At the age of 18, freshly into my first month of University, I found out I was two weeks pregnant. The reason I knew so early is because I had, foolishly, had unprotected sex and then been unable to acquire a morning-after pill, due to the opening hours of the campus pharmacy (an issue that has since been resolved). I was ready and waiting with a pregnancy test the first day my period didn’t arrive.
Ever since I knew about terminations, I always thought I would get one if needed; “Straight to the clinic” was my answer if anyone ever asked me what I’d do with an unplanned pregnancy. However, sitting in my dorm room at two weeks pregnant, when most women don’t even realise they have conceived, all I could think about was my impending motherhood. And I felt excited.
The first thing I did was phone my best friend, explaining in a shaking a voice that I was (direct quote) “expecting a baby.” In retrospect, my wording says a lot about how I felt. She caught the next bus to my student accommodation in Oxford and we went to Wagamamas. What started as a consolation quickly turned into a celebration as the evening went on and we started romanticising the next nine months and after that, my new role as a caregiver. Perhaps this was young naivety, but I was happy and as far as I was concerned, I knew what I wanted to do.
My desire to keep my pregnancy was never a moral decision; at this point the pregnancy I had growing inside me was a bunch of cells. It had no conscious, no feelings and was certainly not human. The desire to keep my pregnancy came from the one simple fact: I was pregnant and wanted to stay pregnant.
Practically, however, this was a terrible time for a pregnancy. I had just begun my academic career, having fought for a place at a good university; I had decided I was going to break up with my boyfriend; my parents had just announced their divorce, which had lead my mother to spiral into depression; and my teenage, younger brother had just had his first child with his even younger girlfriend. Life was chaotic. I felt that having this child would have been the worst decision: selfish, stupid, and irresponsible. And yet, being pregnant, I felt so alive.
The second person I told was my partner, who I phoned the next day. This is where the nightmare began. An already violent and controlling partner, he threatened me with blackmail and psychological bullying as soon as I suggested going full term. His threats included leaving me so that I wouldn’t be able to support a child; my mother’s mental health condition meant I had psychiatric family history and he would use this to take the child away from me; I would never finish the degree I’d work so hard towards and besides, the university would chuck me out when they found out I was pregnant; the child would lead a miserable life within a working class family.* The list went on.
However, ultimately, it was the shouting and aggression that forced me into submission. I had never been spoken to in such a way and it frightened me. He was 23-years-old at the time, and yes, probably scared. But the way he treated me was unacceptable. I remember one night, hysterically crying on my knees, begging him to let me keep the pregnancy, all because I didn’t realise that it was my choice. He never did apologise, and the reason is more than likely because he believed, as a man, it really was his decision as to what this woman did with her body.
I had my termination at 3 weeks and can now scarcely believe how little time between finding out and aborting the pregnancy there had been. It felt like a lifetime. I look back now, and believe part of the reason I rushed through with it was so I did not have time to think. The entire experience felt cold, clinical and most of all, inevitable. I was an 18-year-old, middle-class presenting, university student, so of course I was not going to become another teenage pregnancy statistic. However, this fatalistic attitude from anyone I spoke to was exactly what convinced me that I didn’t have a choice.
The day of my termination, he refused to accompany me from Oxford, on a half hour train, to Reading, a city I had never been to before and had to navigate my way around, getting lost several times before I found the clinic. I signed in, crying. Throughout the entire process, I was not asked once if I was okay. This is also something I target in my prochoice activism; I now campaign for the question to be asked and asked again, whatever the woman’s initial choice. I believe that up until 24 weeks, the closing date in the UK for terminations, a woman’s option to change her mind should be presented to her at every stage, whether she is sat in an abortion clinic waiting room or painting a nursery.
Before I went in, I peed and I sat in the toilet, praying to a god I didn’t believe in that someone would ask me if I still wanted to go through with it and that I would be able to say “No,” to explain the domestic abuse I was experiencing and that none of this was my idea. No one did and I felt as if I was on an abortion conveyer belt that I couldn’t get off. I didn’t say something because I felt I couldn’t. From the doctor who confirmed I was pregnant by starting the sentence with the world “unfortunately,” to my stepmother simply saying, “you know what you need to do”, I felt like my decision was made for me.
The weeks, months, and years after my termination were a downward spiral in terms of my mental health; every period I had and every child I saw was a violent reminder. I ended up attempting suicide and being sectioned. At the time, I believed this was due to the fabricated “Post Abortion Syndrome” spread around by anti-choice lobbyists and, very briefly, became anti-choice myself (although calling myself pro-life). My abortion regret was easily manipulated by anti-choice campaigners as a reason to illegalise abortion. However, the truth is, and I speak with great personal authority from my own experience: one woman regretting an abortion or going through an experience where abortion is used to oppress rather than liberate women, is not and never will be a reason to eliminate abortion rights for all.
