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Stop shaming women for having abortions: It’s our body and our choice

PSA: Bodily autonomy is a thing

In the last few weeks, Cardiff University Students' Union has been at the forefront of the ‘pro-choice’ vs ‘pro-life’ debate after its recent decision to publicly adopt a pro-choice stance. In response to this decision, an external anti-abortion organisation called the Centre for Bioethical Reform UK (CBR UK) have continued to target the university with protests, some of which have featured large-scale graphic images that some students found ‘distressing’.

Fifty-three years after the landmark Abortion Act 1967 was put in place, paving the way for the pro-choice movement, organisations like CBR are still protesting and the conflict continues. If the pro-choice movement is not a new concept, then why are women still being shamed for implementing their legal right to an abortion? If it's not illegal, then why do women still feel like they are doing something wrong?

Typical to many of society's most difficult topics of discussion, individuals very rarely feel like they can express their views or experiences surrounding abortion without the fear of persecution or judgement. I cannot claim any kind of moral authority on this incredibly complex topic, but as a Cardiff University student and more significantly, a female who may be directly affected by this subject of abortion at some point in my life, the debate got me thinking…

What if I became pregnant?

My friends will confirm that I am a determined advocate for sexual health, specifically the use of contraceptives and protection. I have always tried to protect myself as best I can. However, no-one and nothing is perfect. We all make mistakes, most likely due to misunderstanding or miseducation, while some things are simply out of our control.

Like many women, I have had my fair share of pregnancy scares: the fear when your cycle is off and suddenly, you’re faced with the possibility of an unexpected pregnancy. Nine times out of ten you’re being dramatic, but the complications run through your head. Out of date condoms, missed a pill by accident, ‘was there a hole in it?’, that antibiotic you needed when you were ill, maybe his pull-out game wasn’t really as strong as you'd hoped or the Virgin Mary has been reincarnated. Miracles can happen and only a pregnancy test will ease your mind.

A while ago, I had to do a pregnancy test to check I could take a particular medication. As I waited for the test to develop, out of curiosity, I went to my parents and asked them what they would want me to do if the test showed up positive. My mum responded with 'it's the woman's choice.' but my dad looked at me and said ‘I’m not answering that!'.

When I persisted on his opinion (he knows I won't give up), half-expecting an opportunity to call him out for his old-fashioned values as I so often do, he looked at me and said ‘it's your choice. I would support you whatever.’ His statement shouldn't have shocked me, but it did. He's always supported me in everything I do, but I thought this topic would be too controversial for him to resist asserting some kind of patriarchal influence.

When it comes to difficult decisions, everyone's going to have an opinion, but it speaks volumes when someone can put their own aside to consider the person whose life it's actually going to affect.

So far, the pregnancy tests have always turned up negative, but one day they might not be.

Would I want an abortion?

This would completely depend on where I was in my life and what I expected from my future at the time. A decision like this involves deep self-evaluation and begs difficult questions: Who am I and what do I want to be? Am I capable? Is it fair? It is practical? The answers cannot be determined until you are faced with the situation head on.

I have often perceived myself as maternal, being close to the young children in my family, but last year my outlook changed drastically when I became overwhelmed by mental health problems. During that time, I could barely look after myself, so I dread to think how the situation would pan out if I had a child as well.

Since undergoing counselling, I have always tried to put myself first because things go down-hill very quickly when you don't. Based on my current position in life, I do not see myself as a parent anytime soon.

How would I feel if I became pregnant and I was unable to have an abortion?

It’s all well and good having an opinion when the choice is there, but when a right is taken away or non-existent in the first place, it becomes so much more valuable. There's a lot of stigma around the topic of abortion, which works just as well as taking the right away.

If I was forced to maintain an unwanted pregnancy or pressured into that decision based on the fear of other people's opinions, it would have a devastating impact on my mental health. Having already experienced the struggle of mental health problems in the past, I will always fight for my personal well-being and I cannot blame any other woman for doing so either.

You won't understand unless you've walked in someone else's shoes

So what I'm trying to say is, abortion is a very tricky and complicated decision that no one takes lightly. It's the choice of the person who is directly affected and their circumstances. No one can understand what's going on in someone's personal life, mental wellbeing or their financial situations so frankly, only they can determine this decision for themselves.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Pro-choice students disrupt pro-life protests on campus

‘I felt the need to set it up’: Cardiff student sets up pro-choice society

CBR UK will be outside Cardiff Uni up to three times a week until pro-choice stance is reversed