Croydon-born artist Tracey Emin, 60, has shared again about the mental and physical pain she endured, following an abortion of twins that went wrong. In a piece for The Evening Standard, the artist, most known for her work My Bed, recalls her abortion at the age of 26 that went “terribly wrong”.
Artist describes guilt and physical pain from abortion
Not for the first time, Emin has spoken in graphic detail about ending the lives of her unborn twins. In a recent opinion piece, she shares “I remember sitting in my boyfriend’s garden … hoping to get browner and I guess subconsciously relieve myself from the mental and physical pain, trying to forgive myself. I felt racked with guilt”.
At 26, she had an abortion, but it did not go according to plan when the remains of one of the unborn twins were not removed from her uterus. The prize-winning artist explained that she felt ill after her abortion and kept on vomiting. She took a taxi to the hospital and recalled “by the time I arrived I could hardly stand, blood and flesh were tumbling from between my legs. I was delirious”.
“I could hear the baby screaming no”
In a series of video interviews entitled How It Feels, released in 1996, Emin shares about the experience of ending the lives of unborn babies by abortion. She said “Every May the 1st I always think, oh, this is my anniversary, my abortion anniversary. And then in the autumn … I always think, oh, this is when I would have had a baby”.
“The more successful my life becomes, those dates never change for me”.
In the 1996 video, 6 years after her abortion in 1990, she remembers the doctor asking her if she was sure she wanted to have an abortion. She said yes, but recounts that it felt like someone else was answering for her and that “I could hear the baby inside me screaming no”. She reflects that it was like the decision was made by someone outside of her.
Despite the artist now feeling like she does not feel guilt about the abortion, she explained that, at the time, “I gave up art, I gave up believing, I gave up faith. I had what I call an emotional suicide”.
Unborn babies remembered and grieved through art
The memory of Emin’s unborn children whose lives were ended by abortion comes up throughout the years in her artwork. Her 1997 work Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963 – 1995, includes her two aborted children. Her autobiographical video of the same year also explores her abortions. In a 2011 exhibition, she displays textile work called The first time I was pregnant I started to crochet the baby a shawl, 1998-2004, recognising the lives that were growing inside her.
Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said “These heartbreaking and poignant recollections point to the devastating reality of abortion. Abortion not only ends the life of an unborn baby but can also have long-term impacts on the lives of those involved, as a recent academic review has revealed”.
“We want to live in a society where the lives of unborn babies are protected and women are supported to choose life”.
Image credit: Image of Tracey Emin by Piers Allardyce, released under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic licence.