This story appears in a longer article titled Why we need to talk about abortion: eight women share their experiences published in The Guardian.
Both occasions occurred in a very emotionally abusive relationship I was in from the age of 18 until I was 25.
I was 21 when I had the first abortion and we both decided that my priority was for me to finish my studies. We felt too young, and he certainly didn’t have the maturity to cope with parenthood.
There were anti-abortion protesters outside the clinic, and I remember feeling incredibly angry that this group of men were trying to terrorise young women – some of the women looked barely even 14 – in the name of their god.
The procedure was fairly painless, and I recovered quickly physically, although I felt very sad about it for a long time.
The second was more complicated. My boyfriend at the time actually stopped me taking the morning after pill after a contraceptive failure. He said we should have a baby. By this time I’d realised that our relationship was toxic so I snuck out and bought one although it didn’t work.
When faced with the decision for a second time, this time aged 23, I was very conflicted. On the one hand I didn’t doubt my ability to cope, and I really wanted children. On the other, my partner was proving himself to be a manipulative and cruel individual. I didn’t relish the thought of being tied to him for life, or exposing any child of mine to him.
When a nurse called to run through a pre-appointment screening, and I mentioned I had taken the morning after pill she told me there was a high likelihood of the baby being born with severe disabilities. I was completely shocked and devastated, and realised that I didn’t have the resources to cope with that additional strain as a single parent. I went ahead with the procedure. I’ve later found out there was absolutely no evidence for what she said, and that makes me very angry.
For the first I had pre-abortion counselling, which was basically a woman telling me I was making the wrong decision. For the second I had a pre-appointment phone conversation where I received awful medical advice. Close family and friends were the best support.
Both terminations left me feeling incredibly guilty and conflicted for a long time.
When my relationship with my ex-boyfriend finally ended, and I found myself alone and autonomous for the first time in my adulthood, I had a nervous breakdown. When in hospital I discussed my terminations a lot. I came to realise that there’s no such thing as the right thing, just whatever happened and how you deal with that. If I had had two children by my ex, I dread to think what my life could be like.
I am now a mum of two beautiful girls by a kind and caring man who is the opposite of my ex, and I enjoy motherhood immensely. I think about what could have been sometimes, and I mark the dates of the procedures quietly and privately each year.