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I Chose an Abortion

I Chose an Abortion

I had an abortion when I was 19.

Why is it hard to say that? Why did I spend time worrying over whether to share that otherwise mundane information about myself? Does anyone waver over whether to admit they had a root canal or gallbladder surgery? Why do I feel like I need to explain “my reasons” as if having this medical procedure casts a shadow over my character?

You know a woman who’s had an abortion. Roughly a quarter of women will have an abortion by age 46. More women have abortions than wear contact lenses. Every year about 18% of pregnancies are terminated.

When have you heard one of those women discuss their experiences casually, in public, without fear? When have you seen abortion depicted honestly in art or media? Why are women’s experiences with safe, effective abortion off-limits in public discourse?

Silence is a weapon. Breaking that weapon is essential to gaining freedom in this culture. I had an abortion. It was a decision that improved my life. Women’s freedom to make that choice improves the lives of people who will never need an abortion, who will choose not to have one, or who will never face that choice. I will fight to make sure that choice remains available for all women. The right to an abortion is the right to healthcare. In other words, the right to abortion is the right to be fully human.

No, I didn’t terminate anyone’s life, any more a man terminates a life when he masturbates in the shower. Let’s not kid ourselves. No one who has actually held a newborn in their arms is under any illusion about when life begins. A plus sign on a pregnancy test is not a life, it’s a possibility.

The beginning of life is a bright, unambiguous line marked in blood, sweat and pain. Lots and lots of pain. And often physical damage, sometimes permanent, accompanied by a serious risk of death to both mother and child. All the ambiguity over when life begins is manufactured for political purposes. No one who’s tried to poop for the first time after being sewn back up from a birth is uncertain when life begins.

The same religious institution that politicized abortion also insists that any male ejaculation that’s “wasted” is a grave sin, a destruction of potential life. Yet Texas isn’t banning masturbation. Sperm cells are alive. An ovum is absolutely alive. Every sperm or ovum contains the genetic material that might have constructed a person. Every single healthy ovum or sperm is a potential person, just like every single healthy zygote, embryo or fetus. We all know when life actually begins.

If the abortion debate was really about “life” then the lives of mothers would matter. About 800 American women die each year in childbirth, a rate of maternal death worse than many developing countries. Two or three women die every year from complications of an abortion, because abortion is vastly safer than childbirth.

Spare me your judgmental religious concerns. Your Bible, all thousand-plus pages of it, says not one word about banning abortion, a practice as old as childbirth. It does include a story in which God murders a man for “wasting his seed.” So come back to me when you’re ready to legislate men’s sexuality too. It’ll still be wrong, but at least it will be fair.

How would you feel if your government banned blood transfusions, beer, driving on Sunday or bacon? Mullahs should not be allowed to govern, regardless which holy book they’re abusing. Abortion bans aren’t about religious devotion, they are about power. A culture in which a woman is banned from obtaining essential reproductive care is a culture in which women are not fully human, but a host organism available for abuse and exploitation by others.

We’re only having this abortion debate because women are second-class citizens in our democracy. Having a voice is a key to power. One of the boldest steps toward equality taken by LGBTQ people in the late 20th century was to publicly “come out,” defying the abuse that would follow. While that step attracted terrible persecution, it also woke potential allies; friends and family around them who had been unaware of their experiences. Courageously sharing their stories confronted the broader culture with a moral choice.

Silence is a weapon. We break that weapon with our voice.

There are many more women who’ve had abortions as there are LGBTQ Americans. Following the lead of our brave brothers and sisters could have incredible power. They risked their careers, their families and even their lives to speak honestly about themselves. Many women today, especially white women, enjoy protection that LGBTQ Americans couldn’t count on. Our voices are stronger than we realize.

Break the weapon of silence.

I had an abortion when I was nineteen. I was a college student in a loving and monogamous relationship that lasted over a year. When the condom broke, I didn’t think much about it. Until I did.

I knew we weren’t ready to be parents. We were too young, we didn’t even have enough money for an abortion, much less a baby. His mother paid the $250, and we never told his father or my parents until much later.

