Today is a day of celebration. On January 22nd, 1973 the Supreme Court handed down a decision that would change the course of reproductive rights; access to safe abortions in the United States was legal thanks to Roe v. Wade. So today is a day of celebration for the millions of women who are alive, healthy, and able to live their lives the way they see fit without the damage of an unintended and sometimes unwanted pregnancy.
Today I am celebrating a few more things. I am celebrating the fact that I can continue on going to school without yet another interruption. I am celebrating the fact that my partner is not going to have his life derailed by having a child he is unable to care for. I am celebrating the fact that I do not have to navigate the inherent dangers of a high-risk pregnancy (because of my lung, and because of my mental illnesses). I am celebrating that I had access to a safe, empathetic, and reasonably low-cost abortion.
Let me be clear here, I am not celebrating the fact that I had an abortion, rather the fact that I had access to one when it was needed.
The first time it crossed my mind that I was pregnant was when my mom mentioned that my face looked like it was breaking out. I typically have pretty clear skin, but I just shrugged it off as stress. That evening, when I took off my bra, I noticed that my breasts were incredibly sore, and remembered they had been for quite a while. I chalked that and the acne up to my period (which was taking its damn sweet time arriving). Admittedly, I had a Mirena IUD (Intrauterine Device), which has the side effect of irregular periods, so I wasn’t terribly concerned. The fatal blow came as a result of a questionable cobbler. A cobbler that made multiple people in my house sick, but laid me out for multiple days. Add that to the breasts, the acne, and the newly noticed amazing sense of smell, and I was pretty certain. So I did what any self-respecting person would do. I peed on a stick.
Even before talking with my partner, I knew what my plan was. I had just gotten an apartment after being homeless for some time, I was finally back in school. I made the decision that I was going to get an abortion. Luckily, my partner was on the same page, as he was not in a place in his life where having a child was an option. Beyond all of this, continuing a pregnancy meant that I would have needed to stop all of my psych medications-thus putting me at a dangerous risk due to my mental illnesses. I also have one lung, which would require a specialist, and no insurance to pay for said specialist. In addition, I also had a Mirena so there was no way of knowing until I saw the doctor whether or not I had a dangerous ectopic pregnancy.
The state of Pennsylvania requires a 24 hour waiting period after having seen an informational video before getting an abortion. The video discussed how there were other options than abortion, it talked about adoption, and the programs available to women who chose to raise children. I mean this wholeheartedly that I felt very informed about Pennsylvania’s available options to women after having watched it. However, it didn’t change my decision.
I am lucky enough that my job allows me to work from home and, for the most part, set my own hours. I was also lucky that I only had to wait a few days. I found out I was pregnant on a Friday and managed to get an appointment to see the “informational video” the same day. My abortion was scheduled for the following Wednesday. It was only a five-day wait, but I have to admit it was a little overwhelming. By the day of the appointment, I was definitely having some reservations. My reservations, however, were not surrounding whether or not to get the abortion. My reservations were about the fact that it was going to hurt like hell, and I was scared about the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy.
The day of my appointment I went in with my partner and my best friend. There were only two people protesting outside of the clinic (oddly enough, both men). There were also two vest-wearing escorts out front to make sure we weren’t harassed on the way in. I was only allowed one person at a time in the surgical area’s waiting space, so my partner and my best friend swapped out a few times before I went in. It was all very civil, I had a bit of paperwork to attend to, and then I had to pay. I was given a price that was amazingly affordable ($262), and as my partner had offered to pay, it made me feel far less guilty knowing that he wouldn’t be financially ruined in the process. Every person that I interacted with was so kind and empathetic. They recognized that every person who comes in for abortion has an individual experience and it’s important to note that they do good workin in making people feel supported.
They took me back, gave me an antibiotic and I took my personal xanax. I was then brought to a room where I hopped up with my ass to the edge of the chair, and my feet in the stirrups just like I had done dozens of times at regular gynecology appointments. They did an ultrasound and asked if I’d like to see the 6 week and 6 day old jellybean. I said yes, for the same reason I have a photo of my lung framed on my wall. Admittedly, I don’t remember much after this point. I had someone come in and hold my hand, and I put my headphones in and laid back. It felt pretty similar to a pap smear in a lot of ways, and vastly different in others. I felt a lot of pain, and a bit of suction (I had a suction abortion). The entire process hurt enough that I was crying, but my hand holder was so great at talking with me and helping me breathe through it. Then in what felt like 5 minutes (my partner says the entire visit from entrance to exit was about 2 hours), it was done. I was lead to the recovery room, given a Tylenol and told to wait for a bit. In spite of the hand holder, the love from my best friend(s), and the love of my partner, I’ve never felt more alone. You are alone in there. You are alone, relying on your strength, and your grit, and just yourself. It is equally the most terrifying and liberating sensation to know in that moment that you can do anything on your own.
