One of the most horrifying changes to take place in recent years regarding UK law surrounding abortion is the introduction of DIY/home abortions. At present they are only permitted under a temporary 2 year measure brought in during March 2020 because of the covid lockdown. The bigger concern is now that this could become permanent.
Much has already been said and many concerns have been raised by medical professionals regarding this procedure but we need to hear from the women themselves. What is it like to go through an abortion in your own home, to self-administer the drug which will end your pregnancy? We spoke to 20 year old Natalia who went through with a DIY abortion last year.
‘It was March last year (2020) when I found out I was pregnant’ Natalia told us ‘it was just at the start of lockdown’. Natalia explained when she first took a pregnancy test and saw the result ‘I just wanted it to go away. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening . . . the initial thoughts of both of us (her and the child’s father) were that we weren’t going to keep the child, but as time went on I felt this attachment and love for my child that I didn’t even know.’
Natalia knew that the baby’s father was opposed to the idea of continuing the pregnancy so she felt too scared to voice her own thoughts. This prompted her to go to the abortion centre; ‘I was doing anything to please him’. Unlike some women who have DIY abortions Natalia did actually visit an abortion centre (as opposed to simply having a phone consultation). In fact Natalia had three appointments booked at the abortion centre, each time she was too emotionally distraught to continue with the termination. Finally, on the third visit, she was offered the pills to take home as it was suggested it might be easier.
Natalia states how she wasn’t told of risks associated with home abortions at any of her appointments. More worryingly she was never offered a scan, the only way of knowing with some certainty the gestation of the pregnancy, whether it was ectopic or a multiple pregnancy.
‘In the 3 consultations I was never told of the risks, emotionally or physically’ she said ‘I was never offered a scan. They never knew how far along I was. It’s crazy now I look back on it that I was even able to take those tablets home.’
The 19 year old went back to her house where she lived with her mother and teenage sister. They knew nothing of her pregnancy as Natalia felt too fearful to talk about it at home. So with an emotionally controlling boyfriend who threatened to leave her if she kept the child, Natalia had no one with whom she could discuss her deepest feelings about the situation. ‘It was almost like I was manipulated into it’ Natalia told us. Natalia couldn’t bring herself to take the pills for a further 3 weeks by which time she was over the 10 week legal limit. This resulted in not only severe pain but profuse bleeding.
‘I remember somehow getting to the toilet, it was unbearable the pain, and that’s when I passed my baby. I looked down and saw him, it wasn’t like a heavy period, it was like a baby. I must have flushed it down the toilet and I remember just falling to my knees’ Natalia continued; ‘I just lay in my bed and I was bleeding through the mattress, and I laid there for about three days on my own’ – her mother still unaware of what was going on.
Eventually Natalia’s mother found out about her daughter’s abortion: ‘She’d gone into my room and seen the pools of blood. She’s mortified she hadn’t come to me before and asked if I was alright, she thought I was going through relationship stuff.’ One can only imagine the shock Natalia’s mother suffered on entering her teenage daughter’s bedroom although Natalia describes her response as being ‘Amazing’.
It’s clear from listening to Natalia’s story that the mental trauma she went through was immense but she wasn’t offered any counselling by the abortion provider, ‘I was never given any support or aftercare’ she told us although thankfully Natalia found out about Rachel’s Vineyard when scrolling through the internet, which provides help for women or men seeking healing after an abortion. ‘It was nice to know there were others who felt the same, who’d gone through the same traumatic experience’.
Natalia’s story raises so many concerns: that a visibly emotional young woman was offered pills to take home. That no one picked up on the fact that she was being manipulated by her boyfriend. No scan was offered – doctors or nurses just accepted that Natalia was around 7 weeks pregnant because she told them that. That no mention was made of the risks associated with this procedure. That the pills could be kept for 3 weeks and no one from the abortion centre phoned during that time to check on the vulnerable young woman. That a teenager was left to go through a highly traumatic experience completely alone. There were no follow-up appointments by the abortion provider, no aftercare, no counselling. How many more women have horror stories similar to Natalia’s? This is the face of DIY abortions that we aren’t being told about and it’s deeply disturbing.
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