Lillian's story is collected especially for the SHHH project. All informants and stories in this project have been anonymised. All names are changed.
I have three children and I have been pregnant four times. I was very young at the time of my first pregnancy. It was in 1972 which was before the law of self-determined abortion. Had it been legal then, I might very well have chosen to have an abortion, but that was never an option. I was 19.
In 1979 I had just had child number two, and wanted to make sure I was on safe contraception. I couldn’t take the pill. I had tried but it gave me a migraine so I had to stop. The birth control pills at that time had very high levels of estrogen and they were too much for me. I tried the copper IUD, but it’s not as effective as the hormonal IUD. So six or seven months after giving birth to my daughter, I got pregnant again, despite my IUD.
This was just after the abortion law was passed, making it possible to get an abortion on request. There was a female gynecologist who taught at the midwifery program, so I got in touch with her. She worked at the women’s clinic and she told me how to go about getting an abortion. Even though it wasn’t supposed to be a commission that decided your case, you had to go through all the steps: come into the clinic at the hospital, go into the office. I can’t remember how many of them there were, how many men or women, but they asked me many questions.
So I did get an abortion – a surgical one. I had to go in early in the morning, fasting, and go under anesthesia. After a while I woke up. I can’t recall anyone being unpleasant to me or saying something wrong, but the feeling that you… almost trick your way into a procedure that nobody likes. It gives you sort of an uncomfortable feeling. So when it’s over, we’re not supposed to talk about it, we don’t tell it to people even if they might as well know. My siblings and my mother knew but I don’t think I told my father, for example. It’s not something I have shared with my friends over the years, even though I’m sure many of them have chosen to have abortions too. It’s just not been a topic of discussion, there’s almost like a sense of shame connected to it. Even if you can defend your own actions, you’re doing something that some people think is very wrong.
Now I’m nearly 70. It should be about time to just say “I had an abortion”. And I never regretted it.