I realise now that the stress, anxiety, and eventual depression I experienced was not because of my abortion, but because of my lack of choice and body autonomy. The same lack of choice women who desire to terminate a pregnancy, but are made to carry to term, would experience. For me, it was not the stress of my abortion, it was the stress of being made to do something with my body I did not wish to do. Fortunately, I experienced one traumatic, medical procedure that lasted a few hours; I cannot even begin to imagine nine months of my body autonomy being taken from me.
Ultimately, I know I didn’t lose a child, I ended a pregnancy. But it was pregnancy I did not want to end. It was a life changing decision I did not want to make, and that is where my suffering came from.
Four and a half years later, I finished my degree, had a highly regarded job lined up before I even graduated, and I am now waiting upon an interview for an M.A. at a prestigious university. I am dating a wonderful person I would never have met in parental circumstances and I have made countless, amazing friends in both pro-choice and feminist groups, as well as numerous other areas, that I would not have become involved in, had I had a child. However, none of this is the point.
The point is that I am ardently and actively pro-choice because I do not believe that any woman should have to experience the lack of control over her body and her life that I endured. A significant contributing factor in my experience was that I was unaware of the option available to me, because of this, I actively promote and publicise the wide variety of allowances in place for pregnant women and mothers. I uphold the leniencies of educational establishments and workplaces when it comes to childcare duties (and the laws in place that ensure these leniencies exist). I make sure women know that there are childcare options, financial support and, as far as I can help it, ensure no woman will believe the lies I was told.
Conversely, I also fight to the bitter end for reproductive rights for every woman. I have driven friends to clinics; I have paid for transport and hospitality for acquaintances needing emergency contraception; and I protested against limitations that endanger women’s right to reproductive health because ultimately every woman, whatever her situation, deserves both the right to choose what happens to her body and the support to see through this decision.
Being pro-choice is not about being pro-abortion, or anti-birth. Being pro-choice is just that: Pro-choice.
I regret my abortion and I am pro-choice.
*None of these reasons are true, particularly the inconceivable idea what working class = miserable.
Firstly thank you so much for writing your story down. It is very brave of you.
I had an abortion just over a year ago and it is haunting me everyday. I was in a very simular position to yourself. Despite really, really wanting to keep the baby, the father of the baby told me I was selfish and immature to keep a baby. He told me that I would ruin his life, ruin my life and ruin the baby’s life. He was aggressive with me and said he would not be a part of the child’s life. I was so distraught by his words and foolishly I let myself believe he was right. Everybody seemed to believe that my pregnancy was ‘unfortunate’, even though I knew I loved my child and I would have been a fantastic mother. The abortion was so painful, I woke up in a pool of blood and I haven’t stopped crying ever since.
Like yourself, I am pro-choice and I will never judge a women for having an abortion. It is one of the most difficult situations for a women to be in and everybody’s reasons are personal. Unfortunately, I felt pushed into an abortion. It was out of my control and everyday I feel angry with myself for not standing up for myself and my child.
I am so sorry for what you have been through. I feel your pain and I know that like me, you are strong because abortion is one of the hardest decisions to make and live with.
Having an abortion myself I no longer openly oppose abortion- hypocritical don’t you think? Thinking on it, I am rather a MAJOR hypocrite for participating then years later lamenting. Just my worthless two cents!
Hey – I can’t seem to decipher your tone (is this directed at me or you?) – so i’ll answer both :)
For you, I really don’t think you’re a hypocrite if you change your stance on something due to an experience, so please don’t be hard on yourself.
For me, I never openly opposed abortion prior to my own – in fact I state clearly at the beginning of my article that I always viewed it as an option in the case of an unwanted pregnancy. It was only the awful experience that I had which made me question abortion in general ( as a naive and lost 18 year old would!). But on reflection my bad experience is not universal and should definitely not be used to propagate anti-choice retheoric.
Either way/tone hope that’s cleared things up for you and do hope you’re okay!
Thank you for the insightful post.
I had an abortion at 19 and did NOT regret it. Never have. I also had a supportive boyfriend who asked me, “do you want to keep it?” And i said, “no.” I was very sure. He was truly supportive either way and I think, ultimately, therein lies the difference between those who regret life decisions and those who don’t – surrounding ourselves with supportive people.
Hi Michelle, thanks for posting. I’m so glad to hear your experience was a relatively positive one. You are right. I have wonderful friends and a wonderful partner who all support me now and I sit with ease on the decision.
