I think about my abortion in 2006 as an incredibly positive choice I made for my life. Everything I had read or heard made me feel like it would haunt me forever, but this is a decision I am proud of and do not regret in the slightest.
I was 21 at the time, living in Christchurch and had just split up from my partner. We had a stable relationship and the break up was a big shock for me. A few weeks after the split, I started feeling nauseous. I was confused – I had been on birth control since I was 16, and getting pregnant was something that had never crossed my mind. I took a test, was in total physical shock, and called my mum.
She asked me what I wanted to do, and I said I wanted an abortion. Instantly I knew it was the right decision and I was surprised that I would so confidently blurt it out. I was alone in a city where I had few friends and zero support network. I was young, I made minimum wage and I had no plans for the future.
I talked to my ex-partner and he made it clear this was a situation he would have no part of. So I made an appointment with a doctor in my neighbourhood, which I thought would be the easy part. I had no idea that medical professionals are free to refuse care for you. I found this out the hard way, by being lectured about God by a female GP, being asked to leave and waiting at a bus stop bawling my eyes out, totally alone. That doctor, and the two more that followed, were more than happy to tell me how immoral I was, but gave me no viable second option, no ideas or advice on how to care for a child as a young single mother. Finally, as I was leaving the last clinic, the receptionist followed me out and gave me the name of a doctor who would refer me to an abortion clinic. I don’t know how she knew what was going on but I was so grateful for her and the kind words she gave me. I found a doctor who would refer me, and I started the process.
Being 21 and not knowing how this system worked, I was blown away to find out that abortion is not technically legal in New Zealand. I felt as though to get an abortion I was declaring myself unfit to ever be a mother. There are set reasons to be able to access abortion services, and I didn’t feel like I fit into any of those, and so I had to lie. And I had to lie to two separate doctors.
Those doctors, as well as the reception staff, nurses and counsellors at the Lyndhurst Clinic in Christchurch, without any doubt or exaggeration, saved my life. The wait for an abortion was weeks long, and I ended up in hospital three times with severe dehydration and hyperemesis. I was severely depressed, and if I didn’t have that light at the end of the tunnel, I don’t know how I would have been able to deal with that depression in a system that has very little support for women in this situation.
My mum travelled to Christchurch to be with me on the day, but when I think about the actual procedure I think the biggest support and help I received was from the staff themselves. These professionals have a job that cannot be easy, is not glamourous but a job that is so important. The procedure went by in a flash, and was the easiest part of the process for me. I don’t remember much because I was lightly sedated, but I didn’t experience much pain if any, and had some medium to light bleeding and cramping for a few days afterwards. But it was all nothing compared to how relieved and grateful I was. I felt well, instantly like myself again and I 100% knew that what I did was the right thing.
Since then, I try to be open about my abortion. Not being able to find relatable stories was something I struggled with at the time, and I felt like I knew no one who had ever had one. But I found out my mother, another close family member and a few of my friends have all had one. Their reasons and experiences were all different to mine, but they all made the right choice for themselves and I don’t know a single person who regrets that choice.
This is a health service that should be legal in this country, and I am a huge supporter of ALRANZ and the work they do, from helping to make people aware that the laws around abortion need reforming, that parental notification isn’t always the best idea for minors, and taking action by counter-protesting at abortion clinics. They are an organisation that focuses on supporting women and their rights and I am thankful for the the people working to help women like me own their decisions and feel safe in doing so.