Before we went on stage, Tracey told me she had found a particular passage of my memoir very compelling and she wanted to know if we could discuss it and if we could try a little experiment.
She’d had a brilliant idea and I immediately agreed to it.
The passage she wanted us to discuss was the following. It refers to my experience when contraception failed and I got pregnant in my early twenties.
“I could not go through with the pregnancy. It felt as if it had happened to my body and not to me. This was not because of my anxiety or obsessive neurosis. That didn’t help, certainly, but I’d be lying if I hid behind that as an excuse. If I’d wanted that baby, I’d have gone ahead and had it, mental illness or not. I simply did not want it. My life was finally looking up. I was focused on my career. I was not ready to walk away from it. You can judge me and call it a ‘lifestyle choice’ if you like, but I have no regrets.
I booked a termination as quickly as I could and that was the end of that. Did I feel any grief? Did I feel guilty or ashamed? No, and I never have. We had been responsible. I had been following doctor’s orders. I would much rather have not become pregnant but as I had it had to be dealt with. When I woke up from the anaesthetic and realised I wasn’t pregnant anymore all I felt was overwhelming relief. I could go back to my real life.
Many years later, I was scheduled to appear on Richard Glover’s Monday Political Forum. It is a weekly segment airing as part of his Drive program on ABC Radio 702 in Sydney. I was booked to debate the issues of the day with former NSW LNP Opposition leader John Brogden and the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney the Rev Peter Jensen. Tony Abbott, the then Health Minister in the Howard Federal
Government, was in the middle of a scandal surrounding his son who had been born to a girlfriend and adopted out. It later turned out via DNA testing that the adopted child was not Abbott’s son, but that information was not known by anyone at the time. Abbott had been a very high profile opponent of abortion all his life and, as Health Minister, had recently tried to get the abortion drug RU486 excluded from the Australian market. He had failed largely due to cross party voting by the women in parliament. I knew, therefore, that abortion was likely to be on our list of topics for discussion, particularly considering the presence of Archbishop Jensen. When I opened Richard’s email listing our topics sure enough, abortion led the list. I immediately wondered if I was going to have to talk about my own experiences.
That evening in the studio, when the discussion about abortion started, Jensen was unequivocal in his condemnation. Brogden was less definite but still negative about it as an option. When Richard asked for my opinion, I began by talking about the giant female silence around the topic and how it was a rare sexually active woman who hadn’t wondered with white knuckles whether she would be faced with having to make a decision that wasn’t abstract and theoretical (as it was to the men discussing the topic with me) but real, visceral and life changing.
You can watch Tracey Spicer's TED talk below. Post continues after video.