Week in Review

Emma Espiner: Abortion - a life on my terms

I had an abortion when I was 16. It was one of the pivotal life-changing decisions of my life and it was an entirely positive one. 

I've seen a lot of people, including well-meaning pro-choice advocates, talk about abortion as a "difficult and traumatic" decision for women. For some, especially those whose decision was based on the outcome of trauma or violence, this might well be the case. But it's not an absolute. 

I've thought very little about my abortion and I have no grief, shame or regret about it. 

I didn't want to write this, as the non-event of my abortion factors in my life not at all. But with the recent events in the United States and with the Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges this week saying that National MP Alfred Ngaro is entitled to his "extreme anti-abortion stance" I decided it was no longer sufficient nor responsible to stay silent. 

To parade my private experience in public is about the last thing I feel like doing this week but there are women in New Zealand right now who need safe, factual and non-judgmental access to sexual health advice, contraception and abortion.

Which is infuriating, I have to say. To parade my private experience in public is about the last thing I feel like doing this week but there are women in New Zealand right now who need safe, factual and non-judgemental access to sexual health advice, contraception and abortion and they absolutely do not need the sole voice on this issue to be Alfred Ngaro, Bob McCoskrie or the 25 men in Alabama who passed a law that doesn't affect their bodies but which has life-threatening consequences for women and children in the United States. 

You might wonder about the gall of me, to say women "and children". Surely, acting on behalf of the children is the preserve of the anti-abortion activists. The idea that limiting access to abortion protects children is a lie. Consigning a child to a life in which it is unwanted has lasting and damaging effects on entire communities, not to mention the horrific damage to women caused by illegal (and therefore unsafe) abortions. The only thing that reducing access to abortions does is to reduce women’s life expectancy. Making abortion illegal doesn’t reduce its prevalence, it just kills women. Look up the evidence, it’s there.  

And if you truly want to cut off the drivers of unwanted pregnancy right at the source, I can think of some parts of the genital tract that could use some trimming and it's not a woman's body I'm thinking of. 

There are people in my life for whom this admission will change their opinion of me for the worse and for that I feel some sadness. But it's nothing in comparison to the responsibility I bear to speak up to ensure that other women have access to what I did - safe, legal abortion and a chance at a life on my terms. 

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