It was day two of a week-long backpacking trek across the North Coast Trail when I started feeling sick overwhelming nausea, loss of appetite, weakness. I thought we weren’t treating the water correctly, or maybe I just wasn’t in good enough shape for the heavy pack and strenuous hike. We had been dropped on one end of the trail only accessible by boat, so there was no turning back. Five days later, I took a test and found out I was pregnant.
I could tell you about the forms of contraception I used that failed, who the man was to me, and the particular circumstances that brought me to that situation. The truth is, it really doesn’t matter how it happened. I was pregnant and I didn’t want to be. I immediately knew I wanted an abortion. Soon, it would become one of the most painful things I’ve experienced, and something I do not have a single ounce of regret about.
The recently leaked US Supreme Court draft with the intention of overturning Roe v. Wade challenged me to imagine an alternate reality where abortion wasn’t a choice I could make, and how drastically that would change where I am today.
"If I’d been forced to give birth, so many of the things I have today would be stripped away"
If abortion wasn’t legal in Canada, would I have tried an at-home abortion risking my health and possible prosecution? If I’d been forced to give birth, so many of the things I have today would be stripped away. I likely wouldn’t have finished my university degree that year, and the majority of my money would have been funnelled into the immediate needs of a child instead of working towards long-term goals. I would not live where I do, or have my current career. Some of the people I love dearly today would never have crossed my path. In short, I would be disadvantaged in a way that lessened my education, my financial stability, my standard of living, my career prospects, and my social community.
Without the ability to choose, I would’ve felt angry, distraught, and furious at how predominantly white, mostly male governments regulated my body and deprived me of my right to self-determination. One day, I may choose to give my body, my blood, my energy and nutrients, my money, and my time, to accept the risk and the likelihood of pain to bring a child into the world. It can be a beautiful decision that brings great joy. But no woman should be forced to make that sacrifice against her will. Every woman should have the choice I made, whether or not they take it.
"Women everywhere deserve to make choices about their bodies"
The importance of women’s right to abortion is particularly important in this social landscape where the burden of contraceptive planning and child-rearing falls mainly on women. In consensual cases, men and women are equal participants in sex with the risk of pregnancy, yet women often bear 100% of the burden when contraception fails, and unwanted pregnancy occurs. I hear from women friends, callers on the crisis line, and I know from my own life, that many women have experiences of men hesitating, debating, or refusing to comply with women’s requests to wear a condom. We also hear women’s testimonies on the crisis line that men will take off the condom during sex without the woman’s consent. (For those unaware, yes, it is a criminal offence.)
The reality is that, at some point, most women live with a risk of unwanted pregnancy. The fear of being pregnant, invoked when a period is late, a condom breaks, a birth control pill is missed, or those elusive IUD strings have disappeared into oblivion, is an experience shared by so many women.
Just because abortion is legal, and typically accessible in most of Canada doesn’t change the solidarity I feel with millions of women in the United States, and all over the world. Holding women captive through forced birth works to directly counteract progress towards women’s equality. Women everywhere deserve to make choices about their bodies. I had the choice, and so should all women.
Megan Moffatt is a Collective Member of Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter