A Tale of Two Abortions

I’m sharing my abortion story to help reduce the stigma around this medical procedure (abortion is healthcare).

I’ve had two abortions in my life.

The first, at age 17, terminated an unwanted pregnancy. The second, at age 40, terminated a desperately wanted pregnancy.

I don’t regret either abortion, and both deserve legal protection.

I’m sharing my experience because I want to help remove the stigma associated with abortion. Christian extremists have effectively perpetuated a narrative that only poor, irresponsible, slutty, uneducated people need abortions.

That viewpoint has become so internalized and engrained, that many people who get abortions keep them secret out of fear of being judged and ridiculed for their actions. That fear is not irrational; that’s exactly what happens to many people who tell their abortion stories.

No one should have to discuss their private medical history with others, and I don’t expect that from others who have had abortions.

But I do hope more people who feel comfortable will share their abortion stories. Putting more faces to this routine procedure may help humanize and personalize the experience for those who still hold onto harmful misconceptions.

 

My first abortion

I found out I was pregnant in January of 1993, a month before my 18th birthday. How I got pregnant doesn’t matter to anyone but me, but it was not something I wanted.

I had a 3.5 GPA, a solid ACT score, took AP classes, was the editor of my school’s paper, and was heading to college later that year.

Becoming a parent wasn’t part of the plan, and would have forever changed the trajectory of my life—and likely not for the better.

I knew I had to end this pregnancy, so I made an appointment at the Planned Parenthood about a mile from my home. The doctor confirmed my pregnancy and told me my options.

Unfortunately, in my state (Missouri) anyone younger than 18 needed parental consent for an abortion. I didn’t feel safe asking for that. And I couldn’t wait a month until my 18th birthday because then I would be in my 2nd trimester and face new hurdles that felt even worse.

For two weeks, I cried a lot. I laid in my bed at night punching my stomach as hard as I could hoping that I’d miscarry. I thought about taking pills, but I didn’t have the Internet and had no idea what would be effective without killing me in the process.

I decided to travel across the border into Illinois to access a safe and legal abortion.

The procedure cost $600 (the equivalent of about $1,200 in today’s money). It was unbelievably expensive for a high-school student with only a part-time, minimum-wage job.

I scraped together the funds, got a ride, and had the procedure at about 10 weeks gestation. Then, I had to go to work just a few hours later, still bleeding and woozy from the anesthesia.

For the next 25 years, I told only a few people about my abortion. I didn’t tell my parents or even my doctors.

I felt ashamed, thanks to pervasive, abusive anti-choice rhetoric. But I never felt regret.

That choice allowed me to finish college, move around several states for jobs, earn a master’s degree, work my way up the career ladder, and start my own business.

Most importantly, though, that abortion allowed me the time to develop into the confident and fulfilled woman I wanted to be before becoming a mother.

 

My second abortion

I found out I was pregnant again about a month after my 40th birthday. My partner and I had been trying to conceive for about six months, and we were overjoyed when we saw that second blue line on the pregnancy test.

We told our families the good news on Mother’s Day, at 10 weeks gestation, because it seemed so fitting.

Two days later, at a routine appointment, my OBGYN offered to let me hear the baby’s heartbeat. She pulled out the device…but it was silent.

She told me not to worry, it was pretty early in the pregnancy and not unusual to hear nothing. To be safe, though, she sent me down the hall for an ultrasound.

The technician told me rather robotically that there was no heartbeat and I had miscarried. I was devastated.

My partner rushed to the hospital, and the doctor explained the options.

Choice 1 was to allow do nothing and hope that my body passed the materials on its own. It would likely be painful, she warned, and I would have to continue with the “pregnancy” for as long as it took.

Choice 2 was to return to the hospital the next day for a D&C (dilation and curettage). Under anesthesia, my uterus would be expanded so the doctor could scrape the uterine lining to remove the embryonic tissues.

To be clear, this is exactly the same procedure as my first abortion. The only differences were that this procedure would happen in a hospital (not a clinic) and would be covered by insurance.

I chose the D&C. I couldn’t bear having the reminder of this failed pregnancy inside my body any longer than absolutely necessary. I didn’t want to risk being home alone when I passed the material, and having to endure that agony without support.

My partner supported me throughout the process, and people who I love sent me flowers, brought me food, and comforted me with loving words.

This abortion allowed me to feel some sense of control, to safely care for my body’s needs, and to begin my grieving and healing process so I could try again to become a mother.

And I did become a mother a year later.

 

The common threads

I have had an abortion for an unwanted pregnancy, and another for a wanted pregnancy.

My first abortion was the kind of procedure society deems as wrong, immoral, not deserving of protection. My second abortion was one that most people view as necessary, valid, and worth protecting.

In fact, the two procedures are equal. I regret neither, am grateful I could make the choice both times, and both must remain safe and legal.

Abortion gave me control. It allowed me to create the life I wanted. It allowed me to protect my body and my sanity. It allowed me to become the mother I wanted to be and that my son deserves.

That is why I will fight until my dying breath for everyone’s right to have an abortion, not just the people or procedure that Christian extremists deem “worthy.”

America is becoming a theocracy where my abortions would be illegal.

I would have been forced to carry an unwanted pregnancy. I’d then have had to choose between placing my child into a system that regularly fails children, or being a teen mom in a country that does almost nothing to help poor moms.

I would have been forced to carry a wanted but no longer viable pregnancy until it self-terminated. And if it didn’t, I would have been dealt with serious illness or even death.

Neither of those scenarios is acceptable. That’s why I will fight until my dying breath to ensure that safe and legal abortion is available to anyone who needs one.

Abortion is a necessary medical procedure. Why someone needs it really doesn’t matter, and it’s certainly no one else’s business.

Want to join the fight to preserve reproductive rights in the U.S.? Read this post for ideas on how to help.