28th August could have been the birthday of my first child, had I been unable to have an abortion outside of Malta, where it is illegal.
That’s a hypothetical situation I can’t wrap my head around. I’m 21, I graduated a year ago, and I’m trying to make myself a career doing what I love most. So far, so good. I’m enjoying what I do. And I have dreams and ambitions - many of them. None of them include children.
Earlier this year, I wrote about my abortion. I was quick to explain that it was for medical reasons, as I was on psychiatric medication that would probably affect the embryo if I continued taking them, and would severely affect me if I were to go cold turkey on them.
But though the most acceptable reason to put forward in a country where abortion is highly stigmatised and illegal, that wasn't my main reason. My main reason was that I do not want a child. Not later, and definitely not now.
Not only did I not want children, I also didn’t want to be pregnant. Though it lasted less than two months, it was shit. I felt nauseous and tired, and not like myself.
It would have been one thing if I was happy to carry a child into existence and excited to give birth, but not wanting to have anything to do with children, let alone having one, it was one of the least pleasant experiences I’ve been through in this life.
But you have to meet your audience halfway. It's hard to plea for women’s rights regarding abortion if half the population believes you shouldn’t even have sex before you get married. Change comes in tiny steps.
Malta has one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the world, and is the only country in the European Union to prohibit abortion entirely.
There are no exceptions in the law to allow an abortion when the woman’s health is at risk, in cases of fetal malformation, or in cases of rape or incest.
Had it not been for the Netherlands, where abortion isn’t only legal but also free, and thereby accessible for those who most need it, I would have been left with the options of an unsafe and illegal abortion or an unwanted child.
Living on an island where my rights are stuck in the medieval times, it is a privilege to have another country as a backup.
Because imagine I wasn’t Dutch. I would have had to choose between travelling to a foreign country to have an abortion abroad, or I would have had to opt for the more dangerous way of taking illegal medication that would get rid of the embryo.
Neither of those options are safe or affordable. But if a woman wants or needs an abortion, she is going to get one regardless of the country's archaic laws.
For many women, making the decision to have an abortion already takes a huge toll on their mental health. I can only imagine what it would have been like to grow up in a conservative country, deal with keeping my decision a secret, and going abroad alone or taking dangerous medication to solve my issue.
Not to mention that if this wasn’t a women’s issue - which it shouldn’t be, as the man is just as responsible for a pregnancy as the woman - abortion would be available on every corner of the street.
We shouldn’t even have to feel ashamed for having an abortion. We shouldn’t even have to keep it a secret. But as a very first baby step, we shouldn’t be made to seek abortions abroad or in unsafe ways, just because the country’s man-made laws are too archaic for their times.
And let me ask those who aren't yet convinced: shouldn't not wanting to be pregnant and not wanting to have a child be enough of a reason for the medical procedure? Didn't we decide that women are capable enough of making their own decisions years ago?
Because for me, the medical reasoning is nothing more than an acceptable justification for something I would have done regardless of the medication I was on. I didn't want a child, so I chose not to have one.
Malta definitely doesn't make it easy for us. But women: you always have a choice.
Reach out to Doctors For Choice if you find yourself in a similar situation.