This is an area many people debate. Should it be legal? What justifications should be required? Who’s right is it to choose? Is it alive?
This article will attempt NOT to address these issues. We believe that it is more important to know what will happen as a result of our decisions. Knowledge is power. We hope to provide you with the much needed information that will carry you through the ordeal if you choose to have a termination without too many surprises.
A great deal of this advice comes from personal experience so it comes with a disclaimer: If you need more detail – ask your doctor.
Having a termination will be a difficult decision to make. Some argue that the choice is not that of the woman’s but society’s. In this state, it is not a “choice” at all. A woman must prove with, the aid of medical opinion, that she will be fucked up as a result of continuing with the pregnancy. For a slightly more legalistic version of this…
In New South Wales, an important District Court ruling in 1971 established that an abortion would be lawful in that State if there was any economic, social or medical ground or reason upon which a doctor could base an honest and reasonable belief that an abortion was required to avoid a serious danger to the pregnant woman’s life or to her physical or mental health. That danger might arise at any time during the pregnancy.
So basically, you’ve got to prove – to the psych at the clinic on the day that you go under – that you fall into one of the categories above. We suppose that this part of the process is used so women are not using abortion as a form of contraception. However, if you’re not sure you’ll find that will the following will work just as well: “I’m too young”; “I’m poor/ unemployed/ could not support myself and a child”; “I will be kicked out of home and probably school as well”; “I was raped”.
Note: Saying “it is just not convenient for me” will make the interview with the shrink take longer – they have to fill in a form (tick a box and a short written assessment) otherwise it is illegal and the waiting in the clinic is the worst part for everybody so don’t draw it out for yourself.
2. DIRTY TALK
You may be asked if you have discussed your termination with the kid’s dad. This is where we would like to make an important point for EVERYONE – even those who are anti-abortionists. Let’s face it – no contraceptive is 100% effective so we recommend that long-term couples, short-term lovers, and anyone in between should discuss their feelings on an unexpected pregnancy. Whether it be a resounding “no way” or “hell yes” or “not sure” discussing the issue NOW will open communication lines for later.
When you suspect go get it checked as soon as possible. A pee test at the GP or at home will tell you to a fairly high degree of certainty whether or not it is so – a blood test is more conclusive and takes a few days to come back. A GP will probably recommend that (if you have a positive pee test and are thinking about abortion) you take a few days to be sure.
During that time read material made available to you, go on the net if you can handle it and you may even be recommended to have an ultrasound.
When you have confirmed your position with the GP he or she should give you a referral letter and may even make an appointment for you. If they don’t make an appointment check for current phone numbers on the net or contact a registered clinic. If you contact, check the women’s department handbook which is free and can be collected from the reception of the guild or the women’s directors’ office inside the guild.
4. THE ULTRASOUND
Discussing the ultrasound is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, it will determine the age of the fetus which will then dictate when you can have the termination although a guess may be done by the GP and an ultrasound can be done on the day of the surgery. The recommended age is within the first 12 weeks since your last period. If you are more than 12 weeks pregnant it is still possible to have an abortion, you can be referred to a doctor who does mid-trimester abortions for assessment.
Secondly, it is often preferable that you get your ultrasound done before the day at the clinic because the best ultrasounds are done on a full belly of liquids and you have to “hold your water” until the sound can be performed. This can be uncomfortable at best but made worse if you have to wait hours for it to be done – and delays are very common at the clinic.
Thirdly, one of our GPs tipped us off that if you go to a radiologist for the sound before the day at the clinic a normally bulk-billed ultrasound may cost up-front if you let on that you’re there just to determine the age of a fetus and are considering a termination.
You will be given a sheet of paper that looks a lot like the inset on the following page before going to the clinic. Read it carefully and follow all instructions.
6. THE PROCEDURE
Let us assure you first off that an early abortion performed in hygienic circumstances by a qualified doctor is 8 to 10 times safer than childbirth.
Two main options are offered:
- Local Anaesthetic. You are awake during the whole experience but you will not feel a thing. You will not be able to see anything either because a screen is used to cover the actions of those performing the procedure. You will be able to hear anything said by the nurses and doctors and any noise made by the equipment used but this would be kept to a minimum and women who have had a termination under local say that being able to hear was not a big issue.
- General Anaesthetic. You are totally asleep. The last thing you will remember before waking up in the recovery room is that you were asked to count down from 10 by a nurse or maybe nothing at all.
The technical side of the procedure is best summed up this way:
The abortions are done by suction curettage. The cervix – neck of the womb – is stretched gradually with curved instruments called dilators. A slender plastic tube (diameter of 7-9 mm) is passed through the cervical canal into the uterus. Using a vacuum pump, the contents of the uterus are evacuated. The doctor then scrapes the inside of the uterus with a curette to check that the uterus is empty. The operation takes about 5 to 10 minutes.
Before going into the theatre you may be approached by the anesthesiologist or the doctor performing the termination with a few routine questions. You will then undress and get into patient garments (backless gown, booties and cap) and put onto a guernsey and wheeled into theatre.
You will feel groggy (as in tired and a little woozy) in the recovery period. You can stay on your guernsey for a while but then you should get up and walk into the external waiting area where your companion will be waiting. There you’ll be given some food and something to drink. Only eat if you think you can because your stomach may still be having issues with the anesthetic and remember that you are not in any rush.
Go home, lie down for a while and try and eat something plain like rice and veggies. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your body recovers and by the next day, you should be feeling well enough to go back to work or school.
But remember that going from pregnant to non-pregnant means a very rapid change in hormones that will take a few days to get used to. Make sure you have a friend or family member on call should your emotions go haywire. Counseling is usually available through the clinic and takes your time going through issues you may have with the ordeal. It does not happen every day to you so deal with it emotionally as best you can and get help if you can’t.
Some final bits of advice are:
- In rare cases, a pregnancy can continue even after having a termination operation. Contact your clinic if you notice any ongoing pregnancy symptoms.
- You will usually have some menstrual like bleeding and cramping after an abortion. If this persists or is worse than the bleeding and pain you have with your normal period, contact the clinic or your GP.
- Don’t have sex or use tampons for 2 weeks after your procedure, and very important that when you do have sex again that you use an effective contraceptive.
- Don’t any exercise or heavy lifting for two weeks.
- You will definitely need to reassess your options in terms of contraception so do the reading and talk to your GP.
8. THE FUTURE
It is very rare that you may contract serious damage to your fallopian tubes or cervix from an abortion that could lead to infertility. These sort of complications are used to scare women from choosing the option to have a termination and are founded in the experiences of those who had terminations before the suction method, when abortions were illegal and done by backyard butchers and when antibiotics were not readily available. If you need more information about this we recommend that you speak to the doctor before you go under but ideally before you make an appointment.
We would like to finally emphasize that knowledge and communication are the only two things that will enable you to get through this ordeal so please get a women’s handbook so that the contacts are there when you need them and talk to your partner NOW, not after it gets messy.