I’m lucky, I’ve never been in a position to have to consider whether I want to be pregnant or not. I haven’t had to go through the turmoil of wondering who to tell or what people will think about me. Not about that anyway. As a nurse, I looked after a many people following the loss of a pregnancy, whether planned or not. But thankfully I never had to worry about legality either. While others went through that decision I always believed abortion would never be my choice. However that is also because I also believe that it is a woman’s right to choose.
A girl in my class at school was pregnant when we took our ‘o’ levels. She had an abortion and went on to marry and have 3 children before she was 21. I don’t know what happened to her after that. I now know that a teenage pregnancy drastically reduces a person’s life chances. Making them less likely to have achieved a degree and more likely to live in poverty (more of that later).
But as a 16 year old who had never had sex with her boyfriend, I wasn’t concerned with my class mate. I was too busy continuing my school career and getting the qualifications to become a nurse.
In 1981 I was a second year student nurse on her gynaecology placement. This took place at a small hospital for women in soho. This was a place where I learned some interesting things that it took a while for my 19 year old brain to digest. The first is that at the time a woman seeking a sterilisation needed the consent of her husband. Secondly, a woman in a relationship may still seek to have a termination of pregnancy even if the foetus is health. Thirdly that you could object to being in theatre when a pregnancy is terminated but as a nurse you have a duty to care for the woman before and after the event. This proved to be a useful guide to my future career. You may not always agree with people’s life choices, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t receive care, support and a human touch. We are not there to judge people, but to support them through the choices they have made.
My own pregnancy
This was planned and wanted. It only happened once and I remain a bit sad about that. But as I said at the top of this piece, I do consider myself lucky never to have needed to worry about being pregnant.
In hindsight I wish I’d been a little less controlled and a bit more free spirited. But my husband was less risk averse than me and so an unplanned pregnancy was unlikely.
Until I was menopausal that is. In my 50th year I embarked on a relationship with S and we rarely had protected sex. I have often wondered what I would have done had I become pregnant. By then of course, we had the morning after pill and medical terminations taking place at clinics rather than acute hospitals. Still it didn’t happen, so I will never know.
Later career experiences
Around 10 years ago my job included leading on teenage pregnancy. As the agency responsible for improving the health of the local population and buying the services to do it we were tasked with reducing rates. This meant I spent time with midwives, social workers, policy makers and young people themselves. I learned about the complex reasons for people accessing abortion services or not. Those conversations took me right back to the beginning and my class mate getting pregnant at 16.
Much money has been poured into addressing the teenage pregnancy rates in England. Numbers have reduced drastically, though this hasn’t necessarily dealt with the social disadvantage those young people experience. We have had programmes such as Family Nurse Partnership that have helped. But low pregnancy numbers and austerity cuts have decimated these services in some areas.
Conception rates here are now masked because it is much easier to prevent pregnancy, deal with the potential of one easily or to get an abortion. This isn’t without it’s problems, but at least it doesn’t deny access.
A woman’s right
In far too many places in the world women are unable to access the means to end pregnancy. If they do not wish to carry on, even if they have been raped or there is something wrong with the baby.
Others apparently can decide that an unviable foetus should be preserved and that even if a woman miscarries she is some way to blame.
This is why I am supporting the Smutathon today and have donated to the charity: National Network of Abortion Funds I believe it is the right of anyone who becomes pregnant and wishes to end that pregnancy for whatever reason to be able to do so.
I urge you to click on the link below, to see who writing today and if you can to donate. What’s more you can also access some actual smut there. Wonderfully crafted smutty writings by highly talented sex writers and bloggers. And what better reward for your efforts could there be?