In July 2010, 31-year-old Filipina woman, Rechilda Moll-Sequitin, settled a lawsuit against her employer who allegedly forced her to abort her unborn child. The employer's company denied threatening her with dismissal if she failed to abort, but settled out of court after the court was told that Ms Moll-Sequitin had recorded the threats. (Check out the news report for details)
Pregnant Australian women have more to contend with than coercion in the workplace. Anecdotal evidence suggests that women may be treated just as badly in Australian abortion clinics.
Women’s stories reveal that clinics may not obtain proper consent (“I was really sobbing quite hysterically”), are often uninformed or misinformed (“…it was just a sack of cells”), and are not adequately warned of the physical and psychological risks arising from the abortion procedure. (See Ali’s story)
Up until recently, the courts have been the primary mechanism through which abortion has been made available to Australian women. Now, women coerced or harmed by the abortion industry have the opportunity to use the courts for compensation for their mistreatment.
Abortion Legal Support are a network of independent lawyers in Australia and New Zealand who believe women have a right to access the legal system with their abortion harm claims.
According to their website, ALS’ services include claims against clinics including:
• misleading and deceptive advertising by abortion clinics
• failure to inform of possible depression or other side effects of abortion
• providing little or no information as to development of the unborn child
• not offering an opportunity to view ultrasound imaging
• a counselling process which made a woman feel pressured to have an abortion
• a counselling process which failed to give a woman adequate time to work out their own wishes
• failing to identify that a boyfriend/ partner/ parent or some other person was pressuring a woman to abort.
Australian women deserve freedom from coercion, misinformation and lack of information. Perhaps it is time that those who have been mistreated send this message to the abortion industry – via the courts if necessary.
At the age of twenty two I was going through a bit of a wild stage in my life. I was in my final year at uni and going out with friends drinking a lot. One night after way too many drinks, I slept with a mate and was too drunk to remember to use protection. The following morning we looked at each other and basically decided we better go to a doctor, get the morning after pill and never talk of it again.
A couple of weeks after taking the morning after pill I had this very strange feeling that I was pregnant, so I bought a pregnancy test and it was positive. I cried and swore and thought what on earth I was going to do now. I called my mate and told him and after the initial shock he said he would support whatever decision I made. So it was all left in my hands. I was torn with what to do. Never in my life had I thought that I would be faced with this decision and I had always dreamed of being a mum. On the other hand the father and I were only mates and I was just about to finish my degree. At this stage I made the decision that my only option was just to keep the baby and see what happened.
Over the next couple of weeks my mate and I pulled together and decided we would try and make the friendship into a relationship for the sake of the baby. We told his mum and a few friends and tried to get excited. I called my mum one day and told her and her response was not at all positive. She basically put forward all the negatives and made me start to doubt my decision. She came straight over, dragging my dad with her and basically started telling me how unreasonable my decision was and that I knew what I should really do, given the father and I didn’t love each other and how could this possibly be the best situation to bring a child into. The fact was that I had already thought about all these things and for some reason when my mum said them, the woman I trusted most in the world for advice, the only realistic option seemed to be to terminate the pregnancy.
I convinced myself that it was the right decision to make and decided to tell the father. Before I even had a chance to tell him, my mum had already organised my termination through the referral of our family doctor for that very week. So I told the father that I was booked in and then we could both just forget it ever happened and get on with life. I think I managed to convince everyone it was the right thing to do except for myself. The few days before I went to the clinic I was in turmoil with myself. Between my hormones, my little swollen belly, my enormous breasts and this amazing feeling of having already started to bond with this little person I just kept questioning myself.
Well I didn’t have long before I was sitting in the clinic with a room full of women of all ages and my mum. I was called to a little room where a woman asked me why I wanted to have an abortion. I told her I was just about to finish my degree and that it had been a one night stand. I told her that that the morning after pill hadn’t worked and she said she had never heard of that happening before. She then told me of the procedure and then I signed something so that they would not be held responsible. Apparently that was all I needed to say, because I was taken to another little room where another lady did an ultrasound to see how far I was. She said I was six weeks and that it was too early to do the procedure because of the high risk of failure. However, given that I had travelled three hours to get there she said they would go ahead anyway. She told me that it was a simple procedure and that at this stage it was just a sack of cells. She walked out of the room and I saw the screen and ran to the toilets and burst into tears. When I walked out the lady told me to wait in a back room rather than going back to the waiting room so that I wouldn’t upset the other women.
