Voices: I don’t regret my abortion – every woman deserves that choice

·3-min read
I share that pain, that visceral anger and utter determination to preserve the right to choose (AFP/Getty)
I share that pain, that visceral anger and utter determination to preserve the right to choose (AFP/Getty)

It’s more than 15 years since I was told the baby I was carrying had a rare type of neural tube defect. I still remember every detail of that day.

The silence that fell as an alert sonographer spotted something amiss as she scanned me, only 13 weeks into my pregnancy. The bare room my husband and I were shown into; the box of tissues ready for the tears both of us shed; the questions about a condition that affects one in 10,000 babies.

And then our shared resolve to terminate a pregnancy we’d both so desperately wanted. The medics told us the baby may not survive (more than half of those with encephalocele don’t), and even if it did, its quality of life would be so impaired, and its life expectancy so reduced, we felt confident in making the decision to have an abortion.

The memories of one of the most difficult times of my life returned this week after the leak of the draft Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v Wade – the 1973 ruling that has underpinned American women’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy up to 24 weeks’ gestation.

As many as 26 US states are now poised to ban or greatly restrict abortion, the minute they get the word. Texas already legislated last year to run rings around Roe v Wade, banning terminations after six weeks’ gestation and refusing to allow exemptions for foetuses with severe abnormalities like mine.

I had to wait a week to end the pregnancy, because the law requires two doctors to sign it off, and some – having come under pressure from anti-abortionists – are reluctant to do so.

That week was agonising. But I can only imagine, once the US Supreme Court has its way, the agony for American women having to travel in some cases 600 miles, simply to retain control over their reproductive organs.

For me, the whole episode was devastating. It’s the same for many women, whatever their motive in seeking an abortion. Some are far more matter of fact about the decision than I was. And that’s OK.

Singer Phoebe Bridgers revealed this week that she had an abortion while on tour last year. She got a pill and, she says: “It was easy.” Fair enough.

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Writer Caitlin Moran has also written with admirable honesty about the thought processes behind her abortion – and how other women justify it. “I’m with the 40 per cent who sought a procedure for financial reasons, the 29 per cent who already have children and the 12 per cent who knew they couldn’t give a third baby the life it deserved,” she wrote after the Texas laws were passed last year.

That’s Caitlin’s right, Phoebe’s right, my right – and it should be the right of every American woman for evermore.

What business do Supreme Court justices Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, Amy Coney Barrett, Samuel Alito or Clarence Thomas have interfering in their reproductive choices? The slogans on the protesters’ signs speak to the anger so many women around the world now feel: “Justices get out of my vagina.”

I share that pain, that visceral anger and utter determination to preserve the right to choose. And the choice I made with my husband that fateful day more than 15 years ago was difficult, but it was right. There isn’t a day I regret it.

Cathy Newman is presenter and investigations editor of ‘Channel 4 News’

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