I remember that first day I was in a LOT of pain. After my partner half-dialed the number for me (because I was too stubborn to admit I needed more pain medication), we had the doctors at the clinic call in stronger pain medication. I should tell my partner thanks because that extra pain medication was an absolute blessing, especially when things ramped up on days 3-5. There are a few things I wish I had done before I had my abortion. I wish I had made sure my shampoo and conditioner were full, I ran out before my first post-abortion shower, which sucked. I wish my heating pad were extra long, or that I had a heated blanket. It would’ve been nice to wrap around me a bit more. I wish I had purchased flushable wipes. Yes, I know they’re bad for the environment and all, but god it would’ve been so much nicer since I couldn’t wear a tampon, and I hated sitting in a scene from a horror film all day. I wish I had purchased pads in multiple sizes- or a pack of panties I could’ve just chucked out. I wish I’d had more chocolate. I wish someone had told me that I might want to fuck my partner two days after the abortion- and that I shouldn’t feel guilty for that.
I wish someone had told me that I would resent the situation. I would resent being put in a position where my birth control failed and I needed to get an abortion. I wish someone had told me that it would still be hard. That just because I was making the right choice, doesn’t me that it wasn’t a hard choice. It was hard to come to terms with the fact that I had done the responsible thing. I had used the most effective birth control method on the market, and still, I had gotten pregnant. I wish someone told me that I would feel guilty that I didn’t feel guilty. I wish someone had told me that just because I was making the right choice, and I knew in my soul that this was the right choice, that it wouldn’t still be difficult. I wish that I didn’t feel the need to call my parents and tell them that I was getting an abortion as though I needed their permission or forgiveness. I wish I trusted my parents enough to know that they would love me and trust me enough to not judge my decisions. I wish I didn’t feel as though I had to apologize for, defend, or feel guilty for a choice that was necessary.
Of all the conversations I had with people, only a couple asked me about my choice. Only a couple asked me if I really felt the need for an abortion, and if adoption was an option. On one hand, I was so annoyed when that happened. On the other, it made me more sure of my choice. Admittedly, I fall into the category of “acceptable” abortions, because a pregnancy would have put my life in danger. But even if I had two lungs, and no psychiatric disorders, and it was just a pill that failed, I would still have gotten an abortion. I do not want children currently. I am not in a place where I could responsibly care for or provide for a child. Even if I had taken my dad up on the offer to have the baby and have him raise it until I was financially able to take care of a kid, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t want to put a child through knowing that I didn’t want them.
I want to be clear that the fact that I had an abortion does not mean that I don’t want children in the future. I want children, multiple children. I want my children to never worry about being homeless, or if there’s food on the table. I want my children to know they are loved and wanted because their parent(s – no need to assume that I’ll have a partner with me) were able to put steps in place to ensure their happiness and success. I want to be able to give my children my time and energy. I want to give them access to as many resources as possible so they can succeed in whatever path they take. I want to give my future children what all parents want: to give their children the best life they can.
Were abortions illegal, or hard to come across in my state, I would definitely have sought out another option, whether it was hopping the border or finding an illegally practicing physician in the US. That is a privilege I have. Knowing that I would have another option, another way to access an abortion is a privilege.
So today I am celebrating the fact that I was able to have a safe, effective, and legal abortion. I am celebrating my future, my partner’s future, and my future children. I am celebrating the choice I made and the fact that I was able to make that choice.
I do not for one second regret my choice. I will not apologize for my choice. I will not be ashamed or made to feel guilty for my choice. I will not be silent about my choice. I will shout my abortion. I will fight like hell to keep access to abortions legal. I will fight to be a space for YOU to share your abortions. I will fight to be your escort, your friend, your driver, your safe space for your abortion (or any other reproductive choice you make)!
We will not go back to douching with lye, throwing ourselves down stairs, or impaling ourselves with knitting needles. We will not go back to the wire hanger.
We. Will. Not. Go. Back.