This is a very difficult thing for me to write about, not least because not all of my family are aware it happened, but also because the abortion I had was probably quite different to the experience of most English women who have one on the NHS.
I grew up in Belfast as a kid, where as I’m sure you know abortion remains to be a subject of great public debate. It is illegal to have an abortion in Northern Ireland, unless the mothers life is at risk. Mental illness and suicide don’t qualify as far as I’m aware.
The women who do have a termination legally are still subject to abuse and degradation from people outside the clinic, despite often having no other choice and I’m sure sometimes having to do this when its the last thing they want.
I was 20 when I went to Florida to stay with a boy I met and thought I loved. Despite using contraception I returned home three months later to find I was pregnant. I had no home, I was living in my mums which had been condemned and was falling apart with damp. I was studying, I had no money, and my own family had been scattered around the country. My mental health was suffering terribly with all I had going on.
I told him as soon as I found out, he was far from pleased. I’m sure to some degree it was shock, but he told me he thought I’d done it on purpose. I already knew I didn’t want to go back, and now there was just no way it was going to happen.
After much deliberation I came to the decision that there was no way I could financially or emotionally support a baby. I could barely look after myself. I decided to have an abortion.
Like I say, this is not the easiest thing to do in Belfast. So I found a charity online who were willing to send me the tablets with instructions on how and when to take them. It cost me £150. They advised me that someone would be reachable via email if i needed them, and that if anything should go wrong i should go to hospital and tell them I miscarried. They told me treatment would be the same, and not to mention the tablets or anything else.
I told my mum what I was planning to do. She wasnt pleased but she respected my choice. My body. My decision. Her partner was angry, and when the package arrived he hid it. It would have been too late if my mum hadnt caved and given me them at the last minute. I often wonder, if id been able to do it earlier it might not have been such a terrifying experience.
I had roped in my best mate to stay with me that night. The poor fucking kid. He was 18 and had no idea what to do. Neither did I.
But I followed the instructions. I was convinced there was something horribly wrong from the off. I was nauseous, I vomited constantly, the pain was unbearable and so was the fever. It took 24hrs, and I slept for three days afterward.
Throughout the ordeal I was terrified. I was very aware of the disapproving parents next door, pretending they couldnt hear most of the time but still periodically cracking the door, peering in and quietly leaving again. My poor mate who was so far out of his depth and still managed to smooth my sweaty hair. The complete absence of the man who was as responsible as me.
Most of all the knowledge, the terrifying realisation that medically, legally, I was completely alone, with no fucking idea what I was doing. I was expecting it to be like the miscarriage I had at seventeen. It couldn’t have been more different.
Despite this awful experience, I remain firmly assured that this was the right thing to do. This experience was not a result of my decision. It was a result of the draconian laws that force women and girls onto the internet for dodgy procedures. It could have killed me, because my life wasn’t worth as much in Belfast as it is in Liverpool. This has got to change.
To my family, I’m sure with the strict Christian upbringing we had some of you may be shocked or disappointed. I am truly sorry for that. But I refuse to continue feeling ashamed about it. It was right for me. It was my right. And I took it.