I know so many women who have had abortions. Amazing women, intelligent women, strong women. And yet abortion is still an extremely taboo topic riddled with judgement, strong opinions, shame and secrecy.
And no two abortions are the same.
Some of these women have had to sit through ultrasounds and tests only to be told their unborn child is incompatible with life or has life-altering defects that will impact their quality of life. This is a heart-wrenching position for these parents to be in, and a life-altering choice they have to make.
Some have had abortions because they suffered at the hands of domestic violence. Who is to judge a person for making a decision that will prevent a child growing up in an abusive home?
Some women have goals, ambitions and plans, and feel like a child is just not compatible with that vision... yet. They find themselves pregnant and it feels like their lives are unraveling before their eyes. The decision to have an abortion is their choice.
If you do not walk in their shoes, know their situation or truly understand the reasoning behind their choice, who are you to judge?
Some of these women have several children already and are struggling to make ends meet. They're overworked, underpaid and struggling with life in general when they find themselves pregnant again. These women must consider the entire family dynamic and choose to have an abortion so they don't put extra strain on their families.
Some of these women are young, still in school, living at home with their parents. These women are still children in so many ways, and they choose their youth, their future, their education.
If you do not walk in their shoes, know their situation or truly understand the reasoning behind their choice, who are you to judge? I promise you, the choice to have an abortion is not an easy one, and these women carry their choice with them every day for the rest of their lives. They suffer in silence and solitude.
I know this because I am one of these women.
I had an abortion when I was 17. I was living at home with my dad and my brother. I was studying to be a hairdresser.
My boyfriend (now husband), who was unemployed and infrequently attending school, was so excited about the baby. But I had so many mixed emotions.
The logical part of me and the woman I was becoming knew having a child was impractical. Neither of us had jobs, we didn't have a house, and we didn't know how we could afford to provide for a child when we could barely support ourselves. The emotional part of me just didn't want to disappoint my dad.
I confided in my mum and my sister, who helped me make the tough decision to have an abortion. My boyfriend hated me for making that decision, but my family encouraged it. It tore away at me.
Having an abortion is one of the most traumatic experiences I have ever gone through. When the day came, they sat me in a room and asked me questions. They gave me an ultrasound and I saw my baby for the first, last and only time. I began to tear up. They walked me to a cold, sterile room and asked me to lay down on the bed. My tears became heavier and I began to cry uncontrollably. Nobody consoled me or questioned it.
There I was, a 17-year-old girl, feeling unsupported, scared and alone.
The next thing I remember was waking up in a chair and it was done. Over. Like nothing had ever happened. They sent me on my way like I'd just been in for a routine checkup -- no aftercare, counselling or support was provided.
In the end, my dad did find out, and without a doubt he was disappointed. I don't know if he was more disappointed that it happened or that I didn't tell him about it myself.
My now-husband got over it the best he could eventually, and so did I, but every now and then we discuss it and what could have been.
Do I regret my abortion? Yes, I guess I do. Would I change it if I could? Probably not.
Everything I have ever done has made me who I am today. I do know, without a doubt, that I wouldn't be the mother and woman I am today if I'd had a baby at that point in my life. I am sure my life would be completely different.
Do I think about the child I chose to let go? Often. More than I care to admit. I wonder who they would have been but I also like to think maybe it just wasn't their time and that they're here with me now in one of my other children in some small way.
Do I think about the child I chose to let go? Often. More than I care to admit.
The point I am trying to make is that there is a reason for abortion. It may not be your reasoning, but that doesn't matter because it is not your life.
I want to break the stigma and lift the taboo on abortion. We need to talk about it. I know there are so many people just like me who have been put in a position where they had to make this hard choice, and it does not make them any less amazing.
Love, empower and encourage the women around you because you don't know what they're going through or have been through.
This is an edited extract of a post first published on Stevie's blog.
Throughout 2017, The Huffington Post Australia is running a series called No Two Women. The series will cover everything women, and men, need to know about what women deal with thanks to their hormones.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST AUSTRALIA