When I was 19 I had an abortion. It was an obvious choice and one I’ll never regret. Fortunately, I lived somewhere where terminations were legal, accessible and safe. Still, the experience was in no way ideal.
My concern wasn’t ethics. Having been instilled with feminist beliefs from a young age, I knew better than to feel guilt or shame. It was the thought of the procedure that terrified me. I shuddered at the idea of stark white walls and clinical waiting rooms. The thought of entering a clinic seemed to me like crossing a threshold and handing over my ownership. I was a contradiction: this was what I wanted, but it intimidated me. For weeks I’d been living alone with the anxiety of my abortion. I wasn’t ready to give it away and make it real.
There were a lot of things I wasn’t prepared for. Protesters greeted me, throwing me immediately out of my comfort zone with their signs and pleas to ‘choose life’. In my head now things go differently. I say I did. I chose mine.
I never cried after, but I did a lot before. Because really, I was given plenty of opportunity. My surreal childhood nightmares of the dentist’s waiting room were nothing compared to five hours of waiting in an abortion clinic. Being a morning procedure, I was expecting it to take place in the morning. I checked in at nine and was taken away at two-thirty. The hours in between were spent sitting around and trying not to have a panic attack while I wasn’t being shuffled to and from different rooms. Essentially, I spent an entire day waiting for a terrifying experience. But I can tell you what’s worse: being pregnant when you don’t want a baby.
The stress and anxiety were worth it. I woke up to the most immense flood of relief I’ve ever felt. The lingering anxiety had vanished and I felt happier and more hopeful than I had in weeks.
Nurses fluttered between our beds like mother hens. They told me to rest and lie back down, and when they were satisfied fed me shortbread and hot chocolate. At the time, I couldn’t have imagined a better outcome.
But now there is. The “abortion drug” RU486 is being made available to Australian women over the phone. A doctor still needs to approve the medication, but after that all it takes is a phone call and $250, and a medical abortion will be delivered to your door. The stress and anxiety that followed me right up until the moment I woke up can be softened with the comfort and discretion of a non-surgical option behind closed doors.
It makes perfect sense. The only way to move forward is to continue to put women’s reproductive rights into their own hands and homes. The level of comfort one feels during such an experience speaks wonders about our progression and our acceptance of abortion. A medical termination at home is, undoubtedly, more comfortable than a surgical abortion in a clinic.
Australian abortion law is known for its archaic contradictions. Although the abortion drug has been made available nationally, state laws still apply, and some of them are pretty primitive. South Australia, the ACT and the Northern Territory still require terminations to take place in a hospital, and New South Wales and Queensland still consider it a criminal act. In fact, the New South Wales’ law remains unchanged from its conception in 1861. It’s mindboggling to think that I’m here, thankful for my ability to choose while a woman sits on the other side of the imaginary line, denied.
But we are moving forward. The widening availability of RU486, combined with the Victorian government’s promise to introduce buffer zones around clinics, is the first step in making abortion a more comfortable experience. Hot chocolate aside, giving someone the ability to have the experience at home is the greatest act of acceptance that can be made.
By bypassing previous barriers like physical appointments and mandatory counselling, medical abortion is not only becoming more accessible, but is putting the power back in the hands of those who deserve it. It’s telling those who seek abortion that they shouldn’t have to feel scared or judged. I’m impressed that, in a country where abortion is still widely considered criminal, we’re making steps this big.
Having experienced a surgical abortion, I’m relieved that an alternative has been put in place for those who need it. For this to have happened, we’ve accepted that women have a right to make their own choices about their bodies. We’re trying to accommodate their decisions in the best way possible, and that’s exactly how we grow.
Image: Issara Willenskomer
Kezia Lubanszky is a writer and editor from Melbourne, Australia. She is co-editor-in-chief at The Morning Bell Journal and writes about feminism, sex and – quite regularly – Bridget Jones. When she’s not having an existential crisis she can be found writing self-indulgent memoir or pretending to be good at guitar.