Abortion Law Reform

Angered by the misogynistic discourse during the reproductive healthcare debate, Abigail used her Adjournment Speech to share her personal experiences with sexual violence and pregnancy and why we need to trust women and those with uteruses to make decisions about their bodies.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (21:33): As I noted in my inaugural speech, I am a survivor of child sexual assault. As a young child I experienced a range of abuse, including rape. Long before I even began to menstruate I lived with the constant and pervasive worry that I was pregnant. With limited understanding at the time of the biological realities of conception, I was terrified that, one day, I would become pregnant and that I would be found out as having had sex when I was a child. As a 13-year-old I remember facing down my fears to ask a teacher how long sperm could live in the uterus after sex. Even after learning that sperm cannot get you pregnant years after having sex, I continue to have a recurring nightmare that I had become inexplicably pregnant and faced ridicule at school and being labelled a slut.

I still have that recurring nightmare to this day, although thankfully it comes less frequently these days. As is common for those who have experienced trauma, feelings of shame about my assault would be triggered easily and often unexpectedly. At times I would spend days in a row—during classes, at home, in bed—repeating to myself in my head, "It's okay, it's okay, it's okay", to drown out the fearful thoughts: fear of being found out, fear of being blamed, fear of being inexplicably pregnant.

Years later, when trying to fall pregnant with my first child, I thought back to those days a lot. I wondered whether all of those thoughts about fearing pregnancy as a child and teenager had somehow made me unable to have children. When I did fall pregnant, every hiccup, every potential problem in my pregnancy brought with it those feelings of guilt—that if I lost my child it would be my fault for having been "bad" as a child. My first pregnancy was not without complications and the birth of my first daughter did not go according to plan. But she was born and it was the most wonderful and healing event in my life. Due to the difficulties of that birth, it was harder for me to fall pregnant again. I lost my second pregnancy in the second trimester and I was devastated. I did fall pregnant again and after an even more difficult pregnancy and a complicated birth I had my second daughter and our beautiful family was complete.

The last couple of months in this place have been tough going. They have been triggering; they have been emotional. We have all had to listen to comments that are insensitive to the realities of what it is like to be a woman in this world. We have been mansplained to about the special circumstances we are placed in simply because we have a uterus—as if those of us physically abused on the basis of our biological differences were not already well aware. Fetus dolls have been sent to women who, like me, know what it is like to lose a wanted pregnancy and who have mourned the loss of a fetus.

I am not alone, of course. My colleagues, our staff, people campaigning and people watching across the country have faced accusations of being heartless, of not understanding pregnancy and parenting, simply because they have chosen to stand for the right to choose, for the right of people like me to choose what happens to my body, to have it respected, for it to not be abused and for me to use it to have my children when I choose to. Attempts by some anti‑abortion campaigners and politicians to use emotional and at times graphic and confronting content to change the minds of pro‑choice politicians, on the mistaken assumption that we lack compassion or do not have a deep understanding of the issue, have not only missed the point but also caused such unnecessary distress to those who have already experienced trauma.

On the weekend I was speaking with my daughters about abortion law reform. My eldest daughter, now 10, spoke with the clarity and compassion of so many children her age. She said she agreed with me that no‑one should be made to be pregnant or to have a baby against their will but she told me that that it is also very sad. She can see that although something can be the right thing to do, the decisions we make are often difficult and heartbreaking. My daughter's insight and compassion and knowing that she has my back makes me really proud and has provided me with much needed strength and comfort on days like today.

Read the full transcript on Hansard.

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