They finally came and got me (still in tears) and took my mother and myself down the elevator to the next waiting area. By this stage I was quite hysterically crying. I was sent into a little cubical to put on a gown before being taken into the area where they do the abortions. I was really sobbing quite hysterically by this stage so the nurse held my hand while they put the anaesthetic in my hand.
I woke up in the recovery room, very dazed and confused. The lady came over to see how I was and I simply asked had it worked. Deep down I had hoped it hadn’t. She said it had and I was given something to eat and sent to the toilet. While in the toilet I had a huge gush of blood and fell over. I got myself out of the toilet and then fainted on the floor. My blood pressure was dangerously low, but they told my mum this was normal and kept me on the floor until it went up a bit.
I then walked to the car with mum with instructions to keep an eye on me. At this stage I was completely numb. I think I was in denial really. We went back to the hotel room and we didn’t really talk. I cried myself to sleep. The next day I travelled home alone and hysterically cried the whole way. I just wanted to drive my car head on into a truck. I pulled up at the father’s house and couldn’t even get out of the car. He helped me inside and I just cried and cried. I Just couldn’t stop crying, I couldn’t even talk. Luckily I was on uni holidays, so I just stayed inside his room and smoked and cried (I wasn’t even a smoker but thought what the hell). By the time uni went back I was booked in to the uni doctors for a check up. I was so numb by this stage that when she tried to talk to me I just said I didn’t want to talk about it and left. I tried to get on with uni and life, but every time I was alone I’d just start crying. I couldn’t get anything done.
The uni doctor referred me to the uni councillor to get some help. When I told her the story she basically looked at me and said what an awful tragedy it was. She was speechless and could offer me no words of support except that perhaps I should go on antidepressants. I said no thanks and that I would be fine. I walked out thinking that if a professional couldn’t help me then what hope did I have. Somehow I got through my uni work and even managed to go to job interviews for my future career. I have no idea how I got through those few weeks after the abortion. When I was in public I pretended like everything was fine and normal and when I was alone I just cried and secretly wanted to die. I started to smoke and drink a lot, because I thought I didn’t deserve to treat my body well. I became very self destructive and even slept with people I didn’t really want to just for the sake of it. I just didn’t think I deserved to be happy, healthy or even alive.
I became very bitter over the following months, with moments of anger, hysterics and most of all this sense of numbness. At this stage I met a new friend who could see I was on this downward spiral of destruction. He let me cry and I explained what happened and he prayed for me. I wasn’t a religious person but thought why not. Over the next few weeks he was going to church and I finally asked if I could go too. It was hard to walk in there knowing what I had done but I was beyond caring by then. It was through learning about Jesus Christ and the sacrifice he made on the cross so that my sins could be forgiven that I finally found some sense of peace. I asked God to forgive me and gave my life to Christ and then prayed that God would help me to forgive myself. This was the hardest part for me because I thought I would never be able to forgive myself for what I did.
It has been nearly seven years since my termination and there have been many ups and downs. I married that friend who first introduced me to Christ and we now have two beautiful children. I never thought I would get to have children, I didn’t think I deserved to. I thank God every day for the chance to do it right and I know that one day I will get to see that beautiful little child that was taken from me so tragically and will spend all eternity with them. I have only recently been able to forgive myself and I’m determined to spend the rest of my days here on Earth fighting against a law that enables people to wrongfully coerce emotionally fragile women into making decisions that can never be reversed. In the end it is us women who live the rest of our lives with the pain, regret, sorrow and a doubt in ourselves and our ability to make right decisions. We go on in life thinking we don’t deserve children and if we did fall pregnant couldn’t possibly make good mothers.
Women’s choice should be about doing what is in the best interest of the mother, not those directly affected by the pregnancy. If more women were given information and support on how to come to terms with an unplanned pregnancy and how to manage their life and finances with a child, I believe there would be far less abortions taking place. I am all for putting women’s health, both mental and physical first. I simply believe that by terminating one ‘problem’ we simply create a whole new set of problems. When women have ‘unwanted’ pregnancies and continue with it, there is a plethora of support from both the government and other agencies. When a woman gets an abortion they are left to deal with the aftermath themselves. Once you’ve had it no one wants to talk about it and you are basically left to yourself to ‘get over it’.
I hope and pray that more broken women will put away their shame and tell others about their experience so that the cycle does not continue for our children’s generation. Let’s start really giving women an informed choice!
Love and prayers
Ali from NSW