We Have Access to Safe Abortion, but What About Our International Sisters?

When Donald Trump enters America’s highest elected office in late January, the clinics that work hard to provide women with safe abortion services may come under threat. Editor of Girls Club Zine, Georgia Murray, opens up about her own experience with abortion in the UK and discusses her fears for our American sisters.

Words by Georgia Murray

I had an abortion when I was 19. After the initial shock of those double blue lines, a doctor confirmed that I was 11 weeks gone, and referred me to an NHS-funded BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service) clinic. I travelled from university to my hometown, where I was given pills – mifepristone and misoprostol – to end the pregnancy. The whole experience, whilst upsetting, was easy, accessible, and smooth. I was met with kindness, care and no judgement from healthcare professionals. I was completely sure of my decision and so had little emotional attachment to what I saw as a medical procedure – no different from appendicitis, or having your tonsils removed. I was young, self-centred and assumed that most experiences were like mine. I now know how wrong I was.

In 2015, there were over 700,000 Google searches looking into self-induced abortions. Would you research any other at-home medical procedure? This is desperation, the result of women who feel trapped. We now live in a world where the future President of the United States has said that women who have abortions should be ‘punished’. Who has promised, or rather, threatened to appoint pro-life judges to the Supreme Court. His chosen vice-president, Mike Pence, wants to see Roe vs. Wade, a 1973 landmark decision to give women the right to make their own medical choices, ‘consigned to the ash heap of history, where it belongs.’ Uncertainty lies ahead, and one documentary could not have come at a more fitting time.

I was young, self-centred and assumed that most experiences were like mine. I now know how wrong I was.

Lawyer-turned-film-maker Dawn Porter’s fantastic film Trapped explores the impact of TRAP (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers) laws in America’s Southern states. Trailing the Supreme Court case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, which saw Texas pass a 2013 law placing restrictions on abortion clinics, we see the incredible clinic workers, lawyers, and abortion providers continually fight outrageous and infuriating legislature. 288 TRAP laws passed since 2010 have lead to the closure of more than half of Texas’s clinics. TRAP laws include things like Alabama abortion clinics having to be at least 2,000 feet away from public schools. A minor has to get parental permission to access an abortion – and if they can’t, a judge must excuse it. The thing is, judges are elected in states like Alabama. Trapped. The list goes on.

In the film, we hear of a 13-year-old rape victim – at 20 weeks and 5 days pregnant, just days away from the 3-month legal abortion window – turned away from a clinic in San Antonio after she had driven 4 hours from McAllen, Texas. The clinic can’t find an available anaesthetist. Marva Sadler, director of clinical services at Whole Woman’s Health and one of the film’s tireless heroes, devastatingly explains, ‘We have to turn this young girl away because I don’t have anybody to put her to sleep. There’s nothing I could do to save her. She’ll have to go all the way to New Mexico. And pay $5,000. And get there. It’ll never happen.’

And this isn’t only taking place in America, ‘the land of the free’…This year, we saw 30,000 women dressed in black take to the streets of Poland to protest against a proposed ban on all abortion – unless the woman’s life is at risk. The country already has one of the tightest abortion laws in Europe. In Ireland, the fifth annual Repeal the 8th march took place, with thousands gathering to fight the 8th amendment, which forbids abortion in the country. Just this week, Ireland gave compensation to a woman who was forced to travel to England for her termination despite the foetus carrying a fatal impairment, meaning it wouldn’t survive outside of the womb. Thousands of women make that same journey to avoid potential life imprisonment.

So, in the face of increasingly conservative laws, what can you do? How can we change things? Some bitter-sweet news: in the weeks since the US election, around 72,000 donations have been made to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s name – making him one of their major benefactors. Donate your money to clinics that work hard to provide women with safe services. Physically safeguard women from pro-life protesters outside practices. This happens in the UK too – in 2015, a London clinic was forced to close thanks to this type of scaremongering and shaming. Be there for friends who will have to face this decision; after all, 1 in 3 women in the UK will have an abortion by the time they’re 45. Fight Tory cuts to the NHS, which could lead to the closure of services like BPAS.

With a supportive family, access to safe procedures, and the right to make my own decision, my personal experience was wholly positive. Our international sisters are not so fortunate. Now more than ever we must fight for what men continually try to take away from women – our choice.

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