My story: An abortion that couldn’t happen changed my family’s life.
My single mom became pregnant with my younger brother much later in her life than when she had me. I was in junior high when she delivered the baby. Due to her age and health, her pregnancy was deemed to be “at risk”, and her personal and financial life was such that she was not ready to support a newborn.
Limited access to abortion services in PEI restricted my mother’s capacity to seek a medical abortion until it was beyond safe to have the procedure. From what I know she paid out of pocket to go to the mainland to have a medical abortion only to be denied the procedure due to safety concerns.
What I can share about this time in my mother’s life I know only from observing on the sidelines. She did not share much with me about this time in her life, and we haven’t talked about it since. Only once did she ever mention that she would have an abortion, and when she did not have the procedure we did not talk about what would happen moving forward. We simply kept going, shaken and altered, adding a plus one to our small family.
It’s hard not to consider the “what if”s. When my mom got pregnant she was in a serious financial downswing, and she told me she’d be getting an abortion as we were moving out of our home in the countryside which had recently been foreclosed upon. We lived in too many houses during the years that followed, settling in only to be evicted, over and over. I got a job and paid half the rent and it still wasn’t enough. Poverty is a viscous cycle, and the social services for single mothers in PEI is atrocious. What if it didn’t have to be that way?
A feeling of hopelessness was evident. My mom has such a big heart, and it cracked her in two to not be able to provide a steady home for her kids. I witnessed too many meltdowns and feared for her life more than once. She always put us first and would dream big to make it work, one day at a time. It wasn’t easy.
We came together to provide what we could for my brother, but the strain of poverty took a toll on our relationship. We tried. My brother is the glue that kept us together, but his existence also shaped our lives and demanded more resources than we could provide.
It hurts to write this. I love my brother so much more than anything. I have felt horrendous for wondering, in dark times, what life would be like if my mom hadn’t had him. “Good” and “bad” don’t apply to situations like this. There are no simple answers. I have more love in my life because I am an older sibling, and I learned from an early age what it’s like to live paycheque to paycheque because I am older sibling.
I have since moved away from PEI. When people ask me what my home province is like, I tell them three things: 1) it’s beautiful in the summer, 2) yes, the potatoes are that good, and 3) the political system is archaic and unfavorable to women and those in poverty. The recent provincial election unequivocally demonstrated that Islanders are ready to show up and demand a change.
It’s time to fight for better services for women and families on PEI. The need is evident. Canada’s smallest province is long overdue to join the 21st century in recognizing and protecting women’s rights.
Anonymous – PEI