Hi..your post really resonated with me. I am pro-choice, i don’t think there’s anything inherently bad about abortion, but i realize now, three weeks after my own, that it wasn’t the right choice for me…that I felt pressured and like I was being judged as foolish and stupid and selfish for wanting to keep it. Just about to start medical school, how could you throw away your career? Baby didn’t want me or it, how could you do that to a child? My mother told me i wouldn’t make it through school, that the father would make my life hell, that no one would want to date me if I kept it. But like you, I felt so alive when I was pregnant. The first time I saw the sonogram, i felt such pure, unadulterated joy like i never felt before, but i forced myself to push it down- I didn’t want my mother to see my smile…I realize now this was a mistake. I don’t feel shame, but i feel deep deep regret, and I wonder how long it’s gona take for it to go away, how ñong is it gona take to rectify it what i lost. I’ve always been and always will be pro-choice, because that’s what it is and should be: your choice. And i always knew I would never ever let someone pressure me into having a child I didn’t want to have. Not ever….but what i never thought about….was being pressured into having an abortion I didn’t want to have…I never thought about that. I never thought that was the situation I would be in…I didnt see this coming and I wasn’t prepared and this is what I’m ashamed of: not the abortion itself, but that I didn’t follow my own heart; that I let the fear and pressure of other people’s opinions drown out my own voice and let their beliefs about my future outweigh my belief in myself. It’s been hard to come to terms with that, but i know one day I will. Hopefully soon. But either way, your post here has been helpful in acknowledgin that. So thank you.
Cecilia, thank you so much for your comment and I am so sorry it has taken me so long to respond. I get a lot of emails and I wanted to reply to your comment properly. There is honestly not much I can say, except to recite the old cliche, which again and again proves true, that time is a great healer, and things will get better. Do not blame yourself, we are trained to listen to others, to let others decide and dictate what we should do with our bodies, and how our bodies should be. We naturally fall into believing our parents and our partners know what is best for us. An unexpected pregnancy is a shock, and not only are you in a state of shock but you have new levels of hormones rushing around your body. Everything is new, and scary, and the clock is ticking, and we have to decide what to do. Soon.
I know how much pain you will be in now, and there is the feeling of betrayal that the people you loved didn’t listen to you, to what you want. But trust me when I say this, you will come away from this experience stronger, and braver, and wiser then before. I know it doesn’t feel like it now, and I know how these words sound when it is so soon after the termination because I remember hearing them myself, but one day you will be able to look back at this and it won’t hurt, you won’t feel empty, and you will be able to reflect with clarity. You have already been so strong. Keep going. It gets easier.
It really helped me to read this. I had an abortion and regretted it. I still regret it. I was very depressed afterward. But I always have and always will support a woman’s right to make her own medical choices. I’ve never really expressed to anyone how I felt about my own situation, because I’ve always been very vocally pro-choice, and I didn’t think anyone would understand that you can support a right to abortion, and yet regret your own. But you have clarified that and explained it much better than I ever could. Thanks. It’s good to hear from someone else who has been through a similar trial.
Well written and a point of view I agree with as another woman regretting her abortion but.still pro-choice. It is the ability to choose and change your mind, at a time when your hormones are all over the place along with your brain, that is so important. I also sat in the toilet praying the same kind of prayer …
Thanks for sharing your story! Just an FYI, we date pregnancies strangely; when you conceive you are actually 2 weeks pregnant (since we count from last menstrual period). So you were 4 weeks pregnant when you had your positive pregnancy test.
Oh, that is a strange! Thanks for the heads up though, I’ll try to get that changed!
I am pro choice as well, but it is a biological fact that it was a human. Once the sperm and egg join together, you have a unique biological life. I’m sorry you regret your choice. When I was 19 I became pregnant too and wanted to keep the baby but had severe hyperemesis and a very bad kidney infection and couldn’t go on with my pregnancy due to my declining health. I realize now that I could have gotten medicine for y problem and wish I would have went with a second opinion. I now have a 3 year old son and another child on the way, so life goes on. It’s ok to have regret but don’t have guilt. <3
You are right. The sentence referring to the pregnancy as “certainly not human.” should read “certainly not a person” as embryo cells obviously are human cells. Thanks for pointing that out.
You are still doing it , denying the individual human your choice denied life to .It is a biological fact that at conception a individual human life is created with their own DNA that seperates them from all other humans that exist .
Well, that is true, each embryo has it’s own DNA, unless it’s part of a monozygotic pair – then they would have exactly the same DNA, and that’s a biological fact!