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The Magic Hour Issue

How I Dealt With My Abortion in Rural Denmark

Just because it's socially acceptable, doesn't mean it's any less hellish.
June 16, 2015, 2:49pm

Illustration by Alex Jenkins.

She's a friend of a friend. From the periphery, she fits into the box that many of us fall into: in her mid-20s, studying, working a bit on the side, and fresh to Copenhagen from a smaller city at the tip of Denmark. However, she's also had 1 of about 15,000 abortions that take place per year in Denmark, and is one of 94% of women who are granted approval of their request to have an abortion. Except for one counseling session before and after the abortion, there are no mental health support systems specifically in place for women in Denmark who have terminated their pregnancies. In addition, abortion hotlines are few and far between, with the first paradoxical search result for"abortion, help" being abortlinien.dk, a pro-life organization. Last week, I asked my friend about her experience.

I was twenty-two years old when I got pregnant. I was living with my boyfriend in the suburbs in a small city in Jylland, and we were nowhere near that stage in our relationship. It was a pure accident.

I thought about keeping it—but I was kind of a party girl. There were a lot of drugs in our environment; imagine what it would be like bringing a child into that atmosphere. Yet that was only one part of the issue. The real problem was that I wanted to keep it, and my boyfriend didn't.

Of course, the idea of actually having a baby was terrifying, but I was also adjusting to it—I can't even describe what happens to you when you feel a live human being growing inside your body. Even at that time, the decision to abort seemed like an individual thing; I knew more girls who had just gone ahead and had their baby… but I was under a lot of pressure to get rid of it from my boyfriend as well as the people around us. So, I went to the doctor and she bluntly asked me if I wanted to keep it or not. I said no. She contacted the closest hospital and a week later I had a scheduled appointment.

"I thought they would give me a couple of days to think it over, but instead, they gave me five minutes."

I went to the hospital, the doctor scanned me—and then the horrible experience began. She printed out a photo of the fetus and said to me, "Well, this is your last chance." I thought they would give me a couple of days to think it over, but instead, they gave me five minutes. I was really confused, and in that moment, I decided not to keep it. She gave me a pill, I swallowed it, and that was that. As soon as you take that pill, your body starts to detach the fetus, so I couldn't do anything about it anymore. It was too late.

The whole experience was extremely difficult: being in that moment, sitting next to a doctor with a pill in your hand, and having to decide if you're going to become a mother or not. Then, there's the abortion itself. After taking the pill, I went to my mom's—if there's no one around you, there's a risk of something going wrong with the actual abortion, but it's also common that you feel incredibly depressed. The pain was so intense, I felt like I was going through five hours of labor. I was bleeding, throwing up, feverish, and just lying on the floor. That pain is something I'll never forget.

"I wish I had had some sort of support services from the government afterwards to deal with these feelings, but I got nothing."

I was devastated for a long, long time. I was disappointed in myself and at the circumstances, but also in the people around me for not giving me the courage I needed to have the child. I was angry. For the first six months afterwards, it was horrible seeing people with babies, or happy women walking around with huge bellies. All that it did was remind me that I had wanted that child.

I wish I had had some sort of support services from the government afterwards to deal with these feelings, but I got nothing. So instead, I felt completely weighed down with regret for a long time. I drank and partied a lot, took a ton of drugs and smoked a bunch of pot just to clear my mind. I would always start crying when I was drunk, and I'd guilt trip my boyfriend all the time. I picked fights because I felt like all the overwhelming feelings inside of me were just as much his fault as mine.

We made our relationship work for about six months after the abortion, but broke up quickly. It felt like the trust and the relationship had just snapped as soon as I felt like he abandoned me in my wish to keep the baby. He thought we were too young considering the life we lived—and sure, keeping the baby would have meant we would have had to change our lives, but it's different for the mother than it is for the father. As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I started touching my belly all the time and thinking excitedly, "wow, there's a little thing growing inside of me!" How could my boyfriend connect to that? He was just the guy standing next to me—twenty-two years old and wanting to party.

For a few years afterwards, I said to myself that I'd never have kids. Yet now when I see kids, I think they're cute, sweet and amazing little beings. If I find someone some day, I really want to have kids, and a lot of them, too.

I'm twenty-six now. When I was twenty-two, I was so dependent on my boyfriend and insecure; I wasn't strong enough to go through with the pregnancy without his support. Now, I'm in a different stage of my life. Perhaps my life is just as messy and confused as it was four years ago, but if I get pregnant now, I'll just do it. I'll take responsibility and make it work.