Julia Black decided to make a documentary that looked at the realities of abortion. Black is the daughter of the founder of the Marie Stopes clinics and made the film while pregnant. Her first pregnancy ended with abortion when she was 21 years old.
My Foetus shows images of foetuses aborted at 10, 11 and 21 weeks, and the film shows footage of a woman having an abortion when she is four weeks pregnant, and doctors examining the remains of seven-week old foetus.
This is similar to the Frontline documentary filmed in Pennsylvania in the United States and was first broadcast on PBS on April 18, 1983. You can watch the first trimester abortion HERE.
Ms Black believes people are often pro-choice without addressing what an abortion actually involves.
In Australia, The Age newspaper published this letter:
Thank you, Julia Black. Even if watching your controversial documentary on abortion, My Foetus, is the hardest thing I ever do, I know I have to do it. Like you, I grew up strongly "pro-choice", in the era of women's liberation. Like you, I found out I was pregnant in my early 20s, at the end of my degree. And like you, I had an abortion.
I thought I knew about abortion... I saw it [abortion] almost as a rite of passage.
I was majoring in women's studies at Monash University at the time. I thought I knew about abortion. One of my best friends had done her social work placement in an abortion centre. I had worked as a phone counsellor at a women's crisis line. Several of my friends had had abortions. I saw it almost as a rite of passage.
It was only as I was slipping into unconsciousness from the anaesthetic that I realised. Until that moment the word had always been "foetus". I had had a stressful few weeks, trying to work out what to do, cope with morning sickness, finish my degree, go to work, and keep everything a secret. But as I was slipping under from the injection, suddenly, for the first time since I learned that I was pregnant, my mind became clear. I thought, "I'm killing my baby". And then I was lying on my side, with the nurse calling my name, and it was over, and it was too late.
After the abortion I did not return to or continue the life I had before. Instead, I developed phobias. I became afraid of heights. I couldn't walk up mountains. I couldn't ride as a passenger in a car. I became very scared of social situations. I spent a friend's birthday locked in the restaurant toilet. I cut myself off from everyone. I gave up my job and my further study. I stopped answering the phone. I stopped getting out of bed.
I am not a Christian, or a 'Right-to-Lifer', but I do know that it was my baby that I killed.
I wish I had known more before it was too late. I am not a Christian, or a 'Right-to-Lifer', but I do know that it was my baby that I killed.
I contacted the Royal Women's Hospital, because they had offered support after the termination. They referred me to a community health centre where I went on a waiting list. After several months I saw a social worker, fresh out of uni, who said, "I haven't had an abortion, tell me, what's it like?" I returned to the Royal Women's and was told they couldn't offer any more support. To this day I can't go there without shaking from anxiety.
I believed what I had been told about abortion. I believed in my right to choose, that this was a hard-won right thanks to my feminist predecessors. I believed that what was growing in my body was a foetus. I attended counselling at the Royal Women's to help me make my choice. I understood the physical procedure, about not having a bath in case of infection. I called the Council of Single Mothers to find out if I could afford a child.
I believed I was well informed. I did my best to be. Afterwards, I realised I had not been well informed at all. If anything, I had been misinformed.From my work at the Women's Crisis Line, I knew which unplanned pregnancy support services were government run and "unbiased". I knew which phone counselling service to avoid because it was run by "Right-to-Lifers". I knew they gave "biased" information. I knew to avoid the "emotive" language and images the Right-to-Life movement used. I believed I was well informed. I did my best to be.
Afterwards, I realised I had not been well informed at all. If anything, I had been misinformed. At no point had I been told that going through an abortion can be extremely psychologically distressing. I did not know that women's lives can fall apart the way mine did as a result. The "unbiased" information and language, supposedly feminist, did not make me feel empowered. It denied my truth, and saved society from the inconvenience of another single mother.
I can't tell other women whether or not they should have their babies, but I do strongly encourage them to know the reality of abortion if they are considering having an abortion. I wish I had known more before it was too late. I am not a Christian, or a "Right-to-Lifer", but I do know that it was my baby that I killed.
There is no turning back if you get it wrong. You have to live with your choice for the rest of your life.To find out you are pregnant when you didn't plan to be is a big thing. You are faced with an intense choice, possibly the most significant choice a human being can face - have a child or have an abortion. There is no compromise, no trial period, no thinking time. Either way, your life will dramatically change. You need all the support and knowledge you can get. There is no turning back if you get it wrong. You have to live with your choice for the rest of your life. It is beyond me why pro-choice organisations would be against women being able to make informed decisions.
Five years on, there are days when I don't think about the child I don't have, but they are still rare.
I am going to find watching My Foetus very emotionally challenging. To be honest, I feel terrified. But that doesn't mean I should avoid it. Nothing is resolved through denial or escapism. We know this to be true of addictions, domestic violence, sexual abuse... the list goes on.
By watching My Foetus I hope to be able to acknowledge, grieve, and eventually let go of my unborn child and heal.
(Ginger Ekselman is a freelance writer and a student counsellor at a Melbourne secondary school.)