I’m from the UK. Here’s why I chose to pay for my abortion abroad

I’m from the UK. Here’s why I chose to pay for my abortion abroad

“Your boobs are huge,” my partner quipped from the hotel bed as I wiggled into my swimming costume.

I laughed it off and jiggled them in his face before taking one last swim on our holiday in the Dominican Republic, trying to quiet that voice in the back of my head, whispering, “What if you are pregnant?”

Annoyingly, the lying, anxious voices were actually right this time. I was pregnant. The day after, we landed in Montreal, Canada, and took a test to discover that my gigantic boobs were, in fact, a harbinger of a pregnancy. The shock overwhelmed me; I spun between numbness, despair, confusing tinges of happiness for a child I’d never wanted, and anticipatory grief for what was to come.

My partner and I decided to terminate the pregnancy. The only question: where should I get the abortion? I’m a UK citizen, and my partner is French Canadian. In Canada, I’d have to pay for the procedure out of pocket because my insurance did not cover it. It felt like an impossible decision: abroad, where my partner is, or home, where the free healthcare is.

While I lay comatose on the sofa, my partner called clinics to get an estimate of the cost and timeline. We’d pay between £425 and £800, and appointments were available in seven days. A one-way flight home was £350.

Financially, it was a no-brainer. I also desperately wanted my mum to be around while I followed through on this difficult choice in a familiar environment. But the culture I’d be returning to terrified me. My test came back positive in the days following the sentencing of Carla Foster for procuring drugs to induce an abortion after the legal limit of 24 weeks. The vicious debate surrounding it, looming over the right to abortion with increasing intensity, emanated across the Atlantic Ocean.

Harsh words were flying from the mouths of even the most liberal people, and even though 87% of people in the UK are in favour of abortion access, I feared that my choice would incur similar wrath. The topic of abortion at home still feels taboo in most circles. In Canada, abortion is discussed openly without judgement, at least in my limited experience in Quebec.

Later, as I sat buried in blankets and snowballed panic, I redirected myself away from Twitter tirades and toward finding practical information about abortion. I wanted to focus on irrefutable facts because I knew the emotion would come later, no matter what country I did this in.

Into the wormhole I went, first discovering that although just 56% of Canadians agree abortion should be permitted whenever a woman decides she wants one, the law is in some ways more liberal than in the UK. After being legalised in 1969, abortion was decriminalised by the Supreme Court of Canada in 1988 because it infringed upon women’s right to “life, liberty, and security of person.” In 1989, the Supreme Court also ruled that no father has a legal right to veto a woman’s abortion decision. Abortion is now legal in all nine months of pregnancy; however, few providers in Canada offer abortion beyond 23 weeks and six days.

From my scrolling blanket nest, the simplicity with which Canada approached legalising abortion felt comforting, like I was in the arms of a loved one that understood the importance of protecting the right to abortion access. Everything I knew about UK abortion law felt outdated, underdeveloped, and draconian in comparison.

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