Yak Media explores how American decisions like the overturning of Roe vs Wade can have localised implications for UON students.
*Yak Media respects every individual’s right to their own opinion, however no hate speech or derogatory comments will be tolerated in reference to this article as this affects real people*
A few months ago, the rest of the world watched on in horror as the US Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe Vs Wade decision. The Roe Vs Wade court ruling had previously been constitutional, allowing American people with uteruses to access abortion during the first three months of pregnancy. By overturning it, the Supreme Court opened a can of worms, allowing individual states to introduce anti-abortion legislation, criminalize those who pursued abortion and leave individuals to make even more difficult decisions regarding their own bodies and lives.
But why is this relevant to Australia? Yak Media sat down with UON student Stephanie*, who had a personal experience with a pregnancy termination this year, to talk about their lived experience and why Australia shouldn’t rest comfortably when it comes to abortion and reproductive healthcare.
When and where were you when you heard about Roe Vs Wade?
The second time I heard about it was when it had been overturned. I knew there was going to be an abortion rights rally in town, to stand with the women of America. I was standing in the kitchen, talking to my mum about it. I felt very conflicted considering abortion had only recently been decriminalised in NSW. It seemed to me that it wasn’t that far behind us. Was it really something we wanted to bring to the attention of conservative politicians?
How did it make you feel?
The timing for me personally felt ironic, I felt so lucky to be here as opposed to America; my personal experience just having happened a month before. It’s common knowledge that most of our healthcare systems are better than they are in America, but I guess there was still a massive sense of relief. I am aware of my privilege of being in Australia, but it is absolutely devastating for anyone who had to go through what I went through and be criminalised for it.
What did it bring up for you?
The memory of when I was seventeen and had my first pregnancy scare, the first day of my English HSC exams. I remember Googling it and trying to research it; back then in 2014, it was criminalised. You could get up to ten years prison time in NSW. I remember thinking if it was positive I would have to travel to the ACT, where it was legal, to get it done. Even though my experience is not comparable to the USA; it was still a terrible thing for a teenager to have to think about and experience. Especially when my parents didn’t know I was sexually active.
What is your story?
I think it’s important to preface my story with it’s not just the story of “a careless young person being knocked up” but in fact a series of events that lead to that moment and decision. I turned twenty-five and my doctor ordered that I get a pap smear before they renewed my pill prescription [routine screening for cervical cancer now starts at 25]. Due to personal circumstances and deaths in my life, I didn’t get around to doing the pap smear for a while. My partner and I were very careful during the time I was off my pill. When I got back on it I missed a period but didn’t think much of it, because the pill can affect your regular cycle. I conceived two weeks after being on the pill, when it is supposed to be effective from day four.
I found out that I was pregnant at eight weeks and two days. The last day you have medical intervention is eight weeks and six days, before you have to proceed with a surgical procedure. I was able to go down the medical route (a pill) on the last possible day, otherwise, I would have had to wait another two months for surgery.
Was your experience different to how you had seen it represented?
Well, you don’t see it represented in films, except the character going to the facility and encountering protesters. The closest representation to reality is in Sex Education but that was an accidental teen pregnancy. She was in a facility but I just had to go home. In Sex Education, it was one procedure and it was over for her.
But my body wasn’t right for a week and still isn’t now, I still don’t feel like me. For Maeve it was over, it was a subplot and she went back to life but it’s not like that in reality.
Any comments you’d like to make about abortion only being recently decriminalised in NSW in 2019?
Keep it in mind. Know what your situation and options are locally, and access to services like Family Planning. The Marie Stopes clinic in Newcastle is now closed but is still offering advice. Anyone who has had some prejudice against people who have abortions has no idea of their circumstances. Be thankful for where you are, and where we are. There is only so much we can do to help America but remember it wasn’t that long ago that we could have been criminalised as well.
Is there anything you’d like people who may be facing similar circumstances to you to know?
It’s not a one-off thing, it has long-term consequences and is life-changing for the person it happens to. Everyone should have the right to decide. Nothing prepares you for the psychological impact, as well as the physiological changes.
Also, protect yourself; do not go on Reddit to find other peoples experiences because most I found were not Australian, and they were horrific.
Have a safe person to confide in; friend, family member, psychologist. It is going to be different for everyone.
This article is not intended to give medical advice, please speak to a registered medical professional regarding any concerns you may have.
If this article has brought anything up for you, please don’t hesitate to seek support:
*name has been changed for confidentiality reasons
Feature Image: Derek French via pexels.com, no changes made.