June could be a groundbreaking month for women everywhere as the Supreme Court is set to make a final ruling on the Roe v Wade case in the coming weeks.
As many women grapple with the loss of this freedom, some are also reflecting on the ways in which having the right to an abortion has impacted their life in significant ways.
Jane (who is using a pseudonym to protect her identity) had an abortion almost 20 years ago in B.C. and reflected on her personal journey in a conversation with 5XPress.
Jane said that the decision was difficult but necessary, particularly at a time when access to abortion and women’s rights wasn’t talked about as openly as it is now.
“I went back and forth but at the end of the day I made the decision to do what was best for me and my life. It wasn’t the right time for me to start a family…I was a child myself.”
Jane shares how she went to a walk-in clinic where the doctor confirmed her pregnancy. She recalls sobbing in his office while he handed her tissue paper and informed her of her options.
“I had absolutely nowhere to turn, he [the doctor] did not offer me any support or crisis numbers… I felt so alone. He gave me the number for BC Women’s Hospital and said call them.”
Although Surrey is one of the fastest growing cities in the Lower Mainland, there is a shortage of abortion clinics in the Fraser Health region. Jane was referred to B.C Women’s Hospital 20 years ago and this is still the most common option given today for women in the Lower Mainland.
“I called the number and I remember not knowing what to say, I actually called and cancelled my appointment three times before finally going in”.
Jane recalls that the secrecy around getting an abortion, as well as her conversations with the nurses prior to coming in contributed to her sense of doubt and shame.
Even though the procedure was happening at the hospital, there was a sense that she had to hide why she was coming, talk to no one on the way and follow the exact instructions she was given.
“I remember being told I would come to the hospital and follow a red tape and then a yellow tape, they told me I would come to some double doors and they [the nurses] would confirm my identity.”
Jane recalls how she felt the most supported once she met the nurses who would be assisting in the procedure.
Twenty years later there are certain memories that still stand out for Jane.
She recalls being handed a floral skirt before her procedure instead of a hospital gown. She was told that this was knit by a local woman who donated them to the clinic. Years later Jane says she can’t help but wonder if the hospital just didn’t provide medical gowns to the clinic and the women were forced to rely on the kindness of others for this simple necessity.
“I felt immense relief that day, I knew it was the right decision because I wasn’t ready,” Jane said.
Looking back on that day now, she says it’s hard to imagine living in a world where a woman does not have the right to choose.
“My life would be so different, I can’t even imagine.”
In B.C abortion is covered under the Medical Services Plan, but despite being legal and paid for by the province this doesn’t mean it is accessible to everyone. Fraser Health which boasts the largest population in BC has no clinics available. Northern Health only has one clinic and only if you are less than 10 weeks along.
One-in-three women in Canada will have an abortion in her lifetime and in 2020, 11,934 abortions were performed in B.C. The fact that only 10 clinics are listed as service providers is indicative of the severe lack of equitable abortion services.
Not only that but MSP only covers the cost of the abortion and nothing in relation to transportation, child care or hotel stays for those travelling from more rural areas. Where does this leave marginalized women or women who don’t speak English or have the means to travel to an abortion clinic?
Access to abortion is inadequate if it’s not accessible to everyone and if all factors around abortion services are not given equal consideration.
There are many ways that you can champion abortion rights in Canada. You can begin by signing this petition to protect access to abortion in Canada.
You can also write to your local MP or MLA to let them know your stance on reproductive rights.
For more information on how you can lend your support you can visit: https://www.arcc-cdac.ca/.
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