Abortion is not yet affordable, accessible, or even legal right across Australia, so the level of control women have over their own fertility varies between states.
At last weekend's Women's March in Sydney, where Australians marched in solidarity against the inauguration of US president Donald Trump (who has said he plans to pave the way for Roe v. Wade, the landmark US court case that affirmed a woman's legal right to have an abortion, to be overturned), many protesters said they were concerned about access to reproductive rights in this country, too.
“We’re still not where we need to be. We still don’t have legal abortion in many states here,” one protester, Ella Bickley, told BuzzFeed News.
Another, Cailie, who didn't want to give her surname, said women’s representation in government was essential to preserving women’s rights.
“How are men meant to make a decision about women’s bodies when they have no understanding of that experience?” she said.
As part of a global reporting project to coincide with the 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, BuzzFeed asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to share their abortion stories through this form, which was shared widely and translated into several languages.
In some regional areas, Australian women have to travel for hours to the nearest abortion clinic, while those in capital cities can face being confronted by anti-abortion protesters when they seek a termination. Women opened up about the events that led them to have abortions, and the way they felt afterwards.
These are some of their stories.
"I still get most anxious thinking about the protesters."
"I had an abortion when I was 23. My partner at the time and I made the decision together, and he accompanied me to the clinic. Despite the experience being quite traumatic in its entirety, the most harrowing thing for us both was the disturbing level of harassment we both experienced from the protesters as we tried to enter the clinic. They surrounded our vehicle and pointed their phones at us as if taking pictures, followed us right up to the door, whilst getting right up in our personal space despite the efforts from the security guard.
"My private health insurance covered the bulk of the cost, and the process on the day was well organised. The doctors and staff explained everything at all times and made me feel as much at ease as possible. I suffered complications after the surgical procedure, and the staff were genuinely amazing. I felt safe and under the best care whilst inside their facility. They even followed up on both myself and my partner days after to ensure we were OK emotionally and physically.
"Despite this, I still get most anxious thinking about the protesters. For a time I was unable to drive near the area without feeling highly anxious, and I struggled with depression for some time after."
– Anonymous, 26
"I was in shock the entire time."
"I found out I was eight weeks pregnant after I'd broken up with an abusive boyfriend.
"I flew to Melbourne and had a medical done the next day. The staff were understanding and incredibly helpful with all my questions but I felt the whole thing was so surreal and I was in shock the entire time. I had a backup of money and there weren't any questions asked by my family when I said I was going to Melbourne, so it was expensive but I could afford it.
"Having that experience did change me, but for the better. I feel I can now take a broader view of life and support those around me who feel like they need to make the same decision."
– Rose, 18
"I paid for this out of my own savings with no help from family or the father of the baby."
"Having a child at 19 may be okay for some but I thought I was simply too young. I was halfway through my university degree (primary education) and although I clearly love children, I wasn't ready to give up or postpone my career.
"I wanted to have a medical abortion due to financial issues but the only available centre in my area did not recommend this procedure, although they did offer it. I felt like I did not have enough information about each procedure and found the gynaecology centre should have had consultations on which procedure is better for the woman. So I opted for the surgical abortion.
"There were no complications or side effects, my nausea and pain from pregnancy immediately disappeared. The cost of a surgical abortion varies – mine cost $410 and I got nothing back from Medicare even though I am on Centrelink and hold a health care card. I do not have private health insurance. I paid for this out of my own savings with no help from family or the father of the baby. I certainly do not regret my decision to have an abortion."
"At the time, my boyfriend and I were both heavy intravenous drug users of methamphetamine."
"I had an abortion at around nine weeks when I was 23. At the time, my boyfriend and I were both heavy intravenous drug users of methamphetamine and I'd been binge drinking every weekend before I realised I was pregnant. I was on bail for drug offences at the time and I knew that I was going to get a custodial sentence of more than 12 months.
"For us, there was never a question of keeping the baby but it wasn't about 'getting rid' of it either. There was a lot of uncertainty around the future of my relationship and health and career. I didn't want to sentence a child to being born drug or alcohol affected and for the story of their birth to start in prison, I knew it would take time for me to deal with my drug dependency issues and I thought it was unfair for my carelessness to impact a child like that.
"I don't feel guilty. When I am ready to be the best mum I can and [give] my baby the best start then I will have children."
– Phillipa, age unknown
"I looked into both abortion and adoption."
