real life

It's 2016. Abortion should be safe, legal and available to all women.

There’s a pretty serious court case underway in the United States that could severely restrict women’s access to abortion.

It has a lot of women worried, and in an attempt to sway the Supreme Court Justices deciding the case, women are speaking out about their own abortion experiences, in a brief filed with the court.

The brief is an important step forward in a seriously broken-recordy debate.

It’s really important that women talk about their abortion experiences, honestly and without fear. Because it’s not something women should be ashamed of and it’s not something that they should have to hide.

abortion debate
“Women are speaking out about their own abortion experiences.” (Image: iStock)

I have friends who’ve had abortions. I have friends who have mothers who had abortions. I’m sure I’ve probably met some grandmothers who’ve had one. Because here’s the thing: Women – lots of women -have abortions.

In Australia, almost half of all pregnancies are accidental. A lot of those result in babies, but some of them end with an abortion. There aren’t any reliable national data sets on abortion so we don’t know for sure just how many.

In the United States, where there’s an ongoing legislative agenda to limit women’s access to abortion and treat them as children who can’t make decisions about their own bodies, an estimated third of all women will have an abortion.

One in three.

The Supreme Court brief has this to say:

“Because of the continuing, sometimes violent debate over abortion, many bear the stories of their abortions in silence. These women are our loved ones, our mothers, our daughters, our co-workers, our neighbors and our friends from all walks of life.”

abortion debate
“Because of the continuing, sometimes violent debate over abortion, many bear the stories of their abortions in silence.” (Image: iStock)
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They are people like actress Amy Brenneman, who had an abortion as a 21-year-old college student, and refuses to feel bad about it.

“Amy felt great relief after it was over. She remembers turning on the television and finding a group of politicians – all men – debating whether women should have the right to an abortion. How strange, she thought, that they could speak so confidently without addressing the enormous impact of an unwanted pregnancy on a woman,” the brief says.

Great relief.

These are not words we hear often enough in this discussion. Women are made to feel as though sorrow, fear and regret are the emotions we should associate with an abortion.

Women hold their own stories close, whispering them if recounting them at all. Afraid of judgement and condemnation. Because this debate is one of hectoring and moralising.

It might not seem like a big step, but the stories in that Supreme Court brief – amplified and reported far and wide because of the the words of a famous actress – are powerful and honest portraits of how a lot of women really feel about abortion.

That it is an important and necessary right, enabling to own their reproductive health and control their own lives.

abortion debate
Image: Pexels

The women who feature in the brief have careers, families, and well-rounded lives. They are brave to insert themselves into this debate because it is an ugly one.

But every woman who raises her hand and says “that was me, and it was the right decision” is helping to change the debate.

It’s 2016. Abortion should be safe, legal and available to all women who want one. And no one should feel ashamed to say they made that choice.

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