It is incredibly easy for people to discuss women’s bodies without considering women’s lives, to debate hypothetical scenarios without putting a name or a face to on their debate. I am not an abstraction. This is my story.
When most women find out they’re pregnant, they get parties and Hallmark moments. Me? Well, I never thought I’d be holding a positive pregnancy test — but there I was, by myself in a grocery store bathroom. I suppose I got more of the Lifetime Movie outcome.
The first step was remembering who I was, and that I had to get out of the bathroom. That took about an hour. The next step was walking out of the store without revealing the total haze I was in to the world. I thought the best way to do it was by acting as confident as possible — like I was on top of the world, like I was the saucy new member of Ocean’s Eleven.
Not a college student who found out she was pregnant in a grocery story bathroom.
When I finally got out of the store, the only thing I knew to do was to reach out to peers. I knew nothing of what I was about to face.
The responses I got for the next 48 hours included:
“Take a deep breath. You can do this. It’s scary right now, but you’re going to be a great mom.” “You have a life inside of you now.” “You’re going to have the baby right? Because you know that I’m against abortion.” “Did you know that I’m against abortion?” “What are you going to do?” “Who’s the father?” What does he want to do?”
And then I got this one: “Wait, you’re actually considering an abortion? That doesn’t sound like you.” You see how negatively this option is perceived?
I’m not here to call people out, or criticize them for how they handled my pregnancy.
But I am here to share my story and tell you that not only do people not openly talk about abortion, they don’t even consider it an option. Not even in our nation’s capital.
Not everyone I talked to was against abortion in general, but they sure did not like the idea of me getting one. Abortion was a dark cloud as far as everyone was concerned. Abortion was Voldemort — just saying the word made me feel like I was summoning the Dark Lord himself.
I don’t think that was the intention of my peers, but when society does not openly talk about abortion as a viable option, how were my friends supposed to understand an abortion might be a viable option for me?
I am the type of person that needs reassurance. It’s like medicine. I’ve always had a horrible time making decisions without someone standing behind me like a soccer coach yelling, “Yeah Jenn, good choice! Keep it up!” *blows whistle.*
But this decision was different. I had a horrible gut feeling that what everyone was saying to me was wrong. I knew I had to stop listening. I needed to clear my head and figure out what I wanted.
I took the Simon and Garfunkel CD out of the car that I had been sulking to all week and replaced it with Genesis.
I drove to a local Planned Parenthood to get more information from a gynecologist. I had the most amazing experience — I’m not kidding. This doctor was calm, rational, and non-judgmental. She was the first person to assure me that abortion was a legitimate option.
I do suffer from anxiety, so I really needed to know what the best option was for me mentally and physically. After discussing the options, I realized an abortion would be difficult — but it would have the least amount of impact on my body and my life.
At the clinic, I decided to terminate the pregnancy with medication. The doctors give you one pill at the clinic, which stops the fetus from developing, and another that you take at home, which releases it from your uterus. It’s very similar to having a heavy period (but you’ll probably watch even more episodes of Friends, experience cramps from hell, and tear up at more commercials than you’re used to).
As I listened to all of the instructions the doctor was giving me, I suddenly panicked. I had never heard of anyone going through this before. I felt so alone. I felt so dirty. I felt so scared. I kept thinking, “What will happen to me after I do this?”
I left the clinic in a panic without taking the medication. I was so upset with myself for leaving: I definitely didn’t want to go through with the pregnancy, but I was scared to go through with the abortion alone. I decided to reach out to a family friend who has always been an incredible source of wisdom in my life. Until then, I did not know she had had an abortion at my age. I’ll never forget what she told me:
That was it. That was what I needed to hear.
The next day, I went to the clinic by myself, and I took the pill. What came after involved a lot of pain, and a lot of grief.
But one thing that did not come after was regret.
If I had to go back in time, I would make the same decision all over again. When you do look back, you need to remember that it was the right decision for you at the time you made it. In the present, the most important time in your life.
I want everyone to know, that it is okay to let yourself grieve and feel emotions for this process. There is honestly no easy option when you find out that you’re pregnant. It’s going to be a big bag of feelings no matter which path you choose — you just have to find the path that you’re willing to tread. This spring will mark two years since I’ve had it done, and I can tell you that I’ve made some incredible friends who have had abortions, accepted mine, and were even happy to hear about my experience.
I’ve had several women tell me that they’re so relieved to hear me openly talk about my abortion, because it gives them hope that they could get through something like this too.
Even those of us who praise women having the right to choose, how often do we talk about the actual choice of having an abortion? Do we all know the different kinds of abortions? Do we know their symptoms and how they compare to giving birth? (Abortion is safer than childbirth.)
There’s something that I want to emphasize the most here: Overall, getting pregnant as a college student was a traumatizing process for me — but it’s not for the reasons you might think. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I knew I did not want to go through with the pregnancy.
The trauma came from the isolation and sense of shame that other people projected on to me while I decided to get an abortion.
So why am I sharing this?
I’m not sharing my personal story in order to explain myself to anyone. There are particular people and parts of the story that will stay sacred with me forever. But I do feel the need to share my experience because we need these stories more than ever. Donald Trump was only elected President barely two months ago. He has not even assumed office yet. Already, abortion rights are under attack.
Yesterday, House Speaker Paul Ryan stated that the Republicans plan to completely defund Planned Parenthood — the very clinic that helped me.
Texas has approved a rule that requires the burial of fetal remains after an abortion, and the Ohio legislature passed a bill that could ban abortion as early as 6 weeks (just so you have a frame of reference, my pregnancy test BARELY registered as positive, and I was 5 weeks pregnant). While Ohio Governor John Kasich vetoed that bill, he signed another that banned an abortion at 20 weeks into law.
With Donald Trump in office, and Republicans holding the majority of seats in the House of Representatives and in the Senate, abortion rights are at a serious risk. We are witnessing that first hand right now.
While it is crucial to donate to Planned Parenthood, we also need to keep talking about reproductive rights in our fight for women’s health.
We need to educate people about abortions. About everything: the procedure, the symptoms, the cost, and, most importantly, about the people who get them. Women deserve to be able to make a choice about their bodies, their lives, and their futures without feeling wrong, immoral, dirty, and guilty. Women deserve to make a choice, period. Abortions should be an easily accessible medical procedure that comes without judgment.
I realize that two years ago I had an incredibly difficult decision to make — but honestly, I just feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to make a decision. To women out there who have had to make any choice or faced any outcome from a pregnancy, you’re not alone, and you’re strong as hell, because you’re facing a battle that’s much bigger than yourself.
Let’s keep reminding women and girls everywhere that they deserve to have options, too.