Generally I feel removed from government and politics. I do just enough (pay my student loans, serve jury duty, pay taxes) to keep my name clear so I’m free to live my life comfortably, quietly and mind my business. It’s a privilege that I’m able to exist this way. Each day there are new headlines pitting politicians against each other, articles citing collusion, and reports of some sub-group being mistreated or somehow having their rights stripped. I feel helpless beyond using my micro social media platforms to spread awareness in the form of a post, or donating to a trusted activist group. However, with the heightened tension around abortion rights right now, my small contribution doesn’t feel so insignificant—we all need to use our voices.
I had my first abortion in Philadelphia when I was 22 years old. It cost me $50 as a dependent under my mom’s health insurance (that meant I got to pocket the $800 my ‘baby daddy’ voluntarily gave me to cover the procedure). The clinic was on the edge of Chinatown. I remember walking past a couple silent protestors when I arrived to the facility for my morning appointment. They had no effect on me. I took the elevator to the seventh floor. As soon as the doors opened I was facing a window just a few feet away with a medical receptionist ready to hand me a clipboard.
Some women were there in the waiting room with their partners, some with their mothers. I went alone. I felt safe and I felt secure in my decision to end my pregnancy, which was less than 2 months along. I didn’t care for the emotional support of a companion. Almost as soon as I found out I was with child, I made the appointment to terminate my pregnancy. It was a no-brainer. In my mind I always knew I’d have an abortion if I were to get pregnant.
Before I could have the abortion I was required to speak to a mental health professional and go over things like my lifestyle and how I was feeling about everything. I was grateful for the free mini therapy session. I was equally grateful for the low cost of the termination. I was grateful for the accessibility.
There are two kinds of abortions a woman can get. The abortion pill induces a miscarriage over the course of several days. A woman can opt for this one in the early stages of pregnancy. The second kind of abortion is a surgical procedure that requires a doctor to manually remove the embryo from the uterus. Because I have low iron I needed to have the surgical method. It meant I would lose less blood.
I stayed awake for the duration of the surgery, which was less than ten minutes. I came out of the procedure feeling renewed, like I was me again and I was free to return to life as I knew it. A nurse escorted me to a dimly lit grayish recovery room lined with women on cots where I was given salt crackers and water. I had to stay there for maybe a half hour while my temperature was taken and I rested. After I was cleared to leave I felt good enough to ride the subway a few stops, then walk the rest of the way home. It was rainy and cool outside but the sun was shining in my restored peace of mind.
The entire process was simple from arranging the appointment to walking out the door post-operation. It’s what every woman deserves whether or not she chooses to carry a pregnancy to term—compassion, affordability, access. It’s what our government is trying to take away from women in our country.
In the abortion debate people bring up rape and incest as reasons to make exceptions to the bills which seek to make those administering or receiving an abortion guilty of a crime punishable by up to 99 years in prison in Alabama and Georgia (Missouri followed suit just this morning). A key note is being forgotten in this dialogue: it’s no one’s business why women choose to have an abortion. The obvious reason for ending our unplanned pregnancies is valid enough: we don’t want to be pregnant. And we reserve the right to choose if and when we change our minds.
We’re fighting to protect our abortion rights regardless of the many stories behind our pregnancies. I don’t believe the government will go far in its attempts to control women’s bodies by trying to overturn our previously established constitutional right, but I do think the more we collectively speak out against it the better.