To Womb It May Concern

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say my social media has been thick with outcries over the Qld government’s recent removal of abortion from the criminal code.

I generally stay out of discussions about abortion on the pretext of being a man. I’ve always maintained I don’t have a womb so I’ll never have to decide what to do with it. Never have to eat and waddle for two. Never have to deal with morning sickness, ectopic pregnancies, childbirth, stitches down there, mastitis, or any of that ‘fun’ stuff I hear Tracey ‘giggling’ about with her girlfriends.

But I have been close to a couple of abortion stories and it seems now might be the time to bring them up. There are a lot of people hurting out there over this and I hope I can help in some small way.

The first story I want to tell was when my ex-partner fell pregnant to another man while we were separated. We were working things out when this came up, and I’m disappointed to say I was the one who brought the topic of termination up for consideration. After initially being cranky with me she agreed, and a week or so later it was done. I try to make myself feel better about being involved in this by reminding myself I did try to talk her out of it in the week leading up to the procedure, saying I could quite see myself raising a baby regardless of who the father was, but she didn’t think I could and insisted in going through with it.

I still feel awful about my part in this, although I know I couldn’t have stopped her in the end no matter what I’d said or done.

The second story I have is closer to my current home.

When Tracey was pregnant with one of our younger kids (I can’t remember which now although maybe Miss11) a scan showed an excess of skin at the back of the neck which is a possible indicator of down syndrome. It was suggested we get some more tests done which came with a risk because they had, from recollection, to puncture the sack. Tracey and I discussed things at length and decided we didn’t need to do anymore tests because even if our child was afflicted with something it wouldn’t change the ultimate outcome – we were keeping our child.

So that’s more an abortion rejection story.

And finally, there’s that awful time ten years ago when we lost our little boy, Charlie, coming up to the 20 week mark. He’d apparently passed away a few weeks before this, but we didn’t know until the doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat and the scan confirmed the news. Because Tracey was so far along it meant she had to deliver him, so we went to Nambour hospital and they helped things along with some medication.

We held Charlie in our hands for an hour or so. Palm of our hand anyway. He was so tiny, but all the features were there, even little fingers. Charlie wasn’t ‘old’ enough to even get a death certificate. We still have him with us. His ashes are here ready to be buried with whoever dies first. We talk about him. We mourn him. His due date was yesterday and it never goes unremarked or without a sigh and a tear and hugs.

So with these few experiences up my sleeve, am I in favour of abortions?


So I’m against this change to our state laws?

Also no.

Not at all, actually.

Personally, I think we needed this for a number of reasons which the pro-choice people have been pressing for decades.

Okay, but would I advise someone against an abortion?

Probably not, although neither would I encourage a woman to have one. I’d be Switzerland.

You see, it’s not up to me. It’s her body and her reasoning and her decision.

If someone asked me my opinion on their upcoming abortion however – and that is the only way I could be enticed to give it – I would suggest they reconsider. But that’s it. One last mental check of the pros and cons, and the alternatives. Reconsider is probably the wrong word. That they reexamine their decision one last time.

The fact is we have this now: legal guilt free terminations are allowed up until 22 weeks without a need to screen or show cause. It’s locked in. I confess I would have preferred to have a date less than 22 weeks but my reasoning for that is probably more emotional than anything after Charlie.

But if you are angry about this, how do you deal with this rage inside you? And there is rage, horror and angst out there. I’ve seen it online.

What I’d suggest to people who are horrified by the idea is they look at turning those emotions to something positive.

Promote safe sex and a strong pro-contraception message. Stop preaching abstinence and guilt to the upcoming generations, which to my mind is a two pronged failure. Firstly, they’re likely to be ill prepared when the moment does inevitably take them somewhere heated and full of feels, and secondly, they might be so scared to confront a pregnancy should it result that they seek a medical solution to keep their ‘antics’ a secret when they really would prefer to keep the baby. I think people need to stop associating sex with sin or a lack of morals. We’re getting there, but we’ve a ways to go yet. To quote the wise words of the late George Michael, ‘Sex is natural. Sex is good. Not everybody does it, but everybody should.’ He was an inspiration to a whole generation.

Tests. Now I acknowledge I’m a guy so this is bordering on mansplaining, so I apologise for that but my point is a pretty simple one. If you think a termination at 22 weeks is horrific then you might consider encouraging the use of pregnancy tests if there’s any indication someone might be pregnant because their boobies are sore or their period is a week or two late. At least this can ensure termination, if that’s likely to be required, is done as soon as possible. I feel the closer to a minute clump of cells and the further from what we’d term a baby, the better. There’s a reason losing a baby in the first say 8 weeks is a world of hurt away from losing one at the other end of a pregnancy. Same ball park, for sure, but different leagues.

