It seems I am a threat to the very fabric of Australian society. I was raised by a Buddhist mother, even spending time living in a commune. I do not know my father. I am a criminal, having both “inhaled” and one time at high school I stole a Mars Bar. And I’ve had an abortion.

Despite all my “failings” I am now married, have three children, a mortgage, a university degree, run a small business and am charitable. But according to Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi I am still letting my country down. I am a supporter of marriage equality, sexual choice, defender of single parents, believer in freedom of religion (yet do not myself believe in any organised religion) and I insist my husband and I both share child rearing and house keeping duties. Bernardi’s rantings on all of these matters make me so very angry. The irony that I met my husband at the pub that his family used to own and that he regularly poured beers for us, is not lost on me.

I will never forget seeing the ultrasound screen while I sat in the abortion clinic. I will never forget the feelings of shame that have plagued me since that morning, my then (now ex) boyfriend and I made that choice. How we held each other’s hand and cried. I was too young to have a child. We couldn’t have provided for a baby, given it a loving, stable home. I was so ashamed I told only a couple of people. I smiled through the pain and heartache. I sunk into a deep depression, hidden by booze and silence. Each time I look at my children now I am so very grateful for them, yet I mourn. I made the right decision. We made the right decision. We were both to blame for the outcome. Men and women are both responsible.

But despite what Bernardi claims, I am not pro-death. I am not pro-abortion either as anyone that has ever had one knows it is not something you support. It is painful, it is terrifying, it comes with deep sadness, it is lonely, it is shameful, it is sometimes your only choice. I am pro-choice.

Women must have choice over what they do with their bodies. No-one, especially Cory Bernardi, has a right to put abhorrent labels on what is essentially one of the most painful decisions a woman will ever make. Judge me all you want, but please stop for a moment and try to draw on your faith to show empathy and understanding, instead of vitriol. I know what I’ve done.

Each time this topic gets dragged through the news I feel my soul battered. I push my memories aside and try to keep my experience to myself, for fear of attack, but not this time. This time I had to be honest with myself and those around me. I couldn’t hide the truth anymore and through tears and gut wrenching butterflies I will publish this post.

I feel afraid to open up about the one thing I have been silent about. I’ve laid all my cards on the cold, grey table. But I feel more afraid for all those women who may be forced to take matters into their own hands for fear of persecution. I feel my heart breaking for all those women who this week will take that solemn journey to the clinic, who have a long journey ahead of them. I fear for my children, girls, who are growing up in a society which is being taken back into a time so many women before us fought so hard to change.

I feel deep grief. I will never forget laying in my gown, knowing what I had done.

I am pro-choice, not pro-death.

bigwords x