By Sharon Young
with deb kozak and Amy Tuckett-McGimpsey
“I regret my abortion.”
Our regular lunchtime stroll brought us suddenly and unexpectedly into the midst of the annual March for Life. Noticeably absent were the usual placards emblazoned with extremely inaccurate and graphic depictions of abortion, now replaced by several stark black signs proclaiming “I regret my abortion.” We discussed how interesting that was. After all, how do you argue with someone who says they regret their abortion?
The answer is you don’t.
At WHC, we support people through making decisions about pregnancy. That includes being a confidential place where they can talk authentically about all the emotions that come with a decision to have an abortion, a place where we offer compassion without judgment. Our response to those experiencing regret post-abortion is come talk to us.
Whatever your feelings about choice and abortion, there is a place for you at Women’s Health Clinic.
We know people choose to not continue pregnancies for reasons as diverse as their lived experiences. For many, the decision to terminate a pregnancy is embedded in their experiences of poverty, inadequate housing, food security, and lack of support from their partners, families and communities. Whatever the individual circumstances, each of us can only make decisions about the options that are truly available to us.
We understand decision-making is an inherently fractured process. Some decisions are absolutely easier to make than others; we encourage exploring the reasons why those decisions are easy and others are not. We help people identify their own values and to honour the reasons underneath their decision, while exploring how misogyny and patriarchy can influence their choices. Grounding their experiences in their own truth and experiences helps develop identity and agency. For many people, a decision around a pregnancy offers an opportunity to become the author of their own lives and to define their lives in their own terms, sometimes for the first time.
In post-abortion counselling work, we unpack what possibly lies behind the notion of regret. Together, we work to explore the emotions of abortion for what they really are: loss, relief, guilt, and grief. We affirm that even the strongest emotions are not always an indication of a wrong decision. All post-abortion feelings are normal. In this way, we help those who choose abortion to own their decision, grounding it as a choice they’ve made within the context of their lives as they really live them, while shedding societal expectations and post-abortion narratives that aren’t really theirs.
For us, “I regret my abortion” is not the final word about choice. It’s where the conversation starts.
We offer post-abortion support for all Manitobans, no matter where they had the procedure. For more information, please call us at 204-947-1517.
Sharon is a social worker at Women’s Health Clinic and has been providing reproductive health information and support to people in Manitoba for 20 years.