I had an abortion. Yes, I did just share that in public. I had no intention of sharing it publicly, but with all that is happening right now, I feel I no longer have a choice. I feel it is my duty to begin to speak out and talk about it in order to protect other women’s rights.
“One of the main reasons I didn’t talk about my abortion for so long was that I was afraid I would be shamed for it.”
This is not a piece in which I pit pro-choice against pro-life. Just as I have the right to choose what is right for me, I believe pro-lifers have that same right. However, I also feel that if one is pro-life, they should be able to make that decision for themselves, and themselves only. Please do not place your values and choices on myself or others. Don’t have an abortion if you’re against it. Allow others their right to their bodies.
My abortion was many years ago. I was in a monogamous relationship. I was on birth control. Believe it or not, I even took the morning after pill.
I still got pregnant.
Accidents happen sometimes, despite precautions.
Ever since my mid-20s, I knew I didn’t want children of my own. My reasons are personal, and I’m clear they are right for me. I love children. I just don’t want biological children of my own.
My boyfriend at the time didn’t either.
I knew what the best decision was, what was best for my body and my emotional well-being. Luckily, this was a time when women had access to private, protected, and safe procedures. I had no fear about being punished because of the choice I was making.
I found out I was pregnant a lot sooner than most women do. The group of cells forming in my uterus were so small they couldn’t even be seen. My period was just late. I took a home pregnancy test and went promptly to my physician. My physician insisted I take a blood test to confirm what I already knew. Since I found out so early, I had to wait a few weeks until the group of cells was detectable via sonogram to even have the procedure.
Despite the fact that abortion was legal at the time, my gynecologist let me know they would not be able to perform it (They suggested I go to Planned Parenthood which is where I ended up having it). It wasn’t because they were unfamiliar with the procedure. It was because they feared there would be backlash if anyone found out. Again, this was a time when there was no threat of Planned Parenthood being defunded, or states proposing bills that would deny a woman an abortion after 6 weeks (at which point, by the way, most women don’t even know they’re pregnant yet).
During my waiting period, I was miserable. My body was doing things I didn’t want it to. I was getting sick often. I would have done anything to have made time go faster or get this tiny thing out of me. I cried a lot. Not because I was hormonal, but because I really, truly didn’t want to be a mom.
Finally, the group of cells growing inside me was the size of a fingernail. A tiny circle. I know this because I asked to look at it on the sonogram screen. There were no fingers, no toes, no head, no lungs, etc. … it was a round group of cells. It was fetal tissue.
I was cleared to have the procedure. Once it was over, I cannot tell you how relieved I felt. That feeling only confirmed what I already knew about myself: I had made the right decision for me.
As the fundamental right to control what we do with our bodies is attacked, I believe it is more critical now than ever for us to share our personal stories.
The more we share, whether in private or public, the more those with similar experiences will know they’re not alone. The more we put faces to the term, rather than being part of a number, a statistic, the more we make it a human issue. The more we share, the more we empower ourselves and others with our voices.
So here are five reasons it’s important to talk about abortion:
1. It’s more common than you think.
I’m not the only person I know who has had abortion. I personally know at least 15 other women who have. Odds are, you do, too.
Most people don’t talk about it. Women hide it, keep it a secret.
Society doesn’t want women to talk about it, either, but it’s very, very common. In 2013, according to the CDC, women had 200 abortions per 1,000 live births ― that’s 20%. Worldwide, 1/3 of pregnancies are unplanned. That’s right: one in three. While many of us take precautions to be safe, with those staggering numbers, one can see how common an unplanned pregnancy actually is.
2. Talking about it reduces shame.
One of the main reasons I didn’t talk about my abortion for so long was that I was afraid I would be shamed for it. Mind you, I didn’t and still don’t personally feel ashamed. Again, I did what was best for me. But I was afraid I would be told I was bad, a slut, or a terrible woman. There is a certain stigma that is attached to the word and medical procedure.
I’m not the only woman who has felt this fear. It’s palpable. Women are often afraid of being rejected, shamed, attacked, or reviled for a choice they are already struggling with themselves. Making the choice to have an abortion, despite it perhaps being the “right” one, is never an easy one. It can be an extremely emotional decision for many women, the effects of which can last for years.
Of the women I know who’ve had abortions, one was raped. One was married with a child; they were facing poverty and simply could not afford another child. One woman did want to have her child, but a few months into the pregnancy she found out that while her child would survive a live birth, due to medical complications it wouldn’t survive many days past that.
Every woman I knew had her reason. Each was valid and, more importantly, true for her. Each knew what was right for her body and life.
Let’s remember, too, that we did not get pregnant alone. There was someone else involved. Yet most times it is the woman who carries the burden of being shamed.
Together, we are stronger. We should not feel ashamed, or be shamed for our decisions.
3. Not every child gets adopted.
A common argument pro-life people use is adoption ― women shouldn’t have abortions because the babies could be adopted.
It is true that sometimes unwanted children are adopted (I have several friends who, if their birth parents had opted to have an abortion, would not be here. I am truly grateful for the choice that their parents made).
However, one shouldn’t kid themself into thinking adoption is an easy path. The process can be extremely difficult. Nor does every child get adopted. I feel particularly worried about those children that are born with special needs and have been given up. I feel concerned that they would be among those that would not be chosen to grow up in a loving home and would have to grow up in the system. Not only that, but any child who is given up can experience an emotional toll they carry for a lifetime.
