Restrictions on safe medical abortions don’t help anybody

Pregnant people deserve options to regulate their own bodies

Individuals should be allowed to make decisions about their own bodies.
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This article discusses abortion. The author has chosen to remain anonymous. 
 
Until the day I needed one, I’d never planned to get an abortion in my life. I was 21 when I called the Women’s Clinic at KGH in tears, asking to make an appointment.  
 
That’s the same age that Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff was when he promised to make abortion “unthinkable in our lifetime” at a March for Life rally alongside fellow Conservative MPPs Christina Mitas and Will Bouma. I was horrified when I saw Premier Doug Ford had responded to Oosterhoff’s comments by saying that he embraced a diversity of views within his caucus. 
 
Abortion is a question of bodily autonomy for women and people with female bodies. Debate surrounding abortion asks whether those people should be able to make decisions about their own bodies—and in a just society, the answer is always yes. While some may disagree, that’s a pregnant person’s prerogative. Having an abortion is their decision to make with a doctor and nobody else. 
 
When I was faced with the decision, it wasn’t a hard one. I was only four months away from graduating and had plans to start my Master’s degree in the fall. I had no money, no space, and most importantly, no desire to raise a child. 
 
Deciding to get an abortion was the easy part. 
 
In comparison, actually booking and attending the appointment seemed a lot harder. When I called to schedule an appointment, I was terrified—not of the procedure itself, but of the stigma and scrutiny I would face for my decision
 
Most of my understanding of abortion up until that point had come from Juno and Private Practice. In American media, abortion is always framed as a moral question: Are you willing to end a life? It’s presented as a tough choice with a lot of consequences—something someone will regret forever.  
 
My experience getting an abortion in Ontario was very different from what American TV prepared me for. Unlike in Juno, there were no protesters outside of the hospital waiting to bombard me. The staff and doctors didn’t question my decision, and no one to date has called me a murderer for choosing to have the procedure—at least, not to my face.  
 
The acceptance for my decision to get an abortion overwhelmed me. Going into the process, I was prepared to defend my choice and answer tough questions about the accompanying moral rights and wrongs. 
 
The reality was the opposite. The staff was kind and non-judgmental—at no point did they ask me to look at ultrasound photos of the fetus, challenge the morality of my decision, or ask me to consider adoption.  The doctors cracked jokes to put me at ease, and I was even allowed to have my boyfriend with me during the procedure. 
 
Throughout the entire process I felt safe, respected, and prioritized in my health care. 
 
As I left the hospital and recovered at home, the magnitude of what I had just experienced hit me. If I lived only an hour south of the border, my right to that procedure would be in jeopardy. The fact that I’m human and fallible may not have been considered a good enough reason to make decisions about my own body. 
 
If I lived only 70 km away, I might still be pregnant right now—completely against my own will. The experience made me grateful for the healthcare I’d received, but more importantly, that I lived in a country where my bodily autonomy was not up for debate. 
 
It was only a few weeks later that the March for Life took place at Queen’s Park and this illusion was shattered. 
 
While a few comments from a 21-year-old white boy would usually roll right off my back, hearing Sam Oosterhoff challenge my right to make decisions about my own body infuriated me. 
 
While fairly brief, the attendance and support of government officials is a huge win for the anti-abortion movement. It legitimizes anti-choice rhetoric and gives them hope to reopen the abortion debate, which can have tangible impacts on women’s access to abortion. 
 
Mainstream anti-choice debate can erode abortion rights for Canadian women. In the United States, for example, where abortion is a legally protected right, anti-abortion activists have successfully challenged the conditions under which women can get abortions by presenting abortion as a moral issue. 
 
Now in many states, women have to be seen as deserving of an abortion. Often, rape or life-threatening medical conditions are considered the only valid reason for getting the procedure. Increasingly, even these conditions are becoming less acceptable for politicians and providers. 
 
But there should be no restrictions on abortion. Individuals should be treated as capable enough to make their own decisions about their bodies, and to understand whether their circumstances are conducive to bringing a child into the world on their own terms. 
 
With increasing anti-abortion rhetoric, people of colour and low-income individuals are the first to bear the burden. Racism and classism mean that those people are often framed as being at fault for their own circumstances. As abortion access is restricted, they become the first for whom it is inaccessible. 
 
If that’s the case, women usually find a way to terminate pregnancies nonetheless, but wealthier women have greater ease in finding safer alternatives—like private clinics or travelling across borders—while those with fewer supports end up finding solutions that are more dangerous.  
 
When I heard Sam Oosterhoff’s comments, I thought of the other patients I saw at the abortion clinic. 
 
As I sat and waited for my appointment, I heard many of the other young women waiting with their mothers. They were being consoled through the stress of pregnancy and their fear for the upcoming procedure. 
 
While we were all scared for the pain, I could hear the relief in their voices that they would be able to go on with their lives—to go to prom, go to university, and find their dream jobs. 
 
These women were so young and have so much ahead of them. For myself, and for them, I am so grateful for access to free and safe abortions. 
 
Sam Oosterhoff, Will Bouma, and Christina Mitas should mind their own goddamned business.
 

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