I had an abortion 5 years ago at 23. I had taken a couple of pills from my monthly packet very late and had missed one entirely, but after relying on that particular method of contraception for years without incident I thought I would not need to worry. My next period was late so I took a pregnancy test, believing wholeheartedly that there was no way it could possible come back positive. It took 3 tests for me to finally realise that I was in fact pregnant and I knew instantly that I was not ready to be a mother. I discovered that I would need the approval of two doctors before I would be able to take control of the situation and that my reasons for wanting a termination had to fall within the acceptable motives outlined in the 1967 abortion act in order for the procedure to be legal. I did far too much research on the legislation surrounding abortion in the UK and scared myself half to death at the thought of a doctor turning me away if my circumstances were not dire enough. I made an appointment with my GP and spoke to her about my history with depression. I told her that having a child at this moment in time would put my mental health at risk, a factor I knew was listed in the Abortion Act. My GP gave her consent for me to have the termination and then informed me that a second doctor would need to speak to me before I could go ahead with the procedure. I had discovered I was pregnant at 2-3 weeks, the earliest possible time it could have been detected, but by the time I was actually able to schedule a date for the abortion, I was approaching 7 weeks.
I informed my manager that I was having the procedure, as I needed to take time off to do so, but also because I wanted her to know what I was going through in case I had seemed a little distracted at work. My manager then told me not to tell anyone in the workplace what I was doing, as there were sure to be differing opinions on it. She then informed me that I would need to take the time off for the procedure out of my annual leave as she did not consider it sick time. I explained to her that I would be undergoing and recovering from a medical procedure which my GP had referred me for, but her mind remained unchanged. It was only after speaking with my HR department that I was able to have my sick leave.
I opted for a surgical procedure, as I did not want to risk the medical pill failing. I went to a clinic in my hometown and I sometimes get quite emotional which I think about the staff there and how much they helped me. I felt respected, listened to completely free from the judgement and unwanted opinion that had blighted the past couple of months for me. The relief as I left that clinic was overwhelming. 5 years later I have become a pro-choice advocate, participating in various forms of activism to decriminalise abortion across the UK. My experiences opened my eyes to a struggle for reproductive rights that I was previously unaware of. I feel passionately that the right to control my own body is fundamental to my humanity, and that must translate into legislation.