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I never thought I’d have an abortion. It was simply one of those things that happen to other people and not to me – I took precautions, used protection, and while I fully supported women who made that decision, I knew I’d never be one of them.
The appearance of two lines instead of one on the pregnancy test I took in my boyfriend’s parents’ bathroom changed my mind swiftly and completely.
I knew that something was wrong, physically, but I was more likely to suspect cancer than conception. I’d become extremely exhausted on a daily basis, needing at least an hour’s nap in order to garner the energy for class and work – visiting the gym, which had been a regular occurrence for months, quickly disappeared as an option. My weight loss, which had, until this point, been trucking along to the tune of one or two pounds’ loss per week, came screeching to a halt, though I did not gain weight. I seemed less able to spurn the temptation of cupcakes and potatoes and pickles. Each morning met me with an uncharacteristic lack of appetite and moderate nausea, at one point causing me to run out of class and dash to the school restroom, finding a short queue and hoping to whatever god there might be that I didn’t throw up all over the nice shoes on the girl in front of me. Thankfully, my nausea was never fruitful.
When I texted my boyfriend one day that I was craving a meatball sub, something I hadn’t eaten (or even though of) in years, he suggested that perhaps I should take a pregnancy test. This was somewhat old hat for us, not because we weren’t careful, but because I missed periods all the time – I was diagnosed with PCOS a couple of years back, and having a period every six or eight months was totally normal for me (although, of course, we stockpiled pregnancy tests just to be sure). Though I’d been more regular since I’d lost weight, I thought this was just a repercussion of my long-standing amenorrhea, and took the pregnancy test – alone in a house that wasn’t mine, after my boyfriend had left for work and his parents had left to go fishing – with essentially no trepidation whatsoever. When the test was positive, my stomach dropped. I sent a text message to my boyfriend informing him, took a shower, and got out, my hair still wet, and hopped onto my laptop to search for an abortion clinic in the area.
The community I live in is a small, conservative, god-fearing town, and the first three hits Google fetched for me promised they’d “help” – by providing a free pregnancy test, maternity clothes, counseling, and information regarding adoption. The websites listed lengthy descriptions of all of the risks of abortion, from its correlation with – or causation of, as the authors would have you believe – breast cancer to the immense pain of the procedure, for both mother and fetus.
I was outraged. I had just received perhaps the most unsettling news of my life, was completely alone, at least immediately, and knew that I had to make the decision to abort. As I’m not ignorant, I knew that these kinds of institutions existed, knew that conservative lawmakers were trying to press women into viewing ultrasounds and listening to heartbeats before allowing them the decision to abort. I knew that pro-life protesters abounded around many abortion clinics. I wasn’t aware, though, that these protesters often followed women from their cars to the door of the clinic, impersonating the unborn “baby” and crying, “Please, mommy, let me stay, I’m so warm and comfortable in here.” I wasn’t aware of the vast and terrifying lists of abortion doctors and their locations, coded by color as to who was still practicing, who had been successfully chased from their practice, and who had been “aborted.” These last names were scrawled in a joyful, dripping red font, amid photos of the results of extremely late-term abortions. I discovered all of these things over the next five days, during which I constantly researched the procedure, its controversy, and the actions being taken on both sides of the issue. It was shocking, saddening, and scary – and I realized very quickly, and with a new and gut-wrenching kind of terror, that I was extremely lucky to even have abortion available as an option.
I had other lucky circumstances, as well. Firstly, I was in possession of sufficient funds to undergo the procedure. I was accompanied by a man who assured me that he would crawl through the window to get into the operating room if I needed him (despite the clinic’s policy that only patients were allowed in the back – I opted not to cause a scene), and I chose a doctor who had twenty years of experience, really wonderful and effective IV sedation, and a location hidden behind a hospital in a medical park that is not well-trodden by protesters. In fact, my boyfriend, the doctor and his staff were the only people I saw from the moment we got out of the car until the moment we got back in.
I was needlessly terrified of the abortion experience due to all of the horror stories online about intense physical pain and unending emotional trauma. However, I underwent none of that. My visit to the clinic was pain-free – the most painful part of the whole appointment was the finger-prick used to ascertain my blood type. The only thing I remember from the surgery is the vague sound of the vacuum, being walked to recovery, and crying – in relief – to the nurse there. My boyfriend drove me home; I took some ibuprofen and slept for the rest of the day. The next day I went to classes as normal, and then to work the day after that.
Far from being emotionally distraught over this, I think my decision was one of the best I’ve ever made, and one I am so, so grateful to have had the option to make. If I had not had that choice – a possibility which pro-lifers are trying, hard, to make a reality – I would have had to give up my body for nine months, spend it exhausted and nauseated, performing poorly at or perhaps eventually suspending my attendance to school and work, all over a pretty common accident between responsible adults. After those nine months were over, I’d have been left with an impossible decision. I could either keep the child, who I’m sure I would have grown to love during gestation, and give up my promising future, or send him or her off to possibly never be seen again, to become an ever-present mystery in my life, to be another foster child who may or may not have been easily and quickly adopted, whose circumstances may have been good or bad. As it stands, I avoided even gaining more than five pounds, and the fetus I aborted never became a child, never had to grow up with too-young parents who were financially and emotionally unprepared for it. It never had to know it was unwanted or an accident.
Women need the support and trust of the people in this country – we must secure the ability to make this life-saving decision. It’s one that keeps children from being born into and raised in insufficient and unfair socioeconomic situations, one that is twenty times safer than childbirth, one that saves women from the emotional burden of an unnecessary nine-month attachment to bring another child into a world where there are already many waiting to be adopted. While the recent decision inMississippiis a wonderful (albeit, in my opinion, a bit of a surprising) one, this fight is not over. The pro-life movement is alive and well, and further life-at-conception amendments will be on the ballet on inFlorida,OhioandMontananext year. These measures, if passed, would not only restrict abortion rights, but also many forms of birth control, including hormonal birth control – that is, “the pill” – by defining a fertilized egg, a phenomenon which is naturally passed or aborted on a regular basis, as a person with rights. In a country founded on the separation of church and state, the Bible cannot be the bottom line on the future of my uterus. We cannot allow women to be forced into a life-changing and health-compromising bodily state due simply to an accident – or even a conscious decision. We cannot take away the hormonal birth control that has changed the topography of our collective sexual and general health for decades. We must continue the precedent set inMississippi: we must band together to support the rights of women to choose the future of their own bodies.