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It’s a woman’s problem in Australia

by yoki

May 29, 2020

I would like to share my experience with medical abortion which has been done in Australia, the country where abortion is legalized up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. What shocked me the most was that legal and accessible are two very very different terms. I can compare it to marihuana being legal (which is not) but nowhere to be found or so expensive you can’t have it anyway. And this is the case in Australia.

As a young professional on a long-term working visa I’m forced by immigration office to pay rather costly but very basic health insurance. After a few years treating work as my home, I met a good guy with whom I can see the future. However, despite being careful I got pregnant, we jokingly blame it on the COVID19 lockdown, boredom and too much time under one roof. It would all be perfect as I plan kids if not how fast it happened, we have been together barely 4 months. This, plus unstable work situation (again COVID19 times), which impacts my visa, made it a bit easier for us to make this decision. Later, I have realized it wasn’t easy at all but this story is not about my moral or life dilemmas.

Assuming Australia is so liberal in this matter, I was deadly convinced abortion is something people can do between lunch and gym (well not really but you get the idea). How far from truth and naive was to think that way. First of all, it took me some real time to find medical assistance with ‘my problem’. I initially contacted famous Marie Stopes which is apparently a non-profit organization (I want to laugh here), I quickly realized that there is a double discrimination around abortion in Australia: firstly, as a woman without residency I am asked to pay for it 1200$ (to compare with 290$ for Australians), it doesn’t matter that I have worked in here for years, contributed with higher taxes and diligently paid my monthly 300$ bill to a private insurance provider. Marie Stopes will not make friends with these insurance companies and it has to be fully paid by … and we come to the second discrimination problem – the woman. Yes, my partner, the father of the baby holds Australian PR and if he had uterus he can have it pretty much for a price of one night going out drinks, however he cannot cover the abortion for which he is sending me. Of course, he is a good guy, we split the costs, but imagine if he was a scam or I was a homeless woman without income. It is all woman’s problem.

Upon contacting Marie Stopes the woman abruptly asked: can you pay that much money (or you have to stay pregnant…???)? I decided to look further. After some time, I found oddly and a little bit scamy looking web: 1800 My Options and with a bit of reservation, disbelief and lots of luck I actually managed to arrange appointment with GP who could provide these the pills. You must know that most of them don’t. MOST GPs IN AUSTRALIA don’t. I’m still shaking my head in disbelief. She was the best, the queen of GPs. But the procedure is long, if you think you can do it same afternoon you are as silly as I was. Initial visit to discuss my options (counseling) and if you happen to have a person with strong views on this then he/she may send you home for another 2 weeks to think about your decision, that often will result in being over 9 weeks and ineligible for medical abortion. If you are lucky like me that special angel GP will arrange things to progress quickly within a week or so, but blood test (multiple pregnancy tests are not enough), your blood groups tests, STD tests, allow a couple of days. Then ultrasound, allow another couple of days or in some cases you must wait till 6-7 weeks for a sac to be visible. Did I mentioned this adds to your bill another 600$? Basically, it is going back and forth and really if you really really made up your mind and this decision is yours alone, don’t show any uncertainty, it will push you back to square one and let’s face it, no time for that. Got the pills for another 400$ to round my bill to 1000$. When I called my insurance company to ask for coverage the woman on the line lowered her voice when she repeated the A word and was shaming me for doing it. Again unhelpful.

How this actually progressed. I took the mifepristone as advised in the evening. I was 6 weeks pregnant and I felt being pregnant already, my breast got very tender and large, my lower belly became familiarly crampy and spongy (I have been pregnant and had a child previously). I didn’t experience much till the next morning when it felt as if that something has happened in my uterus. I started having mild cramps probably 18 hours later and a bit of fever. I also started to feel a bit off in my stomach (like car sick). I spent the evening on the sofa buried in blanket, with flashed cheeks and a feeling similar to ‘my period is coming’. At night I started to shiver uncontrollably.  36 hours later I took firstly the anti-nausea pill, I was afraid of throwing up the holy grail, then I sucked on four misoprostol, here I was asked to let them dissolve between my cheek and gums. Pretty much after that I started having mild cramps and again the shivering. About 4 hours later I was laying on the bathroom floor in such pain that only labour could compete with it.

My legs, hips, back and belly were in permanent cramp and it felt as if I had the strongest contractions every minute. I was about to throw up so I am thankful I took the anti-nausea pill. I crawled out and popped 1000mg of paracetamol advised in Australia to ease this pain but it didn’t make any difference. I was in agony for 4 hours until I managed to get from somebody codeine. That put me to sleep. I woke up 2 hours later still in pain so I overdosed the codeine because I could not imagine that pain again. What worried me most at that point was that I had hardly any bleeding, just a single small spot. Can I be the 3% women for whom medical abortion won’t work was all I started to be paranoid about. I also thought that if they offer me more misoprostol I would opt for surgical abortion rather than going through his hell again. What I am very displeased about is no access or choice for heavier painkillers, it is really something that should be changed, it shows a very dismissive attitude towards womens’ pain and I will never understand why would anyone decide we have to go through this without painkillers. How could anyone seriously say that paracetamol would help with labour-like pain, it is insane. Disclosure: I never take painkillers with my period pains or even with migraines, so that gives you the perspective what kind of pain I was in. So if you are in Australia and about go through this, please just have some strong painkiller with you, just in case, I hope you won’t need to take them but let them sit beside. More bleeding came within 48hours but compared to my heavy periods it wasn’t that much and I didn’t see or feel the foetus leaving my uterus either. It has been a few days now and I will confirm the successful abortion with blood test within the next 2 weeks. And so that will be it. Overall, it was rather a painful experience for me and I will try to avoid repeating this situation, however knowing the pain and fear I would probably opt for the surgical procedure.

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