"The day before my 22nd birthday I found out I was pregnant. It felt like the entire world slowed down.
"The father was my ex-boyfriend whom I broke up with after he raped me when I refused to have sex with him one night. I chose to not involve him in a decision regarding what I would do as he lost that right when he chose to disregard my right to say no.
"I looked into both abortion and adoption. After talking to a women's health counsellor I decided to have an abortion. I was relatively lucky there was a clinic in my city and I had savings I could use to pay for it. I told no one, went to the clinic by myself. It was only when they said someone had to drive me home after, as I'd be under, that I told my best friend and she drove me home. Everyone that worked at the clinic was professional, supportive, and I was even put in touch with a psychologist that I spoke to before and after my abortion. It is not something I regret – I know that it was the right thing to do. However, it is still something only a select number of people in my life know about and that is not because I'm ashamed, it's because it is my body, my choice, and my business."
– T, 24
"The local clinic has been forced to close due to low funding and it makes me sick to my stomach that girls will now have to either travel or accept their fate due to it being costly."
"When I found out I was pregnant, I was overwhelmed with the fact I knew I couldn't go through with it.
"My boyfriend and I decided to go halves as it was quite expensive. When I was seven weeks I went in for my appointment to get the procedure done. They were very professional and made sure the decision was my own and I understood what both procedures entailed. I choose the surgical procedure as I felt it was right for me. It was over very quickly – they put you to sleep and about 15 minutes later I was awake and it was over. For a couple of days after I bled a bit and there was a bit of discomfort, enough to keep me home. I have absolutely no regret on my decision – having the choice to be a parent when or if I'm ready was such an empowering feeling. Now a year later and the local clinic has been forced to close due to low funding and it makes me sick to my stomach that girls will now have to either travel or accept their fate due to it being costly."
– Bree, 23
"I would need to travel four hours."
"I found out I was pregnant after taking a pregnancy test at school with my best friend.
"When I asked [the GP] about an abortion, he had no clue as to what measures to take and searched frantically online, informing me that I would need to travel four hours to Perth to obtain the pill.
"I knew I would not be able to make it to Perth considering my situation – being in Year 12 and without a licence – so I prepared to break it to my mum.
"My doctor was extremely helpful and gave me an ultrasound rather than yet another test. As she had practised as a gyno, she knew exactly what protocol to take and wrote me a script for the mifepristone drug, which I was instructed by the previous GP that it would cost $800, roughly. I was surprised to learn that it was heavily subsidised [to $30] and was well within my financial range."
– Shelby, 17
"I have such a cocktail of emotions rushing through every nook and cranny of my brain."
"I haven't had my abortion yet. It's booked in for six days' time.
"I'm about seven weeks pregnant, which was a complete shock and so obviously unplanned. I've told one of my sisters and a couple of close friends. The support has been extraordinary but doesn't make the process easier. I know I'm not set up financially or emotionally to go through with the pregnancy... I know an abortion is the best option but it's still scary as hell. The 'father' is a guy I've been casually seeing for a few months. I haven't told him and don't know if I should. The only motivation I really have is to potentially obtain some financial help seeing as the procedure will set me back about $500, a daunting amount of money to part with considering I live out of home, completely independent, and that's a good chunk of my weekly paycheque.
"I've had fears in the past that my endometriosis will result in infertility. Now I have the fear that by having this abortion, what if I'm giving up my only chance to ever have a kid?
"I was so reliable in taking my oral contraceptive pill, even making sure I took it around the same time of day regularly. I have such a cocktail of emotions rushing through every nook and cranny of my brain, and the scary thing is not knowing which ones will remain after the procedure, and for how long."
– Lucy, 25
"It's been a year now and things are slowly starting to get better."
"I was married and had a planned pregnancy. We had been trying for two years and after a miscarriage, I was able to conceive viably. My happiness lasted all but seven weeks. My husband admitted to a long term affair and decided to leave me.
"Although I am pro-choice, I never dreamed that I would ever be able to go through with an abortion... Ultimately, what drove me to do it was the knowledge that if I carried the child he or she would have to suffer knowing their father didn't want them. I also didn't want to be tied to my ex in any way or have him use my child to hurt me further.
"The procedure itself was painless but one that has haunted me since. I feel guilt and overwhelming sadness, especially when I see friends going through their own pregnancies. I feel like I was selfish and a terrible person who chose my life over my child's. It's been a year now and things are slowly starting to get better. Some day I may work through the guilt, or maybe I never will, but I feel like like I made the right choice for myself and my situation."
