Making the decision to get an abortion can be incredibly complicated. For some people, the procedure itself doesn’t affect them, though emotions surrounding it can come up at a later time. For others, ending the life of a potential future child is immediately a heavy burden to bear.
The topic has always been a heated one, with some believing the practice should be illegal on the basis of religious values, like those of the Roman Catholic church, which forbids abortion. Others believe the fetus is “alive” at the moment of conception, making abortion equivalent to the act of murder. Those who are pro-choice believe that the decision to end a pregnancy should rest solely with the individual.
And with the Trump administration's clear opposition to organizations like Planned Parenthood, which offer abortions and other birth control options for women, as well as his suggestion that Roe vs. Wade could be overturned, once again, a global conversation has started to take place surrounding the controversial procedure.
In Canada, abortion was decriminalized by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1969, but access varied across the nation. Today, Canada is one of the few countries in the world with no criminal law against the act, though the procedure is still not always readily available in many small communities and rural settings, according to National Abortion Federation Canada.
Regardless of where you stand on abortion, most of us can agree that the best way to learn about subject, with so much misinformation floating around, is to simply listen to those who have had the experience — so that's exactly what we did.
Sharing their personal accounts, these four people in Canada and the U.S. told The Huffington Post Canada what it's like to undergo an abortion and revealed about how they feel about their decisions now. (Note: Some names have been changed to respect the privacy of interviewees)
Alice Shay, 21
"Before I had an abortion, I was always pro-choice. I truly believe it is a woman’s decision on whether or not she is ready for such a major life decision. I was 18 when I got pregnant, my first year of college. The boy I was dating was a few years older than me, and it was certainly not a healthy relationship. I knew that if I were to have a child, it would not be raised in an ideal situation — for them or myself. I have always looked forward to being a mother, and when that day comes, I want to be in a stage of my life that I can give the child all the love in the world and show them what a truly loving relationship looks like.
I made the decision to get an abortion on my own. I told the boy involved what my decision was, and he did not argue or try to change my mind. I was scared. I actually had major surgery a few months prior that removed one of my fallopian tubes, so a part of me felt like I was throwing away my only chance at children. I just kept telling myself that this was the right thing to do, for myself, and the baby, and my time would come eventually where I was meant to have a child.
"I just kept telling myself ... my time would come eventually where I was meant to have a child."
To this day, I still feel both guilt and remorse. My mother had me at 18, so I felt that I had let her down. It is something I carry on my shoulders constantly. I try to remind myself of everything I have done and been blessed with, that could not have been possible if I had not done what I did. I am still a strong supporter of abortion, if a woman feels as though it is a necessary step she needs to take. I do wish I had a stronger support group, as surrounding yourself with love is always necessary to cope with such negative feelings."
Charlotte Tucson, 30
"When I had an unplanned pregnancy at 19, I knew right away that I'd have an abortion. I came from poverty and all the women I knew who had children young got trapped in it. I had a boyfriend but I didn't plan to be with him forever, I was young and I had dreams. Plus I had no desire to parent and I knew that it would fall on me. The last thing I wanted was to be saddled with all the financial responsibility and overwhelming labour of single motherhood. But not wanting to be poor anymore was my most burning, desperate desire.
Before my pregnancy was confirmed, I talked about it with my boyfriend who said he'd respect whatever decision I made. He didn't want to be a young parent either but he didn't pressure me. Once the doctor confirmed, I had the procedure within five days.
"I came from poverty and all the women I knew who had children young got trapped in it."
Afterwards, I was relieved and made a small donation to the Canadian Abortion Rights Action League. I made a silent promise to myself that if abortion was ever seriously at risk, I'd go to the wall for it. I felt that I had a duty to pay it forward and protect access to abortion because others had done that for me. As it turned out, I ended up becoming an activist for sex workers — I just put my focus onto another area of bodily autonomy that largely affects women."
Julian K. Jarboe, 28
"I'd gone off hormonal birth control in order to get ready to get on hormonal replacement testosterone [to transition to male] and in the little window in between, I got pregnant. I knew immediately that carrying it to term would be wrong for me in every measurable sense. I'll be frank: the sensation of pregnancy made me want to throw myself into traffic, and I have never had such thoughts before or since. There really was no other decision for me.
I didn't feel any guilt afterwards, but that doesn't mean I didn't feel anything. I felt relief, and I also had a body healing from being pregnant and very suddenly out of that state, and those hormones are a hell of a drug. There's a very real shock to the system, on top of coming down from the sustained panic of not wanting to be pregnant. I let myself 'process' all of it but never doubted or regretted my decision. I thought about all the possible futures I might have had, and I was proud of myself.
“I would put my personal safety on the line to protect abortion access for others.”
— Julian K. Jarboe
I would put my personal safety on the line to protect abortion access for others. I think it's important that reproductive rights continue to centre women, trans and cis, on a macro level, because of how deeply misogyny informs the struggle for bodily autonomy across the big structures of society. At the same time, I'm glad there's a shift in language on the individual level. I think there's still a common misconception of trans people as sterile science projects who therefore don't need or deserve reproductive rights and care. I received very professional care and still felt isolated by everything from pronouns to the lack of long-term research about bodies like mine. I'd like to see that change."
Leena Taylor, 38
"I was a young mother with three small children under three, in a dangerously abusive situation. At the time, it seemed like the only option I had. I honestly don't believe it was the right decision. My heart still hurts concerning that 20 years later. I do believe that it's life at the moment of conception so I think about that child often like it was one of my living children. I see it as a death — a loss. I grieve that baby the same way I would if I lost a family member.
“I still wonder who that child would have been and what a joy it would have been to know him or her.”
— Leena Taylor
Leading up to it, I felt every emotion possible. A million and one thoughts swirled through my mind about whether or not I was making a mistake. I don't think any woman makes this choice without serious depth of thought. I remember laying on the table and the anesthesiologist giving me the medicine to put me to sleep. The nurse held my hand and was stroking my hair. I was crying and telling her I didn't know what else to do. Then I went under. Afterwards, it was just deep sadness. But like I said, at the time, my situation was so dangerous I felt it was best for the child not to come into that toxicity. I have never been able to escape that remorse and guilt. I still wonder who that child would have been and what a joy it would have been to know him or her."
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