• As soon as a doctor confirmed what she says was her “worst nightmare”, Lindsay says the decision to terminate her pregnancy was easy. (Universal Images Group Editorial/Getty)Source: Universal Images Group Editorial/Getty
“I’m not a cold-blooded monster but I also didn’t want to be pregnant. Why is it so controversial that I made a decision about what I want inside my own body?”
By
Alana Schetzer

12 May 2017 - 11:17 AM  UPDATED 12 May 2017 - 2:08 PM

The bid to remove abortion as a crime from New South Wales’ law books was defeated soundly 14 to 25 this week. However, the debate is far from over.

Lindsay, 36, has strong feelings about abortion. She grew up believing in a woman’s right to chose what to do with her body, and after having an abortion herself almost 10 years ago, her convictions are stronger than ever.

“I had no idea that I was pregnant - I didn’t have the traditional symptoms,” she says, adding that it was a fluke that she did eventually begin to suspect that something was awry.

As soon as a doctor confirmed what she says was her “worst nightmare”, Lindsay says the decision to terminate her pregnancy was easy.

“I had no idea that I was pregnant - I didn’t have the traditional symptoms,” she says, adding that it was a fluke that she did eventually begin to suspect that something was awry.

“It’s not like it’s portrayed in the movies - I didn’t walk along a beach by myself or take days of tossing and turning over it. I always knew that I didn’t want children and it took a nano-second to decide to get an abortion.

“...I don’t regret my abortion, so don’t expect me to feel bad about it.”

Medical abortion is not covered by Medicare so without Medicare data on the number of abortions conducted in hospitals around Australia, it’s hard to determine how many women exactly get the procedure. But Children by Choice, a pro-choice lobby group, estimates that about 80,000 abortions are performed across Australia every year. The procedure is technically illegal in two states - New South Wales and Queensland.

It is also estimated by the Better Health Channel that one in three women in Australia will have an abortion in their lifetime, making it one of the most common medical procedures for women.

Abortion to remain a crime in NSW after reform bill fails
The majority of the state's upper house has voted down a Greens bill that would have decriminalised abortion in NSW.

Fierce debate but still a crime

NSW Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi introduced a bill to decriminalise abortion, but it was voted down in the Upper House on Thursday. Women in NSW will continue to be able to access an abortion if it can be proved that they face significant physical or mental health consequences or if the foetus has serious defects.

It followed a fiery debate in Queensland late last year to remove abortion from the state’s criminal code, which also failed.

Victoria, the ACT and Tasmania have already decriminalised the procedure, both surgical and medical.

Lindsay says one of the worst things about both debates is how she feels that it frames women as ‘reckless’ for getting pregnant in the first place.

“I’m not a cold-blooded monster but I also didn’t want to be pregnant. Why is it so controversial that I made a decision about what I want inside my own body?”

What do Australians think?

Support for decriminalising abortion seems to be  in the majority. A 2009 Auspoll of 100 Queenslanders found that almost 80 per cent also wanted abortion to be legalised.

A 2010 survey, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, shows that 87 per cent of respondents think abortion should be lawful in the first trimester, while the majority of respondents believe doctors should not face professional sanctions for performing abortions after 24 weeks gestation.

However, there’s no denying that abortion is a controversial topic that elicits passionate responses from people across the spectrum.

Those who oppose abortion believe that abortion is akin is murder and that foetuses, no matter at what stage of development, have the right to be born. Many opponents argue that decriminalising abortion would have given legal permission for foetuses to be aborted up til the moment of birth.

“It’s not because I’m ashamed - I’m not, I did nothing wrong - but those I have spoken to about my decision, they always ask me if I regret it, and no, I don’t."

Australians who feel strongly against abortion continue to protest outside medical clinics across the country. While they maintain that they are trying to provide information to women, they have repeatedly been accused of harassment, stalking and intimidation.

The potential for that sort of strong public reaction is the reason why Lindsay says she hasn’t told many people about her decision.

“It’s not because I’m ashamed - I’m not, I did nothing wrong - but those I have spoken to about my decision, they always ask me if I regret it, and no, I don’t.

“The stereotype is that women always want to have children and if they have an abortion, then they’ll one day regret it. I don’t regret anything and it really annoys me that people expect me to feel guilty or bad about it.”

Despite the convincing win in parliament for the status quo to remain, Lindsay thinks it’s only a matter of time before Queensland and NSW remove abortion from their criminal codes.

“Abortion makes a lot of people emotional, because it involves a potential baby. But that’s just it - it’s a potential being. Women are actual people and we should be able to decide what to do with our bodies and our lives.

“I think of myself as pro-life, because women’s lives matter.”

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