How many abortions have you had? One
My circumstances at the time of the abortion.
I was in my early thirties, living in my parents’ house. I was single. I had lived away from home when I left school but dabbled with soft drugs, which led to a breakdown and started me on a career of psychiatric illness and so that is why I was living at home at such a stage in my life. I had drifted in and out of several different jobs, usually short-lived. During a bout of illness, when I was very vulnerable, I met up with a group of three men who were asylum-seekers. I was used by them. After a few weeks, when my mental health had returned to normal, I discovered that I was pregnant. I did not know which one of the men was the father of the baby.
How many weeks pregnant were you?
What type of abortion was performed?
The type of abortion was suction.
Did anyone bring pressure to bear on you or coerce you to choose abortion?
I didn’t tell my parents about the pregnancy. I was tempted to but persuaded by a relative not to tell them. Some friends tried to talk me out of having an abortion but some encouraged me to have it. My closest friend at the time encouraged me to have an abortion. A relative also encouraged me and offered to come with me. The same relative pointed out that with my illness I would not be able to look after the baby. My counsellor at the time, who was very influential in my life, encouraged me to have an abortion. He said it wouldn’t have any harmful effect on me. I asked him about the possibility of having the baby adopted and he discouraged me from that. I did go to Cura on two occasions but I still went ahead with the abortion.
How much information were you given on the abortion procedure at the time and by whom?
The only information on the abortion procedure that I was given came from the leaflet that was sent by the abortion clinic.
Do you think you were adequately informed at the time, of the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual consequences of abortion?
No, I don’t think I was adequately informed at the time of all the consequences of abortion. Which probably contributed to my burying my emotions afterwards. I’d had years of experience of dealing with depression and I tried to shoulder this in the same way. It’s only now, many years later, that I have begun to think about the reality of abortion, what it really is and how it’s carried out.
What do you recall of the abortion procedure itself?
There was nothing exceptional about the abortion procedure. I lay on the table. They gave me anaesthetic. They asked me my name and got me to start counting. When I woke up I was back in a ward and it was all over. I just remember that my tummy felt different, as if there was an emptiness there.
What was your immediate reaction after the abortion and how did you feel?
Immediately after the abortion I felt numbness and some sadness. The relative who came with me tried to ‘cheer me up’ and we went out for a pre-arranged meal. I certainly didn’t feel like celebrating. It also resulted in me having to act as if everything was ok. Within a few days I felt relief and tried to put the whole thing behind me. I had started a new job which took my mind off it.
How has/have your abortion affected you?
It’s difficult to describe how my abortion affected me in the short-term. I buried it. It’s not that I didn’t tell people, I did tell close friends and they were sympathetic. I certainly buried feelings of guilt. I was (and still am) affected by the presence of babies and young children. But I would try to shrug it off. I guess my depressive illness affected how I reacted to the abortion. I tried to be strong. One thing that may be a consequence of the abortion is that I did take an overdose about a year after it. I don’t know if any one thing led to that, there were many factors.
How has your abortion affected others in your life and your relationships with others?
I’ve been through many difficult years and certainly my relationships with others have been affected. My relationship with the relative who accompanied me is not very good, and much worse than it was before the abortion. I have been very angry towards that relative. I have felt a lot of shame and isolation as all my siblings knew about the abortion but never really talked about it.
What has helped you come to terms with your abortion?
An abortion recovery weekend, which I did three years ago, helped begin a healing process which is on-going. I returned to the practice of my Catholic faith about seven years ago. That has led to some bitter-sweet moments. In the last two years I have benefited from a lot of prayer and this is good. I still keep a lid on my emotions around the abortion most of the time but, every now and then, I allow them to surface. I think that’s the best way for me, to let recovery happen gently. That entails really understanding the abortion industry for the awful stain on society that it is and to do that I have had to contemplate the physical act of abortion itself. I am still learning to do that.
Based upon your experience, what would you want to tell a woman considering abortion today?
If I met a woman considering abortion today, I think I would try to help her to look beyond the cold terminology in which abortion is couched and the cold words used when a pregnancy is a crisis pregnancy.
Language can be employed so cleverly to change people’s attitudes. I would try to do two things – firstly point out that abortion is cruel and invasive to her and secondly that she is pregnant with a real baby, not just a bunch of cells that she can grow to love more than she may believe possible.