Encourage the necessary professionals to your region. This might seem counterproductive and feel a bit ‘sleeping with the enemy’ for some people, but the facts are almost all terminations are carried out very early in a pregnancy. I think we need to realise later ones would likely not be for frivolous reasons. Despite some of the fear mongering I’ve seen out there this last week, it is unlikely to become a widely accessed form of late term contraception. It does not mean condom sales and prescriptions for the pill will drop. This isn’t a replacement for those things. Having centres easy to access means, again, a more likely chance for early termination rather than dragging it out for more weeks or even months than necessary.

A hassle-free/guilt-free adoption alternative. I read this all the time in discussions about abortion – why can’t they just have the kids adopted out? I wasn’t aware of it until my son showed me the stats on this AIHW website, but there aren’t that many adoptions in Australia. Historically, adoptions have been a bit of a mess generally. Both my family and my ex-wife’s have tales about siblings who weren’t siblings but rather a cousin or a half-brother. Then there’s the horror stories coming out of orphanages or boys colleges, or that nun run home for young pregnant women to birth in secret in Ireland where it turns out hundreds of babies were killed instead of adopted out. I think most of us know people who were adopted: some stories are great, some not so much. But surely it doesn’t have to be horrific and scary. On paper it’s easy peasy. Some people want to raise a family but can’t have children themselves, for whatever reason, and some people are due to have a baby but don’t want to go down that path just yet, for whatever reason. Seems like a match made in heaven. The beauty of so many false-moral walls being removed from our society these past hundred years is most people understand this is a good thing for everyone involved and doesn’t have to be secret squirrels. In fact according to that same Australian Institute of Health & Welfare page, 88% of adoptions these days maintain communication between the different parties. Noice.

Strong welfare and community support. We’re lucky in this country we have this. A safety net to ensure the poorest amongst us still have food on the table and a roof over our heads. That our children have an education and there’s a hospital bed available should any of us require one. Join or support charities or foundations which are there for young families, or young single mothers, and let our kids (primarily our daughters) see they don’t have to fear repercussions or that this would be a lifelong hardship if they took it on. Let them know they can decide on other factors regarding a pregnancy without picturing themselves shut out of a future or their homes.

This isn’t an exhaustive list but rather a couple of things I’ve been thinking about since reading about the vote and subsequent change.

From one perspective, not a lot has changed. If you don’t want to ever consider an abortion, that’s totally up to you – you don’t have to. But if you decide it’s the option you need it’s there. It’s always sort of been there though. Women have been attempting to cancel unwanted pregnancies for millennia. I’ll add here, far from opening the floodgates, I read a study in Victoria has shown rates of terminations will probably simply remain the same. So the only thing which has changed is the added weight of potentially making criminals of women already emotionally charged by what they’re going through is removed. I think, therefore, our state representatives have made a good choice.

For me, I don’t like the idea of terminating any egg I’ve had a ‘hand’ in fertilising. Abortions are, to me, emotional sinkholes. And what’s more, I think you’ll even find most people in favour of pro-choice don’t ‘like’ them either. It’s not like nightclubbing. People who’ve had abortions don’t tend to sit around reliving the good ol’ days when they had an embryo removed from their stomach.

But I feel strongly it’s right this is available for those who require it. More-so, I think it’s imperative it’s available safely and free of legal complications.

My point is, regarding abortion, I think there are lots of better ways forward as a community than snagging on this issue. There’s positive stuff we can do.

And that is all I wanted to say. I hope it helps someone.

Raising a family on little more than laughs

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  • Well said as usual Bruce.
    You had me in tears again!! Losing them is so hard.?
    Now as for abortion – I am and always have been pro choice on this matter.
    Child raising may be immensely rewarding and super fun but I don’t believe it is the right choice for everybody.
    I am mother to a couple of “accidental” children who are now adults & I must admit one of those came very close to not being here. In the end I couldn’t do it but I will never judge those who do.
    I think the recent changes are a good thing both for the safety of the woman/girl and as a move in the right direction towards being able to make our own decisions about our lives & deaths.

  • I truly appreciate your rational and balanced approach, Bruce! I feel like you. I couldn’t personally go through with a termination unless I had very very intense reasons to, but I support my friends who have had to make the tough choice – for various reasons. I am adopted and I am an IVF mum so you might expect me to be against them, but honestly like you, it wouldn’t be my choice necessarily, but there are so many women who have the right to choose. It is not a decision made lightly (even if for some it might be made easily). Like you, I feel uncomfortable about the 22 week threshold, but there are probably so many understandable, extenuating circumstances where that might be a decision that has to be made. Things we luckily haven’t had to consider in our own lives. Adoption would be so helpful in some cases in Australia – the back and forth for some kids in the foster system – always accessible by awful biological family members in and out of their lives and wishing they could just have stability and a fresh start with loving adopted families seems cruel. But that’s a whole other can of worms to discuss!

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