One in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime, yet it is rarely talked about.
For some, making the decision can be traumatic and have a long-lasting effect. For others, it is an empowering, life-changing choice. Three women speak honestly about their experience.
‘I felt relieved, buoyant and really happy’
Louise in London: “When I was 23 I found out I was pregnant. I have never regretted having an abortion. It helped cement my views on not wanting children.
“At first I put my lack of period down to stress. It felt like I had really bad PMT. Then one day at work I had to lie on the floor because I was so tired. I wondered what was wrong with me, and then the penny dropped.
“I took a pregnancy test in my lunch hour. As soon as I saw the positive result I remember violently shaking. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.
“A colleague who’d been trying to get pregnant was beaming when I told her. When I said it wasn’t a good thing for me, she was wonderful. She just gave me a hug.
“My partner left me to deal with everything on my own. We never had a proper conversation about the abortion. My closest friends were supportive.
“My GP was matter-of-fact about it. I had two phone interviews with nurses before I went ahead. At no point did they ask me if I thought I was doing the right thing. I was certain. The procedure was excruciatingly painful because I chose not to have an anaesthetic, but it was brief.
“When I left, the stress I’d been feeling in the run-up to the procedure was gone. I felt relieved, buoyant and really happy.”
‘It broke my heart’
Beth (not her real name) lives in England: “I was 17 when I got pregnant and I had an abortion in February.
“I’m pregnant again now and this time I’m going to keep it and I’m excited about it.
“It was one Christmas, everyone was drinking and I just kept being sick. I thought it was because we were drinking but someone joked that I was pregnant and then I found out I was.
“My boyfriend didn’t really say anything about it and let me make the decision about what to do. My mum was very relaxed and calm and said I should do what I wanted to do.
“But a lot of people kept telling me that I was too young and not ready to have a baby. I felt very pressured into having an abortion. It broke my heart.
“I had a breakdown soon afterwards because I was so upset. I felt I’d made the wrong decision but I couldn’t do anything about it.
“My doctor gave me medication and counselling. I have already had depression and anxiety but this just made it worse.
“Now that I’m pregnant again, my mum and my boyfriend think I should make up my own mind.
“My baby is due in April and I’m really looking forward to it.”
‘There needs to be education that abortion is OK’
Harriet in South West England: “It was a bad experience but you learn from these things.
“I was 20 when I had an abortion.
“When I see my friends’ kids or nephews I think that I could have had a three-month-old of my own now.
“When I first found out I was pregnant I was happy and very protective – I thought this is my baby and no one can take it away.
“My best friend’s mum offered to help me and said that I was part of their family but I wanted my own family to say something like that.
“I didn’t have much choice. My dad said it was up to me but he couldn’t support me financially. It was true, he was just being honest. I felt it was selfish for me to have a child. A child should have the best upbringing possible.
“The father didn’t want anything to do with it. I feel angry at him for putting me in the position he did. It was like I was forced into a corner and not able to have this baby because I couldn’t afford it.
“It was very upsetting waking up from the anaesthetic. I was over three months so had to have a surgical procedure. It was awful. I woke up wanting to know what had happened to my body, but also not wanting to know.
“I was crying all the time and now I feel this is what I’ve done to my first child.
“The NHS gave me lots of support and lots of time to reconsider. There needs to be education that abortion is OK and it’s a woman’s choice but there also has to be more support.
“There is so much stigma attached to it.” Read:I Am A Married African Woman; I Do Not Want Kids. This is My Choice
Narrative culled from BBC.com