her patter next time she made that statement – and offered to introduce her to many of my mates and family who, like me, had no regrets. She seemed less than interested to meet these rhetorically unhelpful women. A shame – they wear cool sparkly jumpers too, I’m sure she’d like them.
Abortion is once again in the news. The overturning of Roe v Wade in the US means that millions of women in conservative regressive states such as Texas or Alabama will no longer have a right to demand access to healthcare.
When I found out that six unelected justices on the supreme court (two of whom have been accused of sexual harassment, which they deny) had made this decision, I felt as if I was being punched in the stomach. To hear of such a backwards and regressive step in a nation which lords itself as “the home of the free” made me feel scared – scared for the women who will now die, suffer and be forced into a life they don’t want.
I also became immediately annoyed at the way those who need abortion are being represented. People always feel the need to lean on the hard cases. I understand why – the rape victim forced to carry her baby, or the woman whose baby has a condition that means it will die as soon as it breathes – are the bold primary colours of this debate.
These cases exist, I see them daily. I have helped young women procure terminations of pregnancies that occurred because they were prostituted, exploited women, with no idea which one of the punters was the father. I have known women who have gone on to be murdered by their abusive partners after they found out that they’d had an abortion. I have met the women of Northern Ireland who were forced to travel so they didn’t die in labour from a pregnancy that they very much wanted.
I know these cases exist, and they are a rhetorical tool in the fight for women’s rights, they are important – but they are also rare, compared to the women who just want to make a choice about their lives. This is the woman I am; this is the case for four of my closest six mates. I am sorry if it is not primary colour enough to think a woman should be able to decide about her own body and her own life.
My son was just a few months old when I found out I was pregnant again. I was still breastfeeding; still a zombie, living each day counting the hours and hoping it would get easier sometime soon. I was 24 years old and the mother of a little boy who I worshipped.
When I was pregnant with him, it had been suggested to me for health reasons (to do with cancerous cells on my cervix) that I should consider a termination. My late mother had told me that if I was going to be ill because of the pregnancy she felt I should really consider it, but I wouldn’t countenance it.
From the second my pregnancy test flashed positive with my first child, I knew I wanted to have that baby. It wasn’t necessarily a wise choice at the time – I was crashing in my new boyfriend’s (somewhat insalubrious) shared house. I was temping and working in pubs. We had nothing in the way of security back then, but I knew I wanted it, wanted him so badly.
I don’t even need to tell you my story as to why I had an abortion the next time I became pregnant – it is simply enough that I knew which times I wanted to be a mother and which times I didn’t. I knew – and it was my life. And it was my body that would go on to be so battered by my final pregnancy that I nearly died and ended up in intensive care.
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I know what is right for me and my family because I am a grown woman. I don’t feel sad about a child that never was. I wouldn’t have my youngest son if I had seen that pregnancy out – and I really like my youngest son, he is a hoot.
The crux of the abortion debate for me is not the hard cases of the women who will now certainly die in the US, it is the attack on the idea that women and girls don’t have minds enough to know best for themselves.
The overturning of Roe v Wade belittles and patronises the women of America – it tells them that some bureaucrat knows what’s better for their bodies and lives than they do. It is in no way liberal, it is in no way even libertarian. It is aggressive and regressive – and it treats women as if they are children who need the consent of a proper adult to live.
If the Supreme Court justices don’t like abortion, I suggest they simply shouldn’t have one – it is not compulsory. I am not a child, I am a good mother of two children and I know that what is best for them is what is best for me. I refuse to make any apology for that.
The women of the world must do whatever we can to ensure that women everywhere have a right not just over their own bodies, but also over their own minds. Trust women.