“Honestly, I can’t stand pregnant women our age saying Whoopsies! I don’t know how this could happen. We seriously didn’t plan for it! I mean, by the age of 30 we should all know how to use birth-control so who are they kidding, am I right?”

My friend is sitting opposite me, looking expectantly for me to chime in with her outrage.

“Well… ha.”

I am smiling painfully, looking at the sushi in front of me and nervously changing the topic, trying to hide the fact that her pun about grown women failing at birth-control is punching me right in the uterus: A little less than 3 months ago I had accidentally gotten pregnant at the age of 33.

Whoopsies! I know how this could happen. But we still seriously didn’t plan for it, which is why I consequently had an abortion and am here to tell the tale.

I don’t blame my friend for her disbelief that an educated and grown-up woman (whatever being “grown-up” means anyway) could accidentally get pregnant. In fact, I probably would have thought or said something like this a couple of months ago myself.

But having an abortion made me learn some things about myself, our society and Germany’s health system, the first and most important fact being: unintentionally or unwillingly getting pregnant is something that happens independently from age, social or educational status. It is, as you will, a mere side-effect that comes with having a uterus and being sexually active, since there is no birth-control method that can guarantee you a 0,000 % risk of pregnancy. There is just no such thing.

According to official numbers, 104.000 abortions took place in 2022 in Germany, where I live. 70% of the women having them were between the ages of 18 and 34. Only 3% were younger than 18 years old. 41% of the women did not have a child before the abortion. Those numbers represent my own experience and a whole city of women deciding against a pregnancy.

Still, I felt incredibly alone and alienated in the process, even though I have a supporting partner, a stable relationship and no major financial worries. How is that possible?

Our progressive, open, Western society still seems to leave little to no room for women, who actively decide against bearing a child, to tell their stories.

But not being able to speak up or be heard can act as a form of communicative violence and have a major influence on how you validate your own experience. 

The German law contributes to this as it considers any abortion without a medical or criminological indication (in other words: a pregnancy is posing a vital threat or is the result of sexual assault) as illegal for everyone involved. It is only under certain circumstances that the illegal act will go unpunished. This so-called consultation rule applies until 12 weeks of pregnancy and involves a consultation with a health professional, a gynecological consultation and a latency time of several days. It was added as a compromise in the 1990s after the German reunification to bridge the gap between the socialist non-regulation of abortions until 12 weeks of pregnancy in the German Democratic Republic and the conservative regulation in Germany.

The abortion law was established in 1871 and has not been subject to substantial reconsideration since then. Not to be unfair: There is a task-force in the German government trying to figure out “ways to regulate abortions outside of the criminal code” as I write this. Well, fingers crossed. Yet, is it too late to question whether abortions need to be regulated at all? 

So, at the moment, if you are a 33-year-old unwillingly pregnant woman seeking an abortion in Germany and prefer not to go to jail for it, this might be your to-do-list:

1.     Mandatory psychological counseling, which will actually provide you with the most useful information and support. 

2.     Gynecological consultation, where you’ll make sure you are actually pregnant and do not have an ectopic pregnancy. Potentially answer insensitive questions such as “Oh and you are sure you don’t want to be pregnant? Well, you are always welcome back!”. Silently get handed a list of outpatient units that actually provide abortions. There will be no further explanations. If you’re lucky, there’s a unit nearby. 

3.     Talk to your health insurance about ways to get financial aid for your abortion, and learn that it is only paid for if you earn close to nothing or already have a couple of children. (Financial support actually gets more likely, the more children you have. So, you get to be supported in your choice if you already provided the country with future tax-payers.)

4.     Arrange an appointment at the gynecologist providing you with the abortion, but no sooner than 48 hours after your first appointment at the gynecologist. If you choose a medicinal abortion (as opposed to a surgical one) you cannot come in on Thursdays and Fridays since the procedure requires two appointments that take place within 48 hours. 

5.     Wait another week, consequently, while all you want is for the pregnancy to end. But, you’ll need to prove that you are not following a spur-of-the-moment-idea. (As if, but thanks for the reminder that this is an important decision.)

6.     Have the actual first “abortion appointment” where the gynecologist might be more empathetic, but has to take out the medication from a sealed safe. This seems to be important, so that he is not tempted to hand it out recklessly and you are reminded that what you are doing is illegal. In the waiting room you are asked to sign an information and disclosure sheet that reminds you that “destruction of unborn life is irrevocable”. It also informs about potential side-effects (and gives the impression that you are not to complain about these things afterwards). The “risks following abortion: depressive mood and sexual dysfunctions”. 

7.     Have the second appointment, feel relieved in the car back home (not yet knowing that you will be throwing up across the whole bed from excruciating pain a couple of hours later) and wonder whether parents-to-be should be handed a similar disclosure form that states potential side effects of parenthood, such as depressive mood and sexual dysfunctions. 

Here’s to hoping that the current necessities of an independent and informed choice of women concerning their own bodies will be softened and more progressive in the announced reform.

Because no woman will ever make a reckless choice when it comes to ending a pregnancy.

Still, the current regulations in Germany make it very clear that women who decide against bearing a child without any “obvious” reason should feel the social and legal disapproval with every step they take. As if we don’t already feel ashamed and guilty and cold and stupid and wrong for not wanting this. As if our suffering and grief and pain does not deserve a place in our society. But it is valid and it is happening to a lot of women. Female sufferings of any kind have been neglected by our society for too long anyway. 

So, even if I myself did not talk about my experience over california rolls and wasabi, it might be okay to warm-up for the fight and start speaking up. And maybe some of you will read this and get ready to talk, too.

Written by Lazy Johanna.
Johanna is a 30-something based in Germany trying to find her way through adulthood. Recently, this involves writing about topics important to her, playing around with clay and yarn and trying to keep cucumber plants alive.

Illustrated by Kata Fodor.
Kata is a graphic designer and illustrator from Budapest. She primarily designs brands and websites but doing illustrations is her passion. She likes topics like politics, psychology, society and everything related to people.