RHONDA KING (born in 1965) recalls an unplanned pregnancy in about 1980 when she was fifteen, not long after her father died.
This guy that I’d asked to come and hop in with me, nothing happened. Later on—on another occasion—things did happen. So then when I was pregnant I wasn’t sure if it was him was the father or my ex-boyfriend because I didn’t take any notice of when I had my period or what dates it happened. It was just like, ‘Oh, here we go again.’ I never was a hundred per cent sure which was the father. I told my mum and her advice was to have an abortion. I didn’t know what to do because I was fifteen and I was like, ah, what do you do with this? I don’t know what to do. At that point in time I hadn’t come to the, ‘I want to be a mum’ (laughs). I was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to be a mother.’
So yeah, fifteen. Pregnant. Not sure who the father is. Dad’s not around anymore. Mum’s freaking out. And we’d come not long out of—I’ve just been reading a lot of information about the forced adoptions thing that went on up until the late ’70s, early ’80s even I think—so I think we were coming out of that period and my mum was from that generation and she’s seen me unmarried, fifteen years old, pregnant, thinking, ‘This is what you need to do.’ Not a forced adoption in this case, an abortion. So I had an abortion and it was really horrible. It was, I never — sorry. I never don’t regret doing it. I always think — excuse me.
Mary Hutchison: We’ll have a pause. Just wait for a second. Or do you want me to turn it off?
No it’s fine. I just, whenever I reflect on that, I think that was probably the only choice I’ve ever made in my life that I regret. That if I could go back and turn it around, I would. But especially because you see so many young girls having children at that age these days and they’re fine. They cope. There’s no big deal. They come to terms with it. But I guess in the environment and the situation I was in at the time, we didn’t, I didn’t know what to do. I had no idea. What, what do I do? And so you turn to your mum to ask for the advice and it was her advice that I took and she came with me to Sydney to have it done.
I think my mum did most of the enquiries about it. I think. I feel like I kind of erased bits of it so I didn’t have to remember, but I remember it was in Challis Avenue in Potts Point. That’s near Darlinghurst and Surry Hills. We stayed in this tiny little—went up on the train—stayed in this horrible little smelly hostel, because mum was on a single parent pension because my father had died and we’d just kind of lost everything so we had no financial anything. I walked to the clinic and I went in and I sat there with this group of people. I was by myself. There was a woman there who was there for her fifth or sixth abortion and was raving on about it, like, and I was just like, ‘Okay’. And then there was another young couple there. She didn’t look like she was much older than me or maybe the same age.
Then they took me to a room where they asked, you know, explained to me what I was about to do and did I know what I was going to do, and they were showing me diagrams and pictures. I think if they had’ve showed me something more graphic I might’ve changed my mind but it was just, it was like being at school and them saying, ‘And your ovaries are here and your cervix is there’, and I was like, ‘Okay.’ Didn’t really get a concept or idea of, you know, I guess it was meant to be pre-counselling but it didn’t seem to really help very much (sniff).
Then the next thing I was getting changed and I was on a hospital bed and they just said, ‘Lie down’ and I was out. Then I woke up and they sent me home. I walked back to the hotel on my own. Just feeling crap (laughs). ’Cause I just came out of an anaesthetic. It was really traumatic and really horrible, but I just kept going with life. I mean I didn’t sit there thinking, ‘Oh my gosh. What have I done?’ The ‘what had I done’ didn’t really hit me until I had my own children. That’s when I was like, ‘Oh. This is what I did, and that’s really bad.’
Credit: Rhonda King interviewed by Mary Hutchison in the Australian generations oral history project, ORAL TRC 6300/182, National Library of Australia. Recorded on 11 and 19 May 2013 in Canberra, ACT.