My abortion taught me those British women are not at all free Author: Johanna Thomas-Corr


My abortion taught me those British women are not at all free

Author: Johanna Thomas-Corr

I found myself in a cycle of pointless wrath that is all too common among women and girls last week after Roe v. Wade was overturned, taking away bodily autonomy from half of the American population and eradicating any chance of women's economic parity. As I waited at the abortion clinic 16 years ago, I kept imagining what it would have been like if someone had entered and declared that all terminations were being permanently canceled. That unless I was ready and had the resources to fly hundreds of miles, I would now have to carry out an unwanted pregnancy. In one situation, there was a phone number, a website, and an unconfirmed rumor about someone who might be able to assist. I grew up in the United States. I know that this journey would leave me desperate and alone.

Like many other women, I vented my rage on social media before reading British men's advice to "cool down, dear," which made me question why we were acting so irrationally when abortion is essentially a non-issue in British politics. As if these viewpoints aren't themselves motivated by feelings; as if the ruling of the Supreme Court's five justices wasn't influenced by feelings!

Women differ in that our bodies are also on the line in addition to our feelings. However, Conservative MP Danny Kruger argues that women shouldn't have "the absolute right to bodily autonomy" even though his mother, TV chef Prue Leith, has spoken about her back alley abortion. I'm not sure how you can read about any country where religious zealots have overnight made women into second-class citizens - never alone a country as familiar to us as the US - if you have any notion of what carrying an undesired pregnancy to term and then giving birth involves.

And although we Brits like to think of ourselves as liberally enlightened on the subject, my experience with abortion taught me that our views aren't all that progressive. Even though (at least theoretically) terminations are free of charge on the NHS, getting one is still quite taboo and associated with shame and condemnation that have more to do with ingrained religious views than actual medical needs. The urge to control, coerce and judge women only shows itself more quietly in Britain than it does in America, which may scream about abortion in ways that make us shudder.

Abortion was a topic of active discussion in the UK during the final years of Margaret Thatcher's administration, albeit it isn't as well remembered today. When the Liberal MP David Alton proposed a resolution to reduce the legal limit for terminations from 28 weeks to 18 weeks, first in 1987 and then again in 1990, I recall my mother, who was a local councilwoman at the time, addressing hundreds of protesters at political rallies.

My mother was labeled as a "pro-abortionist" in the local press at the time. She undoubtedly supported abortion. The slogan "NOT THE CHURCH, NOT THE STATE, WOMEN MUST DECIDE THEIR FATE" was printed on the T-shirts she wore and the banners she and her friends carried during rallies.

Even though I was only nine years old in 1990, I can still clearly remember the disgusting stares some onlookers gave us. I was humiliated, but I also respected my mother's assertiveness. She told me that before the legislation was amended in 1967, she had accompanied a college acquaintance to illegal abortion and the experience had made her feel strongly about the matter. A few years later, I prepared an essay for school on the subject. I felt powerless and furious after hearing a female in my class go on and on about the "horror" of killing unborn children.

This week, I reread an old school project and was shocked to see how carefully the 13-year-old me had tried to analyze the pros and cons. Having Pritt- Newspaper cuttings were glued into my folder, including a profile of a woman who had an abortion, regretted it, and was now advocating for a complete ban, as well as pieces about anti-abortion campaigners sending MPs grotesque models of 20-week-old fetuses. I make my heartbreaking case for a woman's right to choose in the conclusion. I stated, "No woman wants an abortion." "I would not want to experience it myself, but it does not mean that I would not in a specific circumstance. I would probably abort a child if I had a valid reason, however, it will be hard.

When that time finally came, at the age of 25, neither my mother's dedication to women's rights nor my certainty on the matter lessened my physical or emotional suffering. Do I have a "good rationale" behind my actions? Not in the opinion of some. Within a few weeks of the termination, I lost several important friendships, which went bad and put me in the hospital. When she visited me a few days after the initial treatment, she had remarked, "Well, at least you seem thinner today." I discovered at that point that the same folks who will cry with you during the abortion drama Vera Drake by Mike Leigh may also cease returning your calls if you are suffering from a failed termination.

Two weeks after my abortion, I read a commentary piece by the journalist Mary Kenny in the Guardian that began, "I once met a girl who had an abortion at a posh clinic in Regent's Park, where they serve flowers and champagne along with 'the treatment.'" This didn't help. When can I have another? she said after being treated so royally.

