Saskatoon entrepreneur hopes sharing story about abortion helps other women
Sharing story called brave and generous by sexual health and rights advocates
It was the most difficult decision that Brittany Marie Smith has ever made and for most, it's a decision and choice that's usually shared with just a select few.
But she wanted to share her decision to have an abortion with the world, publishing a personal and raw blog post and podcast about the experience from start to finish.
In the podcast, she details how she was financially unstable, still working to grow her business and facing down the pregnancy as a potential single mother, all factors which contributed to her making the decision to end the pregnancy.
For her, she said she made the podcast to ensure other women don't feel alone.
"Simply, we aren't talking about it enough," she said in an interview with CBC.
Smith said she debated for a few days about going public about the procedure, but said in the end, she was glad she did, as numerous people reached out with positive feedback.
"It's something I think a lot of women do, they just have it, and they don't tell anyone," she said. "After I posted it, I got messages into my inbox right away about women telling me that they've had an abortion and haven't told anyone and I was the first person they told."
She said once those messages started to come in, it was validation of why she wanted to make her story public to begin with.
"Every one has a different perspective on why they might get an abortion and my story is kind of different, because I didn't have a good excuse to have an abortion according to society's standards," she said.
Smith said she felt that in society's view, as a 34-year-old woman, she was in a position where she could — and maybe should — have the baby, but she wanted to make sure people understand that the decision to have an abortion lies with the individual.
"I think people needed to hear a real story of someone who really had the potential to raise a child and chose not to and I think that's real women, everyday who are getting abortions, a lot of them."
She said even some of the people in her life who are anti-abortion said the podcast helped provide them a better understanding of the choice, and responses to the post and podcast have been positive so far.
There are tens of thousands of abortions that take place in the country every year, according to the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada. In 2017, the number of abortions that took place in Canada in hospitals and clinics was 94,030, but this doesn't account for unreported abortions or abortions that have taken place outside of a clinical or hospital setting.
Heather Hale is the director of Saskatoon Sexual Health, which offers sexual and reproductive health education, and advocacy alongside clinical services in the city and the surrounding area.
She commended Smith for her bravery to speak on the subject so publicly, saying the story is an important one for people to hear.
"We know that abortions are common," said Hale. "They're one of the most common surgical procedures that happen in Canada and unfortunately there is not a lot of discussion about that."
She said perspectives and additional information on what happens and what people experience throughout the process is valuable, saying she trusts people to know what's best for them, saying based on her experiences, the decision is "never done lightly."
"People know what is realistic for themselves, for their families and what makes sense for them so being able to have some other viewpoints or experiences is valuable."
Frederique Chabot, the Director of Health Promotion with Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights, said Smith's decision to share the story about her abortion was "incredibly generous."
"It humanizes a medical procedure that has been deeply stigmatised and has been targeted for a lot of misinformation by groups who do not want to see this procedure available in their community," Chabot said.
I think people needed to hear a real story of someone who really had the potential to raise a child and chose not to and I think that's real women, everyday who are getting abortions, a lot of them.-Brittany Marie Smith
She said having someone talk about the procedure from start to finish from a personal perspective will help people understand the importance of making sure these procedures are safe and accessible.
"The fact that we are connecting to it through a personal story, which is much more compelling than reading a study or reading health statistics about it, I think this helps further the conversation in really important ways," she said.
Chabot said that some conversations around abortion depict the procedure as an experience that people have in "silence and secret" but said the reality of the situation is that one in three women or people who can get pregnant will have an abortion in their lifetime.
She said ensuring that people understand the decision is theirs to make is critical.
"To openly link it to the importance it holds in people's lives, in how key of a moment it is when we're making such a personal decision about the kind of life we want to have, and the children we want to bring in the world, or the shape of our family, or the timing of our children, I think it's an incredibly important point to make."
For Smith herself, she said producing the podcast and writing the post has helped her through her journey, saying she hopes sharing her story will also help to bridge the gap that exists between anti-abortion and pro-choice groups.
"It's just so hostile between the two groups and I think that's where the real problem is," she said. "Why can't we just understand each other as human beings … these conversations need to happen so we really humanize everyone and their choices and understand where women are at."