– Anonymous, age unknown
"We were both young, broke, and stupid and would have ruined that kid's life."
"I was 16 years old and had been throwing up a lot and fainted once. My mum noticed and made me take a test – she was right and I was pregnant. She told me she would help however she could and I told her straight away I didn't want to keep it."
"The morning of my abortion my mum had to take care of my brother and sister for school so she dropped me off at the train station and met me about a block from the clinic, as she didn't want me walking in alone as there are protesters and people harassing people going in there sometimes and she was worried.
"I was asked to lay on the bed with my legs in the air and my box for all to see and they gave me a needle and asked me to count to 10.
"I ended things with the guy that would have been the dad a few months later as he was a complete dropkick and I'm glad I don't have a child that would almost be 10 now with him as we were both young, broke, and stupid and would have ruined that kids life."
– Anonymous, 26
"The medical abortion itself was pretty uncomfortable as I had intense painful cramps for about eight hours or so and very, very heavy bleeding."
I became pregnant on Valentine's Day last year while having sex on my period with a one-night stand. After I was a week late for my next period I took a pregnancy test (actually three) and all came back positive. I knew immediately that I needed to get an abortion – it was not a hard decision for me at all.
"As I was five weeks along, I was too early to get a surgical abortion (you needed to be seven weeks at least) so I opted for a medical abortion so that I could terminate ASAP.
"Luckily I live in Victoria, which is a state where abortions are legal, so it was very easy for me to get access to a women's clinic. Unluckily for me, I have private health insurance as I am not an Australian citizen, so I had to pay about $1,000 out-of-pocket for the procedure (clinic visit, medicine, and follow-up).
"The medical abortion itself was pretty uncomfortable as I had intense painful cramps for about eight hours or so and very, very heavy bleeding... The good thing about it is that you can do it in the privacy of your own home and don't have to go under anaesthesia."
– Heather, 26
"My husband and I have never told anyone and I don't know that I ever will."
"I was 24 and in my final year of university. My then boyfriend (now husband) and I hadn't been careful and found out I was pregnant.
"Everyone was very kind and at no time were they judgmental or unsupportive. I do not regret the choice we made, even now that we have two small children. While I don't think I feel shame, there is still a stigma. My husband and I have never told anyone and I don't know that I ever will."
– Anonymous 36
"I wish I'd known that the termination would trigger lactation, which was terribly painful."
"I had a late-term surgical abortion after discovering I was pregnant only two days previously. It was in a very discreet, modern, and lovely clinic in a capital city. The staff were wonderful. The whole treatment cost $2,500 upfront, which I was unprepared to pay but privileged enough to borrow. It all happened so quickly that I didn't really have time to dwell on the situation – I just did what I had to do. One thing I wish I'd known was that the termination would trigger lactation, which was terribly painful."
– Anonymous, age unknown
"I felt a lot of guilt and grief without anyone to talk to about it."
"I had a surgical abortion at the age of 20 at a private clinic. I found the experience daunting and lonely. Due to social stigma, I did not inform many people about the procedure apart from a few friends. The procedure itself was pain-free and the staff at the clinic were very professional.
"I felt a lot of guilt and grief without anyone to talk to about it.
"I would not be able to give the child or myself a good future and the father was unsupportive... I'm happy I went through with the procedure and had no regrets but the grief I felt after the procedure was hard to deal with alone."
– Anonymous, 23
"The abortion experience itself was amazingly painful."
"I consented to unprotected sex but believed the guy would pull out. Instead of pulling out, he came inside me... didn't tell me but when I asked him if he had finished, he just started laughing. I was stupid to let this happen, but he was mean to do what he did.
"I had a medical abortion. I'm lucky enough to live in a country where I can receive this help and have our Medicare system help pay for the procedure. The clinic I went to was amazing! From the girls on reception to the doctors themselves. All amazing women and I cannot thank them enough. I was never once made to feel bad about my decision. I was constantly offered counselling and given a 24-hour number to call for any questions I had.
"The abortion experience itself was amazingly painful. I've never felt pain like that before in my life.
"I took the first tablet at the clinic, and then 24 hours later at home I took the second dose. The doctors weren't lying when they said it would work quick! I had hot flushes, shaking, chills, vomiting, and of course intense pain. I felt like I had the urge to push.