I felt like I was on fire as I read the column, which continued to assert that some women were developing abortion addictions similar to heroin addicts. I was unable to envision how I would ever douse the flames. I underwent my procedure there, the "cushy Regents Park clinic," following numerous unsuccessful attempts to obtain an NHS abortion. My future mother-in-law volunteered to use her credit card when I stated that I couldn't receive the necessary utility bills in time for an early-stage abortion and that I didn't have access to a fax machine (not owned by my employer). One of the most unexpected displays of female unity I have ever witnessed was her loan. However, neither flowers nor champagne were present at the clinic. All I can recall is seeing ladies of all ages and races in a windowless waiting area, some of whom were looking concentrated, relieved, or dejected.


Almost exactly 16 years ago, in June 2006, I had an abortion. This is the first time I've spoken about it openly, in part because for many years I was afraid of the criticism, the negative effects on my career, and the strained relationships. I was devastated to learn that my friends had abandoned me over the matter, so I hid it from one of my closest friends, a Jehovah’s Witness, out of fear that I would also lose her. She once said the following to me after I told her a secret: “Phew! I assumed you would inform me that you had an abortion. Because we would then be unable to remain friends. A short-term therapist I saw advised me to just tell her I had a miscarriage, but this felt phony. One or two of the individuals I had been entirely honest with had expressed concern that I would "regret" or feel "guilt" over my choice.

Everything led me to believe that I wasn't "deserving" of an abortion. I had been seeing my college boyfriend for a while and we had a good relationship (now my husband and father of my two children). Being the same age as his parents when they had their first child, we had been living together for three years. She couldn't have been happier when my boyfriend told his mother I was pregnant, but she had to disguise her disappointment when he announced we weren't going to carry the pregnancy. Neither of us felt prepared for a child.

Now that thousands of women have come forward with their own abortion stories, I am hesitant to share mine for various reasons. Is there any use for everything I've gone through? Will it sway anyone's opinions? Does it go far enough? Or, is it enough encouraging? What if it discourages women and young girls from getting abortions?

I now see that for the past sixteen years, I had been subtly developing my own sympathetic abortion story so that, when the time came to share it, I would come across as credible and accessible. a good girl—the kind of girl who carefully considered both sides of an issue for her school project. I would describe how the morning after pill, contraception, and ultimately the medical surgery all failed (though this may seem to strain credulity). I might describe how, a few weeks later, I was dramatically discovered bleeding in the restroom of a department shop and transported in a cab to the hospital. Even though I would naturally spare you the unpleasant specifics.

Women's pain and suffering are prevalent themes in the numerous personal abortion experiences that are shared. We are aware that we must present ourselves as good people and victims of circumstance, similar to reports of sexual abuse. These anecdotes contribute to the idea that some patients can get abortions and not others, even if they can be useful in emphasizing how difficult it is to receive reproductive care. Less frequently do we hear from women who freely and simply chose to have abortions because it was their legal right to do so, without hesitation or remorse. Many women who view abortion as a healthy option don't let it traumatize them after having one. They should contact us.

I don't take abortion for granted, therefore no. But even if I had, even if I had strutted into the clinic under the impression that this was some sort of "cushy" choice, as Mary Kenny advised, that would have been okay too. Being flippant about pregnancy is undoubtedly one strong argument against ending it. Healthy children, good parents, and healthy families result from a person's control over whether and when they have children. That thing went as they did for us makes me glad.

Although neither my mother nor I were aware of how politically significant the topic would become, I pledged to write about my abortion to her before she passed away at the end of last year. Although she was aware that there was still much for women to accomplish in this world, she believed her generation had at least resolved this problem.

We are fortunate that religious radicals in the UK do not have the same influence as they do in the US. But if we believe that the issue has been resolved, we are deluding ourselves. The Roe v. Wade decision has already given those protesters more confidence to harass and shame the women who enter British clinics. These women range widely in kind. Your neighbor, your boss, the barista who makes your morning flat white, your sister, your kid, your mother, and possibly even your wife.

Every hour of every day, women seek abortions. Also, nice girls Can they do it safely and without being intimidated? is ultimate all that matters?

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