Madeleine Wiedemann is married with four children. This is an edited version of her speech to the Rally for Life in Toowoomba on 26 September 2018.
I got pregnant when I was just 18, had just finished school and had my whole life ahead of me. And getting pregnant was NOT part of the plan.
I was completely overwhelmed. I was not ready for the decision. However, my body was ready, and started to change, to flood me with hormones and grow the baby within me.
I decided abortion was my only option, and it was then that I needed a system to protect me from my lack of maturity, wisdom and misinformation.
I had to make decisions quickly. I felt so out of control and I made the only decision I thought I had. I booked an abortion.
No one around me suggested or supported any other options, because, as my counsellor wrote on my admission form, I believed it was “best for me, and my baby, to terminate”. And it was my body, and my decision alone.
I was failed by the system that made it easier for me to get that pregnancy terminated and get the baby removed, than it was to have my wisdom teeth taken out.
But getting your wisdom teeth removed is not the same as abortion. Abortion ends one life and changes another forever.
My GP assumed I would get an abortion and so we just discussed how I would go about that. My boyfriend and my family didn’t know what to say, so didn’t say much at all.
And the clinic brushed aside my fears and uncertainties, and then proceeded to placate me with pleasant untruths about the development of the foetus inside me. They lied to my face. I didn’t understand what was growing inside me.
And it was with horror that some years later I looked at the development of an unborn baby at 8 weeks. Only then did I understand that the “ball of cells no bigger than my little fingernail” – the description the so-called counsellor had used to reassure me – which I had got scraped out was indeed far more human than I had been led to believe.
Not one of them encouraged me to stop, take a breath and consider the risk that when I woke up with relief that this could be replaced with a gnawing hollow regret that would dog me for years.
The people around me in large part stayed silent, except to tell me that they would support me whatever I did. So I left alone to make this decision, just barely an adult legally but still so young, and I wish that instead of silence those around me had challenged and supported me to think through what pregnancy or termination would really look like.
Abortion solved one problem for me, but created many more which I did not know about and never chose.
After my abortion, I suffered years of regret, depression and anxiety and struggled to connect with my children when I later gave birth.
How was that a choice, or freedom? I deserved to be given all the options. I was frightened and uninformed and needed restrictions on my ability to make such a life- altering decision without first considering the impact it could have on me and those around me.
I was not given the dignity of a genuinely informed choice, the freedom to look at all my options, or encouraged to think for myself. Instead, it was essentially decided for me that abortion was the best and simplest, the only choice I had. And it is a dangerous world when only one choice is given.
Choosing abortion is the greatest regret of my life and the most damaging decision I have ever made.
The Queensland Labor Government’s Termination of Pregnancy Bill utterly ignores my pain and regret and that of the tens of thousands of women like me. The Government has decided that abortion is the best option for unplanned pregnancies, and through this legislation is making every effort to make abortion easy for any woman at any time and for any reason.
Abortion is not an easy solution. Women need support to make an informed choice, and protection against being coerced into making a rushed decision at a time when they are vulnerable, just as I was, and without any idea of the consequences.
I named my baby later to acknowledge the child that I was still grieving for. I began to imagine the life she could have had only when I started to realise that my regret and loss was real, and not a hormonal response that would stop after several days, which is the only warning the pamphlet from the clinic gave me.
I have spent many nights in tears and many days wondering what life would be like with her in the mix of my kids today.
It is the Government’s job to enact legislation that protects the rights of both the woman and her unborn child. Because both lives matter.
Photo: Mark Bowling