"An estimated 1 in 3 women have had an abortion, and I am one of them"

Australian Sen. Lyn Allison gets personal and political on the Senate floor.

Published February 8, 2006 11:46PM (EST)

In a debate last night over the approval process for RU-486, the "abortion drug," Australian Senate leader Lyn Allison made the personal political. Allison told the Senate: "An estimated one in three women have had an abortion, and I am one of them."

Allison's candor is a far cry from the views voiced by many of our own women politicians, such as Sen. Hillary Clinton, who distanced herself from the polarizing issue by calling abortion "a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women."

Telling her story to the Sydney Morning Herald, Allison explained that she "became pregnant at 18, and having a child at that time would have changed her life in ways she was not prepared to contemplate." Musing on the sacrifices she would have had to make, she said, "I probably wouldnt be here [in the Senate]."

While Allison had tried to steer away from a philosophical pro-choice/antiabortion debate and stay focused on whether approval for the drug should lie with the country's health minister or the Therapeutic Goods Administration, she soon became frustrated with what she was hearing. "Women are fully human," she said. "It is galling listening to the men, and it is mostly men, who have such contempt for women who terminate unwanted pregnancies, who have neither the compassion nor the understanding of the huge and, for many, daunting task of taking an embryo the size of a grain of rice to adulthood."

As American women seem to be losing ground daily in our right to choose, hearing this kind of frank talk from the mouth of a politician is heartening. But it also serves as a reminder that talking about the reality of abortion must not be forsaken for fear of polarization or disunity in parties. As the Australian senator makes evident, unwanted pregnancy can affect all women regardless of our backgrounds, and not having a choice of what to do, to use Allison's words, is something we are "not prepared to contemplate."

By Sarah Goldstein

Sarah Goldstein is an editorial fellow at Salon.

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