By Dave Andrusko
A pro-life friend forwarded me a column today that appeared in the very pro-abortion English newspaper, the Guardian. Hannah Bambra’s story of her life after her abortion is not in the least overtly pro-life nor, no doubt, would she like to see someone like me writing about what happened.
But it is an honest—brutally so—account of what she through post-abortion. And while the whole point of her essay is that it should be “normal” for co-workers to be what her co-workers were for her—“supportive after a traumatic abortion”—we draw a very different lesson.
So why was the abortion “traumatic”? For starters, the same reason it is for so many women: Bambra was ambivalent:
My personal decision to abort was not a straightforward one – I had to consider a whole range of complicated factors. I am decidedly pro-choice, but that stance didn’t make the process itself easier. My abortion was traumatic. A large part of me felt attached to that potential child and I was consumed by grief and crippling depression for months following. There is little to no non-religious space to discuss feeling a sense of loss post-surgery.
Bambra did not had a “medical” (chemical, RU-486) abortion, which is increasingly common. Why? She fully recognized how painful and dangerous they are:
Bleeding after medical abortions lasts for 10 to 16 days and side effects can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and fever. From a mental health perspective, medical abortions can be incredibly taxing. Any of the blood clots that pass through could be your pregnancy. Think about looking down at that in your workplace cubicle. It is an experience that can be disturbingly visceral – more distracting from work and life than “just a heavy period” as it is often described medically.
So she opted for a surgical abortion after which she still had medical complications. “The following day, I had extreme diarrhoea and could not get off the toilet. I bled for a week and felt huge pain in my abdomen for weeks following. My body, still thinking it was pregnant, continued the waves of nausea (which do not only come in the morning).”
Her story grows even more complicated.
I tell people that I lost a pregnancy, because they are much more likely to equate this to the range of emotions and distress felt since. Abortion has rightly been normalised, but sadly reactions to it are often either held with stigma or dismissiveness. In my case, I felt a huge amount of pressure to “just try again” if it was “something I really wanted.” My mental health plummeted. I lost my partner, my enthusiasm for life and ultimately a job I cherished.
My predominantly male workplace was very supportive, and my employer allowed me to go into negative sick leave, take days off for mental health, work from home and put together a “back to work strategy” for re-entering the workplace. By the time my due date was nearing, however, I was suicidal and unable to work entirely. …
Emotionally, it is something that is likely to stay with you for life.
Eventually she attends a “loss circle” and “finally opened up to friends who share a similar grief. It’s a horrible thing to have in common, but we make each other’s arms feel a little less empty.”
Since many of her examples include miscarriages, not abortion, I’m assuming the “loss circle” includes women who have gone through both. But the most poignant example is of a friend who got pregnant and at an early age, did not abort, and then lost her baby (“her pregnancy”) anyway. Note the following:
She supported me around my due date, saying that every year I might find myself thinking “I could have a toddler beside me right now” or “my little girl/ boy would turn five today”. The day you could have given birth is lonely. The grief is private. There is no public mourning or body to bury.
Abortion is such an abomination on so many different levels. Bambra has lost her baby, her “partner,” and has (hopefully no longer!) been suicidal.
I hope at some point she comes to grips with the underlying issue which is not about seeing abortion as “a health issue” which requires “ingrained support structures in our society.”
It is, rather, about the little one whose life was prematurely and unfairly and cruelly ended, something clearly Bambra knows in her heart.