I was scared, and it was awful. When it was over I just felt relief. Unfortunately, a few hours later I also felt sick. I was vomiting, and couldn’t stop, even after there was nothing left in my stomach. I could barely walk to the bathroom. Alone in my home, afraid to tell people why I was ill, I asked him to come over and help me get through it. He was living at home with his parents, and his father told him he couldn’t come. I don’t remember why. But I do remember thinking this- if you still have to ask daddy’s permission, you are not ready to be a parent.

Finally, I gave in and called someone else. A few days later I was ok, and I was certain that I had made the right decision.

I can’t imagine how my life would have turned out if another person or entity forced me to continue with that pregnancy. After the abortion he took me home and didn’t come back. He could just walk away, which hints at what would have happened if I hadn’t had the abortion. That’s a choice only men get to make. I would have ended up a poor, single, uneducated and unprepared teenage parent, relying on a government safety net that the “pro-life” crowd works so hard to remove.

Fast forward a decade, marred to a wonderful man, I had my first baby boy. He was wanted, he was loved, and we were ready. Four years, two miscarriages and a twin ectopic pregnancy later, we had our second child. But without adequate health care (emergency surgery), that ectopic pregnancy at 7 1/2 weeks could have changed our family story.

Instead of gaining a sibling, my baby could have lost his mother. Instead of a twenty four year marriage with two grown children and a lifetime of happy memories, I could have left my husband and son alone. How is it right that the women who often bear the burden during pregnancy, aren’t allowed to make our own decisions about it? If we are supposed to be capable of parenting another person, shouldn’t we be able to parent ourselves?

I had an abortion. It was the most important decision I ever made, and it changed the course of my life. I am both grateful and lucky that choice was available to me. I will fight to ensure it remains available to others.

12 Comments

  1. “ Silence is a weapon. We break that weapon with our voice.”

    That is an excellent point. A significant number of women have had abortions. You shared something very personal, which ought to be nobody’s else’s business but yours. But we’re very far from what ought to be. When we don’t hear such stories it’s very easy to deny how often it happens and how complicated it is. So thank you for choosing to share something so private.

    On the topic of ectopic pregnancy, the extremists are so emboldened that some of them dare to advance the argument of giving ectopic pregnancies “a chance”. That is even more ignorant and insane than taking horse paste for Covid.

  2. We were married for about 5 months and there was no way we could raise a baby when we were both shovel bums who worked in the dirt all day. (The pay wasn’t much more than dirt either.) 3 years later when I had a job with medical coverage, our daughter was born and 5 years after that our son. Both presented challenges which we were able to meet and they are now productive adults. Without the abortion there would have been no such happy ending.

  3. Krista, thank you. For your honesty and your anger. Both are justified. No one is pro -abortion, but we should all be pro-choice, and, we should respect the right of women to make their own decisions about their bodies. I hope to be able to join a Women’s March when in Houston. It’s important that old and young alike stand together in opposition to this abominable Texas law. Thank you for sharing your story.

  4. Thank you. The point about LGBTQ people choosing to take the slings and arrows coming out with more allies after they had weathered the storm is a super salient one. If women choose to take the same tactic, abortion will be legal, not through court rulings, but through passed legislation in all 50 states this century, hopefully sooner.

  5. It really sucks that circumstances brought readers if this blog to “meet” you through this story instead of better times, but I appreciate your openness and vulnerability.

    To me I am curious about what paths activists have to challenging this. I think more women being open about abortions is one.

    I also think investigative reporters weaponizing the bounty is a strong one. The state of Texas claims they’ll give $10,000 to anybody who gives information regarding people who have aided in an abortion.

    86 Republicans voted for this law. From a group of that size there has to be more than a half-dozen who are sleeping around with someone outside their marriage. From that more than half dozen are likely a couple-three abortions… Or will be.

    (Not to mention abortions fily members of theirs may procure with or without their knowledge)

    I feel like the Texas legislature just incentivized investigative journalists to look into their personal lives. Even if abortions are not found, in the process other things should be.

    I just don’t think it’s a good idea to incentivize extrajudicial snitching in the first place: you’re just asking for people to start digging into each other’s secrets. Tying that into abortion is setting up yourself to learn very dark things about your family and colleagues.

    I only hope progressive activists and left leaning journalists see the same opportunity I do. Half the legislators could have a lot to answer to in a year or less if anyone with the resources and time choose to direct it in that manner.

