“I got pregnant at 21. I got an abortion at 21. I don’t see why I should be embarrassed about this. I was too young, broke and uninsured. I’d eat Tacobell for weeks straight because I didn’t want to go to the store and buy dish soap.”
A comic illustration posted by The Nib.com shares the story of a woman (let’s call her S?) who underwent abortions due to different reasons. However, the common factor in both these stories was that these women were scared to talk about it as they felt they have committed a sin and felt “dirty”.
“I went alone to get the first pill and I felt very dirty like everyone knew my sordid tale. Everyone there had come with a family member or two, while I was there alone. When the second pill was administered I went with a friend. She and I laughed and cracked jokes. But I came home and cried non-stop. The next day I started bleeding and bleeding non-stop. I just couldn’t articulate how I felt but I cried like my heart would break. I didn’t think I could talk about it to anyone and yet I wanted to tell the world that I was hurting and didn’t know what to do,” says S who had her second abortion at the age of 31 as she didn’t want to be a mother at all.
Though a personal choice, abortion leaves a woman feeling empty as getting rid of your own child is never an easy task. And if this is not enough, the stigma attached to it makes the situation worse for them.
“The house I shared with the man I loved then was on the ground floor and we would have many mousy visitors. The thought that the mice caught in mousetraps would eventually be killed would send me into a crying bout. Anything would. I would always be emotional and angry and then after less than a year, I was put on anti-depressants,” S added.
Abortion has been a controversial subject for decades, thanks to the political, moral, social, ethical and religious reasons. And this is the major reason why most women not just want to talk about it but fear even mentioning it. For them, it becomes their personal secret- something that they do want to share but are compelled to carry to their graves. Women are often afraid of being rejected, shamed or even attacked for a choice they are already struggling with themselves. A choice that is valid, no matter what the reason is. A choice that doesn’t need any justification at all.
However, despite the fact that one in every three women undergo an abortion, hardly anyone talks about their experience. Instead, it is declared as a “result of the reckless” decisions that careless women often always make, without stating the fact that women of all ages, backgrounds, and from every walk of life have had an abortion and it’s absolutely normal!
“The fact that even progressive, outspoken, pro-choice feminists feel the pressure to keep our abortions under wraps – to speak about them only in corners, in murmurs, in private with our closest confidantes – means that opponents of abortion get to define it, however, suits them best. The truth is that life is unfathomably complex, people with uteruses own their bodies unconditionally, and every abortion story is as unique as the person who lives it,” writes abortion activist Linda West in The Guardian.
And no, the debate is not only about being pro-life or pro-choice, it’s much more than that. It’s about women deciding what to do with their bodies without considering it a “taboo” as this taboo is a classic example of the perpetual conservativeness in our society.
A lot of this anti-abortion rhetoric will make you believe that a woman having an abortion if a woman doesn’t feel guilty about her choice, she’s a “slut” or worse, a “murderer.” These anti-abortion protests showing graphic images of “aborted fetuses,” will give you a good guilt trip. But don’t you let them come between you and your choice.
You, of course, are under no obligation to tell anyone about your abortion but remember that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s your medical history and you don’t have to hide it if you don’t want to. You can totally share your story if you feel comfortable and let people know that you own your body and that there’s nothing to hide about the ability to take decisions about your own body. And trust me you, talking about it does help!
“After a few years, I told my mother about it and she said she knew. It was so relieving to tell her briefly and to know that she had known and had not judged me, I wish I had told her when I had the abortion because during those months I felt like no one would understand my grief. I have never felt so grief-stricken and lonely,” S said.
Let’s not forget that abortion is as natural as any other medical procedure. And long as there is sex, there will always be a need for abortion and the only way to end the stigma around it is to keep the discussion about abortion going – even though it’s a tough one to have.