I have friends who were given up for adoption and lived out their lives until 18 in the foster care system. I’ve heard the argument time and again that people don’t want their tax dollars to pay for a woman’s abortion. In the United States, a taxpayer’s money NEVER goes towards a woman’s abortion. She always pays out of her own pocket. I’d be very curious to know how those same taxpayers would feel about paying for all of those children that now live in foster care and did not get adopted. Are they willing to put their tax dollars there?
4. States are proposing bills to make it difficult to have access to safe abortions.
According to U.S. law, fetuses are not people. Despite that, our new president has said women should be punished if they have an abortion. The new VP has said the same. At the vice presidential debates, Pence said women should carry their unwanted babies to term “just in case” someone wants to adopt them. He also signed a bill in Indiana that included mandated mourning for these cells taken out of a woman’s body. That means the cells would be taken to a funeral home to be cremated or buried. Basically, he wants us to have a funeral for them.
In December, Ohio considered the Heartbeat Bill, which would make it illegal for any woman to have an abortion after 6 weeks of pregnancy (the majority of women have no idea they are pregnant at 6 weeks).
This same bill made no exception for a woman who was raped.
In Oklahoma, State Rep. Justin Humphrey referred to women as “hosts” as a way to justify an unconstitutional bill that would force women to get written permission from the man who got them pregnant before they could get an abortion.
These are just a few examples of the assault happening on women’s abortion rights right now. The more we keep quiet about having an abortion, the more these lawmakers will try and put laws into place that put everything and everyone before a woman.
5. Making abortions difficult or illegal does not stop them from happening.
According to statistics from the NIH, 68,000 women die annually worldwide from illegal abortions.
68,000 human beings.
Making abortion illegal or difficult to access doesn’t mean women won’t have them. It just forces women to go underground, back to the way it was.
They may go to someone who is unqualified to perform the procedure. They may go to someone who doesn’t use sterile equipment or will follow a woman for her important follow up care appointments. Women may resort to performing dangerous acts on themselves.
If women can’t get abortions safely, I can promise you the outcome will be horrific. Some will do anything to terminate their pregnancy ― unsafe things. They may harm their body without knowing that will be the outcome. They may do something that could end up causing a terrible, life-threatening infection.
They will find a way.
Some of these women are your loved ones. You may never even know about it. As stated, most people know at least one woman who has had an abortion and are not even aware of it. What if this was someone you loved? Really let that sink in. What if it was your wife, sister, mother, daughter, or friend? Would you want her life to be endangered because her right to control what happens to her very own body was being denied?
I was born in the 70s. I was born after women marched, spoke out, and advocated for women’s rights and the right to their own bodies.
I was born after Roe vs. Wade.
Until now, I had the luxury of not worrying about choice, because I had it. I was complacent. I thought these rights were mine and I wouldn’t have to worry about them being taken away ― for me or for generations to come.
Shame on me for thinking that. I learned my lesson.
I want and deserve the freedom to have choice over my body. I want that for all women, and men. I want all of us to have the right to make decisions about our own bodies. I had the luxury of a safe procedure, counseling, and aftercare. I had the luxury of getting an abortion without the fear of punishment.
With those currently in office, as well as what some states are now proposing, I fear that sometime in the near future, fetuses will become more important than the actual women whose bodies they are in. I fear our choice will be taken away.
Statistically speaking, most people know at least one woman who has had an abortion and aren’t even aware of it. People who are pro-life are absolutely entitled to their opinion. However, taking away others’ choice by making laws that punish them for doing what is best for their bodies scares the shit out of me.
No one should ever have a say over my body but me.
No one should have a say over your body but you.
With all that has been happening in the just a few short months, I now fear for my body.
I fear for all women’s bodies.
I feel sad. My heart hurts. I am scared and worried.
But I also feel extremely strong and empowered. I am a Jedi like my mother before me.
It’s now my turn. The torch has been passed to me and my generation. It’s our turn now to speak up and speak out. Our turn to let lawmakers know we will not tolerate this. We will not go back. This will not stand.
And it’s our turn to share our stories. Our turn to be the voice of our generation, as well as the next one. It’s our turn to be loud and not back down. It’s our responsibility to ensure we keep the right to our bodies. Our responsibility to ensure our children have the right to theirs.
I share this with you with some fear of being judged. However, if this helps just one person empower themself or to speak out, I made the right choice. If my story helps someone speak up for their body or for someone else’s, I made the right choice. I feel it is important to take these issues out of the headlines and put them on the front lines ― in our homes, our offices, with our families and friends. To share the depth of who we are and what has happened to us as a way of expanding our own humanity. And acting in solidarity with others.
If you don’t want to share your story, speak out, or be loud, honor yourself. Your gut is talking to you, and it’s OK. There are other wonderful ways to join the movement. Donate to Planned Parenthood or NARAL. Call your representatives, send letters, make signs, go to town hall meetings.
Keep at it.
I am confident in myself and the choices I make. For those of you who read this and judge me negatively, I am alright with that. In my heart I know we all deserve the same fair treatment no matter where we come from, what sex we are, what color skin we have, what religion we are, or what we choose to do with our own bodies.
I want to live in a country whose leaders embody those qualities and are examples of that. I want leaders who are examples of love, acceptance, and tolerance that we all as a country can follow.
If that means I have to be a leader, to share my story to show them the way, then count me in.