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British artist “wracked with guilt” after abortion of twins

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.

Dear reader,

You may be surprised to learn that our 24-week abortion time limit is out of line with the majority of European Union countries, where the most common time limit for abortion on demand or on broad social grounds is 12 weeks gestation.

The latest guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine enables doctors to intervene to save premature babies from 22 weeks. The latest research indicates that a significant number of babies born at 22 weeks gestation can survive outside the womb, and this number increases with proactive perinatal care.

This leaves a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive at 23 weeks whilst, in another room of that same hospital, a doctor could perform an abortion that would end the life of a baby at the same age.

The majority of the British population support reducing the time limit. Polling has shown that 70% of British women favour a reduction in the time limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks or below.

Please click the button below to sign the petition to the Prime Minister, asking him to do everything in his power to reduce the abortion time limit.