A supporter recently got in touch with us to share her story of having an abortion at a BPAS clinic, and how much her own experience challenged the narrative behind current proposals put forward by Nadine Dorries MP to amend the law to ban abortion providers from offering counselling, instead handing this responsibility over to ‘independent’ groups that could be anti-choice. What follows nicely illustrates why the proposals should be opposed.
I find Nadine Dorries MP’s proposal abhorrent for many reasons; prolonging the abortion process and seemingly damning those women going through it by enforcing ‘pro-life’ (anti-choice) counselling are just some of these. In 2006 I experienced an NHS abortion and want to applaud the way it was dealt with. I’m not speaking from the point of view of someone whose ‘friend of a friend has gone through it’ or someone who ‘has always been prepared to make that choice if I had to’, but someone who has made the choice and lived with the consequences.
Nadine Dorries said in a Guardian article ‘The abortion process is so fast – seven to 14 days. Women who do have doubts or niggles are on the other side before they have a chance to think it through. The majority may feel it’s fine but there are a growing number thinking it wasn’t what I wanted to do. As it gets faster and faster more women are falling off the edge. This is a women’s rights issue.’ This ‘fast’ abortion process of 7-14 days is not an average fortnight; it is the longest 7-14 days of your life. I don’t remember exactly how long I had to wait for the procedure; looking back it felt more like 6 weeks as the days blended together. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I still had to experience symptoms of pregnancy – a reminder every single morning that ‘society hates you’ and that you’re a ‘bad person’, or so these anti-choice campaigners would have you believe. My body continued to physically change due to the pregnancy. And all the while I was aware that I was never going to see it through.
By the time a woman has been to her GP to discuss the termination she has already battled this decision. She has fought her own personal demons and is aware of the implications the abortion will have on her body (e.g. it’s not over the second you leave the clinic), how she is viewed by friends and family, and how she will be viewed by wider society. If she is already aware that this is simply a collection of cells being removed through a relatively minor surgical procedure that’s great, but in so many cases this will be a person who’s grown up being told it’s wrong, evil, hateful. I personally was raised Catholic so you can imagine the fun I had!
At every turn I was given the option to change my mind. I went to the initial appointment/examination with my mother but was also seen privately by the nurse to ensure I hadn’t been pushed into it and had considered the idea of continuing the pregnancy. I was told about help in the community and financial aid that I would be able to access should I choose this path. No one gleefully rubbed their hands together at the prospect of ‘all the money’ I was bringing in by having a termination.
At the BPAS clinic where I had the procedure I was again given every opportunity to escape. There was some mix-up where I needed my bag back in the changing room before the procedure; the nurse who brought me my bag eagerly asked if I’d changed my mind. While this hurt a lot (I felt I was disappointing yet another person) it showed that even up to being anaesthetised I had the opportunity to change my mind.
Both before and after the abortion I was advised about and offered counselling by my GP. I chose not to accept post-abortion counselling at this time, but later sought this while studying at University. While this was not NHS counselling, it was still impartial and what I needed. Had I received biased anti-choice counselling at this point things would have gone very badly.
I want to stand up and scream and shout for women’s rights; the right to choose; to make people have more empathy for the woman and more understanding of the unenviable decision she has to make.
I don’t know if my story will help, but I can’t sit by and watch them do this to the many women who will have to make this decision in the future.
For further comment or information, please contact Andrew Copson on 020 7079 3583.
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.