"After four hours of pain, I fell asleep and woke up with a pad FULL of blood and tissue.
"I never thought I'd be in this position. But there I was. I was so annoyed at myself for letting it happen. I still feel guilty, but I know it was the right choice, deep down."
– Sam, age unknown
"I didn't think I could have possibly even been pregnant because I hadn't known what had happened to me."
"I was a few weeks off my 25th birthday when one night I was raped by several people while I was unconscious. I woke up with a stranger on top of me, I pushed him off and got out of there as fast as I could.
"I didn't think I could have possibly even been pregnant because I hadn't known what had happened to me, and that was traumatising enough in the first place.
"I tried to distract myself from reality for a while because I couldn't deal with everything that was happening. After a few more weeks I knew I couldn't put it off any more, and I called my sister for help. I was incredibly lucky to have such a great sister who didn't ask me any questions and supported me through this very difficult time. She respected my decision and even made the appointment for me, took me there and took me home and looked after me. I don't know what I would have done without her. I'm also very lucky and grateful to live in a state where abortion is legal. I don't regret my decision at all."
– Anonymous, 29
"They hadn't done the termination properly."
"I was 22 and fell pregnant to the boy I was dating at the time. I knew straight away I couldn't keep it, due to struggling quite badly with depression and self-harm. Once I told him I was pregnant, he pretty much broke up with me straight away. He was a selfish, emotionally abusive loser.
"My mum came with me. You sit around in a waiting area with other women there for the same reason. I was the only one there with my mum, everyone else had their partners with them. All the doctors and nurses were really nice and supportive, I didn't feel judged at all.
"I was told to expect some bleeding and a few small clots and not to panic because it was normal. I was still bleeding about a week later and it was getting heavier and the clots were getting bigger... It turned out I had retained products, meaning they hadn't done the termination properly and left some behind which had then caused an infection. I had to have the procedure done all over again the next day.
"I don't regret my decision – there was no way I could've cared for a child and provided a stable, loving environment at that time in my life."
– Renee, 30
"I struggled for about three years to be around mothers with small children."
"I had two abortions at the age of 19. I'm not sure why but when I first found out I was pregnant my instant thought was to get an abortion. I think I was petrified and didn't know what else to do.
"The process only took about two to three hours from check-in to checkout.
"It was honestly the hardest thing I ever had to do. I struggled for about three years to be around mothers with small children. I think the guilt and grief ate away at me... I definitely see myself having children in future but I hope it will be when I'm married to an amazing man."
– Tay, 23
"At no time did I feel an attachment to the foetus, or that I was making a mistake."
"I had an abortion when I was 22 and in living with my then boyfriend.
"The day before my abortion we had a huge fight about my indecision [and] he left me alone in our flat and drove to his parents to get drunk with his friend. I woke up the next day alone and I knew there was just no way we could be parents. I called my friend and she picked me up and drove me to the last-minute abortion appointment I booked at 8:00am that morning.
"I remember him saying that if I kept the baby he would leave me. The procedure took about two hours and I withdrew the money from my savings account at an ATM on the way. When I got to the clinic I had the option of looking at the ultrasound or looking away and I chose to look at what I was giving up. At no time did I feel an attachment to the foetus, or that I was making a mistake.
"When I woke up my friend was waiting and I basically got straight in her car and went for burgers!"
– Melissa, 25
"It was stressful to organise the procedure because of the legal complexity between states for the procedure."
"I found myself pregnant at an age where you shouldn't think twice about continuing on with a pregnancy... Because of my age and relationship status, the doctor provided no advice or assistance with any alternative than continuing with the pregnancy.
"Being in Australia, it was stressful to organise the procedure because of the legal complexity between states for the procedure. For the record, it was emotionally challenging and not recommended, but so important to have as an option."
– Renee, 25
"The amount I paid for a medical abortion was a surprise."
"As I'm writing this I've just taken the second dose of medication for my abortion. This causes the uterus to contract and empty, which explains that when I think of the experience I'm going through I immediately think of the pain. Because that's all I can think of at the moment. It hurts. A lot. The cramps, the bleeding, nausea and vomiting; it's intense.
"But, despite the pain, I'm thankful this option was available and legal for me. It's allowed me to choose when to bring a child into the world, on my terms and when I'm ready. I think a child deserves being supported completely. The amount I paid for a medical abortion was a surprise, though I understand why – I was taken care of."
