Doctor with a stethoscope. Image credit: Online Marketing/Unsplash

In August 2020, I was away up North when I suspected that I was pregnant again. My period was not late, but I experienced all the symptoms I felt in the past. I was alone when I took the pregnancy test that confirmed it. My partner was also in the North but in a place far more remote without any cell service. It was difficult not being able to share the unexpected news with him, but I knew I would see him in a week.

When I returned to the city, I decided to see a doctor to confirm the pregnancy and to request a referral for an ultrasound. I have been pregnant several times in the past, but many pregnancies ended due to an anembryonic pregnancy (also called a blighted ovum — this occurs when an early embryo never develops or it stops developing; it is resorbed and leaves an empty gestational sac). An anembryonic pregnancy does not always result in a miscarriage, and so I have experienced both surgical and medical abortions to dispel the “products of conception that are contained in the uterus.” I have also made a choice to end a pregnancy for personal reasons.

After sitting in the warm waiting room for over three hours, I finally spoke with the physician. I have been judged, mistreated, and dismissed by many doctors over the years due to my personal choices, and yet this doctor’s unprofessional and disparaging questions shocked me beyond anything I had ever experienced. I understand that it is important to gather past medical history, but he completely crossed the line in asking what personal reasons led me to end past pregnancies. He also said that I could not make a decision without a partner present and that I was irresponsible regarding my reproductive health.

I do not need to defend my choices.

I do not need my partner present to get an ultrasound form.

When I explained to the physician that I had abortions due to personal and health-related issues, he told me to calm down and asked me to leave. I waited for hours to receive an ultrasound form, which he ended up refusing to provide because he felt that I needed to “re-examine my life decisions.” At that moment, I had never felt so small, belittled, and diminished.

For me, the choice to have an abortion has had a profound effect on me physically, mentally, and emotionally. It is not something that lasts days or weeks, but a life choice that has stayed with me for years and has shaped who I am. My choices weigh heavy in my heart, but I do not regret any of them. I have had the opportunity to travel, go back to school, regain financial independence, and escape toxic and abusive relationships because of the choices I have made for my body.

Health-care providers are bound by an ethical code to work from an objective perspective. When it comes to my body, I do not need a physician to impose their personal biases and prejudices on me. There must be equality and access to reproductive health care for all women and transgender people, free of oppressive and patriarchal medical practices and politicized views. Abortion is not always an easy choice to make, but if I had not made that decision or had the option to make that choice, my life might look drastically different. I may not have had the same opportunities or autonomy that I have today. And that is something that I do not need to explain to any doctor.

Asking women and transgender people why they are having an abortion can be an extremely loaded and personal question. There are myriad reasons why someone may choose not to continue a pregnancy, and, in my opinion, it is nobody’s business but theirs.

Kathryn McIntee (she/her) is a second-year student in the social service worker program at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario. She has been a volunteer activist member of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada since January 2021. Kathryn practices her work from a trauma-informed, anti-oppressive, feminist perspective and is passionate about advocating for reproductive justice.

Viewpoint: Reproductive Justice is a blog by the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.

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