On any given Wednesday morning, you may find Meghan Seawell sitting at her desk, in her cubicle. A content strategist for a finance company, every day she faces a poster from that group vacation she attended a couple years ago. She keeps small post-its here and there, to remind herself of things she heard or thought. On any given Wednesday night, you may find her getting ready to “hit an open mic” at a bar around San Diego, eager to entertain a crowd with her jokes. On any given Wednesday, but not that Wednesday.
On June 1, 2016, Seawell entered a grey-walled building. Young-adult women waited for their turn to see a nurse or a doctor. Each of them was there for different reasons, but they all shared a tired look, says Seawell. “It was a pill. It was unpleasant. I got ill from it,” she says of her abortion. “But then I was fine.”
Meghan Seawell defines herself as a feminist, a writer, a stand-up comedian, vegan and “queer.” She says having children was never part of her plans, but adoption is not out of the question. She never had doubts abortion was the right choice for her.
“It was a weird thing. . . I remember the stain on the carpet,” she says, eyes on her tea-filled cup, a song by Ray LaMontagne, or “white-boy sad music” – as she calls it – in the air. “It was dehumanizing,” she adds. “You feel like a kid the way they treat you. . . I don’t think about it too often.” She explains that she “only had feelings about it when I was in the hormonal stage.”
In 2014, two years before Seawell ended her pregnancy, the abortion rate was the lowest rate ever observed in the United States, the Guttmacher Institute reports. In 1973, when abortion became legal, the rate was 16.1 percent. In 2014, it was down to 14.6 percent. In the year 2000, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone, also known as the abortion pill. The medication works by emptying the uterus through bleeding and causing a process that is similar to an early miscarriage, according to Planned Parenthood. “In 2014, medication abortion, which can be taken up to 10 weeks’ gestation, accounted for 31 percent of all nonhospital abortions,” the Guttmacher Institute says.
Seawell arrived in San Diego on the night of Halloween. It was 2014. She drove from Minneapolis after a summer that revolutionized her life. She had recently divorced, and she had lost her job at the same time. “My diet consisted of vodka and ramen,” she says reminiscing about her past. “I decided I was going to be an artist. It was a very weird summer, a bizarre experience,” she continues. “I was a hostess at a pub, and I had this weird view of what it means to be ‘middleclass’.”
It was during that summer, which she had spent hanging out at different comedy clubs, that she decided to leave Minnesota. Suddenly, a job offer popped out of San Diego. She took the job. She kept doing comedy. She tried comedy for the first time when she was 23. “Looking back, it was really cool, but I just kinda stopped going [to clubs],” she says. “Comedy is serving a purpose and timing and self-preservation. It helps me deal with failure. . . So I will probably keep doing that. But I don’t see myself as being a famous comedian. I see myself as being a producer of art - of media - and an author.”
Ultimately, however, Seawell says everything about her is political. Therefore, she is now trying to mix politics with her ever-evolving comedic style. “I started like anyone,” she says about her beginnings. “I think a lot of us start talking about sex and shock-value things. Things you can say that get a reaction from the audience, just hackney stuff,” she says. ”It is taking me a long time to evolve away from that kind of ‘sex-focused’ [comedy]. Where I really want to be is talking about things that are more important to me.”
Her strong political stances, along with her life choices, have caused problems with her family. “It makes me sad in a way. One of the hardest things about activism is when you start seeing racism and misogyny in your own family,” she says as her smile dissolves into seriousness. After an argument with her father about police brutality, their relationship changed. She has not talked to him in months.
If her family does not share all of her views, may these be about reproductive rights or other issues, neither do other self-referred feminists. Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, President and founder of New Wave Feminists, says that the “oppression women have felt for most of history” should not “be passed down to the unborn person.”
Jessa Ellis, a behavioral aide based out of San Diego, believes feminism should be about equality, but she does not agree with abortion. “I do believe that there is not a difference between a fertilized egg and a newborn child. I do understand, though, that some situations lead to horrific choices,” she says. “But as a form of birth control, an ‘I willingly chose to have sex and got pregnant and don't want to be,’ I don't agree with.”
Ellis got pregnant at 17. “I should have made better choices before I got pregnant. My daughter could have had down syndrome. It was a false positive on a prenatal test. But she would have still had the most beautiful smile.”
Seawell says “it is hard with pro-life [people]. . . They believe in their heart this is a human life that needs saving.” Her expression becomes serious again. Her eyes are wide open. “But [when you are pregnant] your whole body grows in weird ways . . . and if you didn’t want to be pregnant, people would still come up to you and ask you about it,” she says. “Then there is this whole rape problem because people don’t believe women.” Her mouth reveals a smile again, “I have this theory that the GOP wants everybody to be gay.”
Seawell had resources and access to healthcare. She had the option of having a safe abortion in the town where she lived, she says. But she does not feel the same is true for everybody. That is why reproductive rights, including access to birth control, are so important to her. “I am always going to be OK. I have enough money . . . but if you are waitress in the middle of Texas, what are you going to do for wages? You can’t serve people anymore. What are you going to do when you are taking care of a child, or two, or three.”
As of Jan. 1, 2017, half of the states have imposed at least one abortion restriction, the Guttmacher Institute reports. Regulations vary from mandated counseling with the purpose of dissuading a woman from interrupting her pregnancy to mandated waiting period before an abortion. On Jan. 23, President Trump reinstated the “Global Gag Rule.” Consequently, non-governmental organizations overseas are not allowed to use federal funding to advocate or provide abortion.
“I don’t know how we are going backwards at this point in history,” Seawell says, “I am scared.”
Now, Seawell is working on a book of essays and on a screenplay, she says with enthusiasm. She has a podcast with her friend Lis. “Everybody wants to start a podcast,” she says laughingly. “I wanted to create more than I was creating. I wanted people to be aware of this generation of women who are following a different path.” Setting an example for other women is the final goal. Her mom, “a typical mid-western woman,” is one of her biggest fans, and “it warms my heart,” she says. “But, we will also talk to men if they come by,” she concludes with a satisfied look.