It's time to speak up

11 years ago, I fell pregnant and I had an abortion.

I was 20 years old and in no way emotionally, psychologically or financially capable of raising a child. So I made an extremely hard decision, one that still affects me. I think about it all the time.

I was only 8 weeks pregnant but medical abortion was not available at the time and so I was required to undergo a surgical abortion. I was evaluated first to discuss my reasons for choosing the abortion and to ascertain that this was the best decision for me, then I was put under general anaesthesia while the operation took place. Not long after, I woke up, groggy, in a room with several other women who had undergone the same procedure. No one spoke to one another.

This is something that very few people in my life have known about me until now.

So why am I choosing to reveal this?

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN AMERICA

You have probably heard something about the current legislation changes taking place in several US states.

This year, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and North Dakota have ALL passed legislative changes making the termination of an unwanted pregnancy illegal.

Even though in the U.S. maternal mortality is the sixth most common cause of death for women aged 25 to 34 years.

Even though the U.S. continues to have the highest percentage of women dying due to childbirth related complications, compared to the rest of the developed world.

Alabama in particular, has just passed the strictest anti-abortion law in the U.S. Their bill effectively bans all abortions with no exception for cases of rape or incest. The only exemption being cases where the health of the mother is at risk.

Doctors found to have performed an abortion could face up to 99 years in prison. This is a longer sentence than is required to serve when convicted of rape.

Let that just sink in for a moment.

These laws have yet to take effect as they need to pass through the courts, but it is likely that they will be passed. And that is a terrifying thought.

It’s easy enough to read what I have outlined above, feel horrified for the women in America who are on the brink of having a basic human right stripped away from them, and remain quiet. To remain largely unaffected, because after all it’s not happening here.

But it could.

ABORTION IN AUSTRALIA

In Australia, approximately 80,000 women have an abortion every year.

Abortion laws vary from state to state, with abortion being legal in most states, under certain circumstances. Some states require multiple medical professionals to agree that an abortion is appropriate beyond a certain number of weeks in the pregnancy.

In NSW, where I live, unlawful abortion is still considered a crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison for both the woman and the doctor performing the procedure. “Lawful” abortion is allowed if a doctor believes a woman’s physical or mental health will be in serious danger by continuing the pregnancy, with her financial and social factors also taken into consideration.

This is also the case in South Australia, with a lawful abortion needing to be approved by two medical professionals, and unlawful abortion still a part of the state’s crime act.

THE REAL ISSUE

I’m not going to argue the morality of abortion. Asking whether you believe abortion is right or wrong does not address the real issue at hand.

Instead, ask yourself whether a woman has the right to choose what happens to her body.

Ask yourself whether the right way to support a women who is a victim of rape or incest is to force her to carry and give birth to the child of her rapist, or else face a jail sentence longer than her rapist would have to serve.

You can argue whether abortion is right or wrong, and you can make a personal decision as to whether you would ever choose to abort a pregnancy - although I would argue that one never truly knows what they would choose until faced with certain circumstances.

No woman wants to get an abortion, it an extremely unpleasant experiences that stays with you for the rest of your life. The emotional and psychological impacts can be long lasting.

The fact is, what you would do should have no bearing on whether another woman, with her own story and her own set of circumstances, should be afforded the choice to decide.

The same way that we should all have the right to choose who we marry, to choose which religion we follow, to choose where we live and whether we even want to have children at all.

Do women not deserve the same autonomy over their bodies as men? Perhaps a better solution to prevent unwanted pregnancies would be to make vasectomy a legal requirement for all unmarried men, with a reversal granted after marriage.

Only I can’t see any government body taking away a man’s right to choose what happens to his body like that. Or more accurately, giving men less than equal rights over their bodies than women.

Yet if we don’t have the same autonomy over our bodies, we don’t have equal rights.

WHY YOU NEED TO START GIVING A SHIT

When I started planning this article I wasn’t intending to talk about my abortion, but the more I read, listened and learned about the current political debate regarding the legislative changes in some of the states of the U.S. and felt the impact that these changes can have on millions of women, the more I realised that by not speaking out about this issue and my own experience, I was implicit in propelling the belief that I have something to be ashamed of, that abortion is wrong, and something to hide. That the beliefs of others are more important than my own.

That is not the message I want to relay to women, or to men for that matter.

We are lucky in Australia, but you still need to give a shit about what is happening to women in the world around us.

Aren’t you fed up of being told that you should want to look a certain way? That you’re not thin enough, not fit enough, or perhaps too thin, too muscular?

Aren’t you tired of being told to tone down your emotion? To smile and get on with it?

To dress less provocative, to be less opinionated. To be less than what you are.

Aren’t you tired of governments and media and society thinking they have the right to dictate what the fuck you do with your own body?

Because at Women of Treign we sure are. It’s a part of a bigger issue, and it starts with taking back what is yours. Your strength, your choice, your voice.

This is the mission we push within the walls of our gym every day.

It’s time. Time to be brave. Time to speak up and be heard. Not only in this issue but in any and every issue affecting women.

Our power is in our collective voice.

Jade x

Melanie Corlett