– Bella, 19
"My husband and I knew it would break us to have another child going through that."
"I had an abortion in early 2015. It was the most emotional experience I have ever gone through. I already had four children, one of whom has a degenerative genetic condition. At first, I was elated to see the two pink lines on the pregnancy test, then the worry set in about the chances of another child with the condition. My husband and I knew it would break us to have another child going through that. A couple of weeks went by, spent in a numb state and plenty of tears while we figured out what to do. We made an appointment with our GP, who discussed all options (adoption was out, as I knew I wouldn't be able to give it up after pregnancy) and was supportive after he gave us a referral for a medical termination.
"I had a few minutes alone before being taken to the procedure room where I sat, talking to my unborn child, apologising for what I was about to do, apologising that I couldn't be its mummy, but I loved it anyway and we would be together again one day.
"Physically, I felt good after the procedure, but numb. The nursing staff understood my reason and were supportive."
– Caroline, 31
"If I was ever unfortunately in the same situation again, I would still choose to put my child's happiness ahead of my own."
"I have always known I'm one of those people who was just born to be a mum. My decision to surgically terminate my pregnancy was the most heartbreaking and best choice I have ever made. I had miscarried a much-wanted pregnancy the year before, and my marriage was falling apart, with my husband not wanting to try to fix it. So I had the choice of raising my child in a dysfunctional, unhealthy, and broken relationship, with a father who would never have loved them as much as they deserve, or to not make that child suffer for years to come.
"I have never once regretted my choice, not even for a second. It was painful, it was gut-wrenching, and if I was ever unfortunately in the same situation again, I would still choose to put my child's happiness ahead of my own."
– Nicole, 28
"If it was up to me I would have kept the baby."
"I didn't want to have the procedure but the father of the baby and my parents basically gave me no other choice but to have it done. I paid for it myself with my full weekly pay. I was pretty emotionless before it happened. They gave you counselling [before the procedure] but I didn't really want to speak because I felt so bad and guilty about what was about to happen. I had a surgical abortion when I was about six weeks along.
"If it was up to me I would have kept the baby but because I care about what others think so much I let my family and the father force me into it. I think about it nearly every day. Sometimes I hate myself for it and [some days] I don't, I just get sad. My friends wanted me to keep it and ever since I don't think they have really treated me the same."
– Molly, 22
"Eleven years later we are now married and have gone on to have two children."
"I had a surgical abortion in 2006 when I was nine weeks pregnant. I was on the pill and didn't even realise until I was almost eight weeks along. It was a pretty straightforward decision – we just weren't ready. We were too young, too poor, we had been together less than a year. That's not to say it wasn't a tough decision, because it was. We felt like we could[n't] tell anyone – our parents would have been so disappointed. The medical staff were amazing, so compassionate. I didn't feel judged at all. I know we made the right decision. Eleven years later we are now married and have gone on to have two children. No regrets.
– Jacqui, age unknown
"The only regret I have is that I didn't use the support for aftercare."
"I was 21 and had been dating a guy for about a year before he up and left for another girl without so much as a text to me. A few weeks later I found out I was pregnant. I wasn't working at the time and not for a moment did I think about keeping it. I had nothing [to] offer this baby and it was clear the father was not interested [in] helping me and I couldn't deny his happiness for my own.
"The only regret I have is that I didn't use the support for aftercare. At the time I was very emotionless and just did it without fully putting my feelings into place. I struggled for a long time after, coming to terms with actually being pregnant and having an abortion. At the time I was a robot going through the motions. Looking back now I am happy with my decision and the support from my friends, family, and the wonderful people at the clinic."
– Emily, 27
"We lived in a country town in NSW so we had to drive to Sydney to a clinic."
"I am a mother to a beautiful little girl who is 4. A couple of years ago I accidentally fell pregnant to my husband during what we thought was a safe time. When I did the pregnancy test the joy I should have felt at the thought of becoming a mother again was overtaken by anxiety and fear... The thought of having another child brought me to tears.
"We decided to terminate the pregnancy. We lived in a country town in NSW so we had to drive to Sydney to a clinic where it would be performed surgically.
"The morning after, I woke up and felt relieved. I knew I had done the right thing. I feel a little sad when my daughter asks for a baby brother or sister but in my heart, I know that I have only enough love for her."
– Eliza, 32
Gina Rushton is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Gina Rushton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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