Pop culture depictions of abortion make me mad

by Anonymous

November 9, 2020

We’re all familiar with the presentation of abortion in books, movies and TV shows that make it seem like a terribly difficult decision, one to be regretted, and a defining moment in a person’s life.  Those kinds of feelings are, of course, very real for some people who have abortions.  But that wasn’t my experience, and whenever I see abortion presented in a unidimensional way in cultural media (which is pretty much always), I want to shout at the screen “it was the easiest decision of my life – it didn’t even feel like a choice – I just knew I had to do it!”

The idea that abortion is a difficult, potentially regrettable, emotional decision is consistent with my experience of how I was treated in the medical system.  When I found out I was pregnant, I walked back into the doctor’s office with tears streaming down my face: “Is this a happy outcome?”, she asked.  Well clearly fucking not.  I asked about the details of the abortion process immediately – I just wanted to get it started.  My doctor gave me some brochures and told me to “have a think” before circling back to make an appointment to get the process started.  Once I was finally “in the process”, the nurse tasked with telling me about the procedure, described it in such nauseating detail that I turned white and started crying.  I’d never had such a detailed description of any other medical procedure and it was frankly disgusting – I didn’t want to hear it.

I had my abortion when I was 23.  I was mid-way through university, and had a bunch of great professional opportunities lined up for the summer.  There was no question in my mind that it was the wrong time to have a child (even though I had a very responsible and decent boyfriend and we were falling in love).  My resolve to end the pregnancy was only strengthened when, as the pregnancy progressed, I slid into a near-permanent state of nausea, smell sensitivity (do people realise how bad most perfumes smell?), and an inability to consume anything that wasn’t white bread or freshly squeezed fruit juice.

I did have a bit of emotion around the abortion, at times, but I almost think, in hindsight, that it was socialised.  I was so used to believing that a fetus was a person and that abortion was some terrible and difficult thing, that I think I mistook my general shock and exasperation at the situation as some kind of sadness at the loss of a baby.  As I get older, I feel a pinch of sadness as it becomes clearer that that might have been my only shot at a biological child.  But, I think it’s just ‘grass is greener’ thinking: I might have had a miscarriage; I might have had to sacrifice my career (which is my first and true love child); I might have been stuck to the father forever (who I broke up with three years later); and myriad other what ifs and maybes that don’t factor into the dream of the happy little girl I imagine running around and picking daisies.  And still, the image of my phantom child haunts me from time to time, not in any special sense, but in exactly the same sense that our hearts pinch at the thought of what might have been had we taken a different fork at the relevant time – had we said no to that job, had we said yes to that trip, had we applied for that scholarship, had we given a new lover more of a chance.

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