FORMER King Edward Memorial Hospital gynaecology director Harry Cohen, who works once a week at Marie Stopes International abortion clinic, said 25 per cent of all pregnancies were terminated.
‘There are many women who do not go through with the pregnancy for many reasons ” whether they are financial, social, emotional,’ the Nedlands resident said.
‘With most abortions handled in the private clinics, the big concerns are issues (with accessibility) that the health department has ignored.
‘I understand some doctors will not refer a termination, either they don’t want to be involved or have a moral or religious objection to it.
‘Then there are women living in regional towns who are at a serious disadvantage.
‘They have to travel, which is costly, take time off work, find accommodation and find someone to look after their family.
‘One in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime, and it’s the government’s responsibility to look at how they can achieve that in such a way that it’s not such a financial impost.’
WHEN Karratha teenager Katie discovered she was pregnant two weeks before her TEE exams, she saved more than $1000 at her after-school job and flew to Perth for a termination.
‘It was an accident and I didn’t know what to do, so I kept it secret from my parents,’ the now 22-year-old said.
After paying two different GPs to confirm she was eight weeks pregnant, Katie was sent to the local hospital for an ultrasound and then back to a GP for a referral to Marie Stopes International.
‘The return flights were $400 and the procedure itself was about $500, so altogether it cost me a lot,’ she said.
‘In the end, my parents found out because I missed the flight home when the consultation took too long. Looking back on it now I can’t believe I was only 17.’
Three years later as a university student, Katie again fell pregnant to her high school boyfriend.
‘I was actually three months pregnant and I didn’t even know ” I was on the pill and had no symptoms, didn’t gain weight, nothing,’ she said.
‘I’ve managed to block out a lot of the things that happened around that time.
‘I wanted to keep it as soon as I saw the ultrasound, but my boyfriend pushed me to it. Then, just before I had the abortion, he cheated on me. That pushed me into depression before I even went in.’
Katie said she had been ‘way, way too young’ to emotionally or financially support a child.
‘I now know that I wasn’t able to give a child the future I would want it to have… it wouldn’t have been fair,’ she said.
EVEN after 11 years, Kate’s positive pregnancy test and referral letter to Nanyara women’s clinic are carefully boxed away at her parents’ home.
‘I kept it all so I can look back and remind myself that yes, that definitely happened, it wasn’t a dream,’ the Kelmscott resident said.
She was about four weeks pregnant when she took the test but chose to ‘sit on the referral’ for another two months to make her decision.
‘I had just started university and my partner wasn’t the sort of person I could have raised a child with,’ said Kate (30).
‘Being a parent carried more weight to me than just falling pregnant accidentally and thinking, ‘Oh well, I’m having a baby now’.’
Kate said the first GP she visited was ‘not very keen’ to give her a referral to the clinic and incorrectly told her she needed to see an obstetrician.
‘I was studying psychology at the time and knew all about doctors with religious or ethical bias,’ she said.
‘You are so vulnerable in that situation that you almost want somebody to take the decision out of your hands. That is a concern.’
After becoming a mother last year, Kate said she had thought back to how different her life might have turned out.
‘My husband asked me: ‘Having our daughter and loving her, does it make you think about the pregnancy you terminated?’ she said.
‘And it does, but it doesn’t make me wish I had had it. It makes me appreciate my decision even more. Because I wanted to be a mum in this way, I wanted my daughter to grow up with her father and me ” happy, together.’
DECIDING to abort the pregnancy that could have been her third child was a battle between Beckenham resident Sarah’s emotions and logical brain.
Sarah (33) said she had just transitioned from being a stay-at-home-mum to full-time university student two years ago when she unexpectedly fell pregnant.
‘I have always been very much pro-choice and my feelings were that there isn’t a child there, it’s just a blob of material.
‘When I fell pregnant, it messed with my hormones a bit. I began thinking, ‘It might not be a person, but it is the possibility of a person’.
‘But it boiled down to logic, to common sense. We just couldn’t afford another child.’
Sarah said she was shocked that the cost of her abortion at Marie Stopes International was the same as the surgical procedure.
‘It did p*** me off, to be honest, the fact that I was paying $450 basically for two pills and a follow-up appointment,’ she said.
‘I think it’s a political thing, it was artificially expensive so terminations aren’t seen as ‘easy’, which is ridiculous.’
Sarah told a close friend, who was pregnant at the time, that she miscarried.
‘There is definitely stigma,’ she said. ‘It’s going to take listening to lots more politicians scream about it in Parliament, no doubt, before the situation gets better.’