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What I owe to my abortion

Reflections

By Dr Emma Fulu / 17.08.2022

Content note: Abortion

By Dr Emma Fulu / 17.08.2022

Photograph of Emma with her three children. They're all smiling ear-to-eat, clustered around some bushes. Emma wears a bright pink dress and lipstick, and the children are wearing tee shirts. They look happy and goofy.

I had an abortion when I was 19 years old.

I was deeply religious at the time, and the decision was not an easy one. I say this because being religious does not mean that you cannot also believe in women's rights.

At the abortion clinic, I had to make my way through a barrage of anti-abortion activists. I remember them yelling at me, grabbing me, and showing me violent images. By the time I made it inside, I was hysterical.

Thankfully, in Australia, most people seeking an abortion today do not need to experience this. There is legislation enforcing ‘safe access zones’ to reproductive health clinics in every state and territory except Western Australia.

I almost had another abortion in my mid-thirties.

At the time, I had three children under three (including a set of one-year-old twins). I was in a mental health crisis. Because of my health issues, I also had no job. I had no place to live, and was in the process of moving home from South Africa to Australia.

In the middle of all this, I realised, I was pregnant!

WTAF?!

There was absolutely no way I could have brought another child into the world at that point; financially, emotionally, or physically.

I booked in for an abortion in Pretoria, South Africa, where I was based at the time. The day before it was scheduled, I miscarried. It was traumatic, but also a relief.

I don’t know how my life would have turned out if I had not had the opportunity and freedom to get an abortion.

If I had had my child at 19, I’m sure I wouldn’t have completed my PhD, worked for the United Nations, or set up The Equality Institute. I probably wouldn’t have the three beautiful children I have now.

If I had been forced to bring a fourth child into the world in my mid-thirties, I think it would have killed me.

Today, I am grief-stricken thinking about women and girls as young as ten around the US, and indeed the world, who don’t have access to this basic human right.

Having my first abortion at 19, was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make in my life. Even if it was an 'easy' decision, it was still my right.

I have three beautiful children. I have had two miscarriages, and one abortion. So, I think I know a little bit more about being pregnant and raising children than the (mostly) men making decisions about women’s bodies, and bodies with uteruses, in the US.

We should be expanding women’s rights not restricting them.

If you’re feeling affected by this blog post, please reach out to your local helpline.

The national helpline in Australia is 1800RESPECT.
For resources in the Northern Territory please visit nt.gov.au/wellbeing/hospitals-health-services/sexual-assault-referral-centres

Read our blog post: Don’t understand what’s going on with Roe v. Wade? We’re here to help.