  6. Speak out, come out,and vote early and often. This may not be enough. The state of Texas has outsourced clearly unconstitutional acts to vigilantes who are empowered to sue and bankrupt anyone who helps a woman in the slightest and cursory way to get an abortion. This is about isolating women from society and ultimately from each other. Networks of informers, vigilantes, and bounty hunters to harass women by destroying their social networks. It is truly diabolical and must be opposed at all costs without counting the costs. Otherwise we are nothing more than a Nazi Germany, a Soviet Union, a North Korea at it’s very worst. It becomes impossible to have a society.

  7. I am not aware of anyone that I know that had an abortion but still fully support a woman’s right to choice.

    I agree with Stephen – outlawing abortion is solely about white conservative men controlling women as these men are outraged that women demand (and should receive) equal rights in society. They also see it as as an opportunity to get the rubes to flock to the ballot box to vote GOP because the rubes would not vote GOP if the Republican Party instead highlighted their economic policies.

    Anyone who believes the pro-life movement cares about life is beyond foolish. If they did, the pro-life movement would make darn sure that people received the best and most affordable healthcare and education possible from cradle to grave. Instead, look what side these same people were on when Obamacare became law. And don’t get me started about how these same folks are anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers. Pro life? You must be kidding.

    I don’t think the GOP will finally be destroyed by this. We only have two major parties and people get tired of the in-party or the in-party makes mistakes so the GOP will always have a chance to win.

    That having been said, I aways think about the dual between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader on the Death Star in Star Wars when I think about abortion being criminalized in this country. Recall what Obi-Wan said to Darth Vader: “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

    People need to remember that and actually utilize the power they are about to receive at the ballot box.

    1. I remember a conversation with a lab mate back when I was in my 20s. She was of the opinion that pro-life was 100% about controlling women. I was willing to cut some slack; surely some people were convinced that personhood started with a fertilized egg and acting on their consciences. I personally don’t, but I am well versed in the scientific arguments for and against drawing that line at the various developmental stages. In the end it’s subjective.

      Also in those days there was a “common ground” movement, where pro-life and pro-choice could cooperate on the idea that less abortions from less unwanted pregnancies or more support for mothers and children was a goal to work towards.

      These days I think that while there certainty may still be those in the pro-life movement acting on personal conscience, they are a minority and they are definitely not driving. The horrific laws that GOP state legislatures keep passing, along with cuts to the safety net make that obvious. The disgusting political Devil’s bargain they made in 2016 makes it clear that there is no more common ground, and they cannot be trusted. They got their RW SCOTUS, but at what cost? An unfit, ignorant sociopath not only bungled the response to a deadly pandemic (that we were warned would eventually happen), he lied about it and so actively undermined the response that even with science doing its job and producing vaccines, we still can’t move past this pandemic. Over 640,00 dead, most of those preventable, and likely badly undercounted. Millions who have the possibility of disability due to long Covid. Millions facing financial disaster because the economy will not completely recover until we get herd immunity. Add to that the fact that the crybaby sore loser continues to poison the foundations of our republic with his lies about election fraud, and the GOP would rather try to hobble Biden than deal with the pandemic and infrastructure and the increase in natural disasters. This is what you helped cause.

  8. I know women in my family who have had an abortion. They do not know I know. Figured if they want to tell me they would. So I mind my own business. The only role the state should have is to provide birth control , adoption services and a strong safety net so women would more likely not want or need an abortion.

    I am older now and know of women who without abortion would of died and left living children orphans. Sometimes life gives us cruddy choices. Fiercely against abortion in my youth now as a senior, wiser and pro choice. That is not pro abortion btw. If we allow abortions it should be mom and her doctor having the say not the government.

    This issue cuts across political parties , races and wealth . Maybe this is what finally destroys the Republican Party. I agree this is not about pro life , else the concern would last longer than birth. But control of a group of people by another group of people. As a man with a wife, two daughters and 2 grand daughters I do not understand this desire to control women. All of them would not choose abortion unless for a medical reason but are very angry at some fat old rich white dude politician telling them what to do with their bodies. They are hardly alone with that anger. That I think is going to get women who out number men motivated to get to the polls next election to express that anger by voting the offending politicians out.

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