I was so surprised by how much shame I felt after my abortion. Not because I actually think what I did was a shameful thing. Quite the opposite actually. I think what I did was sad but empowering because I took ownership of my own future. I know I made the right decision and at the time didn’t hesitate in making that decision at all. I felt shame afterwards because (apparently) I had internalized society’s message that getting an abortion is terrible, heathen, and just kind of evil, despite knowing truthfully that that is so far from accurate. It’s just a difficult thing that some women have to do in a bad situation to get on with their life. It’s the unnecessary and inaccurate shame many women feel afterwards that motivates me to want to tell my story.
I’ve been on birth control since I was 16 (over 15 years). I’ve tried the gamete of methods, from multiple formulas of pills, the shot, the patch, the ring, and even two IUDs. All came with one side effect or another and some extremely severe. At the time of my unintended pregnancy I had been on a pill that was exacerbating my PMDD (i.e., crazy mood swings that aren’t typical for me), but did a good job of controlling my new adult acne (Oh, the joy of being 30). While I could make a lot of excuses why I was inconsistent with my use of the pill (not taking it at the same time, every day like clockwork), at the end of the day I made a mistake. I missed more than one pill in a row and didn’t use a back-up method that month. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
I’m pretty aware of my body so I actually knew that I was pregnant right away, only one day after my missed period. I also keep bargain boxes of pregnancy tests on hand because I’ve always had an irrational (now not so irrational) fear that I’d end up pregnant and forced to give birth against my wishes. I immediately grabbed my husband and we called planned parenthood together straight away, begging to get an appointment at the earliest possible convenience. The idea of having to wait and allow those cells to duplicate over and over again, day after day sickened me. I can’t begin to state how thankful I am that I live in a liberal state that doesn’t create unnecessary restrictions and hurdles for women to deter access, because I was able to get in to see the doctor and take the abortion pill the same day. I want to make clear, my husband and I have great insurance and I’m sure I could have seen my in-network gynecologist, but I called Planned Parenthood because I wanted to talk to providers who I knew wouldn’t judge me and whose organization has stated that they believe in a women’s right to her own body. I was willing to pay out of pocket. I felt safe going there.
Afterwards I told my two closest and oldest friends about the abortion. Their reactions were supportive but still a bit surprising. Despite being very open and honest about my husband and my plan to not have biological children, as well as my long vocal support for reproductive rights, both of my girlfriends’ first reactions were some version of “Wow, I can’t believe you aborted your husband’s child.” That reaction is the exact reason why we didn’t tell anyone else in our circle (specifically my mother-in-law!). I’m a financially successful, professional, married woman. Because the conditions are well set for me to be able to develop and care for my own baby, somehow I’m expected and obliged to do so? I’ve been asked throughout my life why I don’t want children and people are rarely satisfied with my honest answer, I just don’t. There isn’t a reason. Just as there isn’t a reason that I identify as a women or as heterosexual. I just do. I didn’t sit down and chart out the pros and cons. Though, if I had the answer would have been even more resolutely the same. I didn’t get an abortion because I didn’t think I could raise a child right now. I got an abortion because I shouldn’t have to.
I have absolutely no regret about my decision. My only related regret is that my husband and I didn’t move to a more permanent method (vasectomy) years ago, though hindsight’s 20/20 and, to be fair, our GP kept deterring him. We had discussed relatively early on in our sexual relationship what we would do if this ever accidentally happened (abort) and as I looked at that pregnancy test my first gut reaction (and the one that endured, too) was to call and “get it out of me!”. Afterwards, though, I felt the stigma and judgement of others. I didn’t feel guilt because I personally thought it was a sinful thing to do (indeed, I felt relief), I felt shame because I (correctly) assumed others would judge me and not understand. As I lay in bed that next day recovering I read the writings of Gloria Steinem and others who confidently told their own stories of abortion out in the open, like those on this website. I stopped being ashamed.
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