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.