Opinion: I had an abortion but I'm not a criminal

  • 15/03/2017
Woman alone
"I received no support from any services in the aftermath, leading me to falsely believe I was fine." (File)

The writer of this piece has not been identified for their protection.

OPINION: I was sitting in a cold hospital room, wondering what wrong turn I'd taken that had led me to this moment.

It was 2011 and I was undergoing a procedure thousands of New Zealand women choose to have every year - an abortion.

I sat in the Waikato Hospital maternity ward (some form of cruel irony) and went through numerous visits with counsellors and doctors, who chucked a pill in my mouth and told me to wait until it was 'my turn'.

People say an abortion is difficult to get, as you have to prove how mentally unstable you are for a doctor and a counsellor to tick all the boxes.

For me, getting the okay wasn't as hard as I'd anticipated, but I think it was pure luck that the medical professionals I spoke to saw me for what I was - a 20-year-old, living alone in a new city, without the support of the father.

Let's not beat around the bush. Abortion laws need reforming in New Zealand, including better guidelines for post-op care. I will forever be grateful for the kind staff who looked after me on the day of my surgery, but I received no support from any services in the aftermath, leading me to falsely believe I was fine.

Unfortunately, this mindset led me down a path of secret drinking as self-loathing crept in, with friends and family none the wiser.

I don't want a pity party as I have dealt with my demons (thanks to supportive friends), and the critics can save their breath as I won't be paying them attention.

I am writing these words in support of women who are calling for a law reform, who have been made to feel like criminals, the scum of the earth and dirty cretins, all because of New Zealand's failure to legalise females having the right to choose.

We have built this nation on being progressive. Led the way when it came to giving women the right to vote, told the United States to bugger off with their warships, and legalised same sex marriage.

Yet for some reason, we begin to stutter and lose our breath when it comes to the incredibly outdated abortion law.

Barely anyone knows I have been through a termination, and even the impending father gave not a single toss when I told him it "didn't have to be this way". I feel like I would be looked and treated like a criminal, forced to wear a giant letter 'A' on my clothing should anyone find out.

It's a horrible way for one in four Kiwi women to feel, all because the Government refuses to bat an eyelid at removing abortion from the Crimes Act. 

I often think of how many politicians who ignore the debate, or falsely vow to make a change, have been personally confronted by abortion in their family. What would they do if their daughter or niece found themselves in this position? Would they look down on them? Would they suddenly lobby for change? How many of their female relatives have made a choice to terminate, but will suffer in silence for fear of being ridiculed?

It's something all lawmakers should ask themselves before turning their back on the debate.

If you need support, talk to your doctor or call Lifeline on 0800 543 354.