I had an abortion when my grandfather was an anti-choice activist

During my freshman year of college, I had an abortion. The narrative and stigma that society placed on this health care practice made me question my decision, but I was barely ready to move into an apartment on my own, let alone take care of a child. I was scared and didn’t know what to expect. As the day of my appointment approached, I thought back to the first time I realized the right to choose.

When I was young, my mother and I drove past Parliament, and out the car window I saw protesters carrying signs with large pictures of fetuses on them and anti-choice slogans. My mother explained to me what an abortion was in a very scientific way, and I didn’t really think back to that moment, until now.

Abortion is considered a dirty word in our society. It is often a very secretive subject and many do not share their views or personal experiences on this subject with their communities. I don’t even feel safe writing this blog with my name attached. When will the stigma end?

From my own experience, I know that if I had no choice, I would have ended my own life instead. The sense of relief I felt after leaving my first clinic appointment was immeasurable. All the fear and depression I had felt about potentially having to sacrifice everything I worked so hard for, my business, my degree, and my future, instantly disappeared and my hope returned.

My experience with this basic health care service has been 100% positive. The nurses, doctors, family and friends who supported me made the experience easy. I was put on the pill, and it was no worse than a bad period. Reflecting on my experience, I wondered why this method of health care was not presented as a more accessible and easier option in our society. I ask you: what is the difference between taking an abortion pill and taking birth control or a plan B? Also, I ask you: what is the difference between taking an abortion pill and having a D&C abortion? The result is the same for everyone: to prevent someone from having a child who doesn’t want it.

Like any subject that exists in this world, there will be people who will agree and disagree. The goal of pro-choice advocacy is not to convince everyone to have an abortion if they have an unwanted pregnancy. The aim is to create a society where people can freely make decisions without worrying about the implications of stigma and prejudice, whether personal or religious. Even women who give up their children for adoption, while not as frowned upon by religious groups, face the stigma surrounding their inability to provide for a child they were carrying.

Today’s society lacks basic human respect. Someone would rather be an online troll and ridicule an individual’s opinion and experience than have an intelligent and respectful conversation where their views differ. If a society is unable to maintain space for respectful dialogue between opposing parties, does freedom of expression even exist?

My late grandfather, Royal Galipeau, was a strong supporter of freedom of expression. He was also a fanatical “pro-life” activist and Conservative Party MP for Ottawa-Orléans. He spoke at the “March for Life” on several occasions. But he never spoke to me about his opinions during his lifetime.

In 2018 he passed away. The first time I heard about his anti-choice activism was when we were planning his funeral and my grandmother asked the chaplain to talk about his role in advocacy during his funeral. This idea was quickly rejected by other family members despite how strongly my grandfather was sensitive to the issue during his lifetime.

I know if he were still alive, I couldn’t tell him about the choice I made. It bothers me that families cannot set aside their personal views and trust each other to make the decisions they feel are right for their own circumstances. You know your own life better than anyone.

When I was growing up, my grandfather always told me that politics was where I would one day find a career. It is because of his influence and support that I have enough confidence in the safety of Canadian society to now publicly share my views on this highly politicized issue. I hope to de-stigmatize abortion in a neutral way – when the issues are so polarizing it’s easy to get emotional, but we don’t need emotionally fueled conversations. We need the right to basic health care. Ultimately, despite what any religion may convey, that is what abortion is.

Please answer this: if I am satisfied and fully understand the decision I have made, who are you to question me? In a country famous for its freedoms, we must lead by example and be tolerant of the choices others make. We cannot choose the issues we want this mindset to apply to. You don’t have to accept or even support the choices of others, but you don’t have the right to take away that choice, that basic human right to health care. How dare you speak on behalf of the individual health needs of millions of women when every person’s experience on this planet is so unique? You don’t know better than anyone, regardless of their opinions, so live with respect for all humanity.

When I am ready to have my own children, I know they will receive the love and support they deserve because the work I do now will ensure that they grow up in a world where we all have the right to take our own life decisions. .

Point of view: reproductive justice is a blog of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada.

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