There’s been a great deal of attention on women’s rights nationally, and here in Texas. A powerful segment of the population is bent on pushing a repressive agenda, and its effects are being felt already. An anonymous reader submitted this piece about what it’s like to get an abortion today, and how even twenty-four hours can make a difference.
This is my story of getting an abortion in Texas, of my rights being exercised. Even with the laws in place to convince me otherwise, I still made the right decision no matter how much it hurt. I believe I have the right to go through this painful experience without paternalistic intervention “for my own good” as I am solely responsible for myself and my body.
When I became unintentionally pregnant (40% of pregnancies in the US are unintentional), I wanted to keep the pregnancy but I am unemployed. The cost of raising a child to adulthood is over $220,000. I have two wonderful children already that would suffer if I brought another child into their lives. I would damn myself, and my offspring, to poverty and worse.
I had my pregnancy confirmed at Planned Parenthood. They told me that I was 6 weeks along, within the window for non-surgical abortions. For every conservative attack on Planned Parenthood as “promoting abortion,” my experience was that they assumed I would keep the fetus. They provided information and documentation so I could get assistance and didn’t mention terminating the pregnancy, at all.
I spent the two weeks prior to confirming the pregnancy looking at my life. I journaled about what I wanted and spoke to my closest family and friends about my pregnancy. I spoke to people who had made both life choices, who had been in my position and I listened to their experiences. One friend said, “You need to figure out what you want and then figure out how you’re going to make that happen. I love you and will support you, in whatever you decide.”
I knew what I wanted. I took two weeks to attempt to figure out how to make that happen. I couldn’t come up with a way that wasn’t detrimental to my current family, the potential child and myself, in that order, and there are physical and legal deadlines to making this decision to keep a child or have an abortion. So, I sat in the car with the father, as we got snacks after getting the pregnancy confirmed; and told him my decision. I wasn’t going to go through with the pregnancy. I value life and my focus was on the lives that would be impacted by addition of another child.
I called Planned Parenthood to schedule the procedure but they couldn’t offer me an appointment until after it would be possible to do a medical abortion versus a surgical abortion, because of the law in Texas mandating a twenty-four hour waiting period between a sonogram being performed and the medication or surgery being administered. I passed this information along to my partner, who was incensed and insisted that we go to a private clinic and talk to them. We drove over and they were able to see me that day for the ultrasound.
From talking to friends, as well as my own personal experience, no woman decides to have a medical procedure like this lightly. I agonized over how I could keep the child and realized that there was no way that wouldn’t harm people I cared about, including the child. Twenty-four hours didn’t change my mind and evidence suggests that it hasn’t changed anyone’s mind. When I found out that Planned Parenthood couldn’t get me in, in time; I felt hijacked into a riskier and more emotionally-charged abortion. I felt paternalized by the state. I was anxious. Luckily, all through this process, I was supported by the father; who attended every visit with me and was present for the process.
It takes about 5-6 hours, on the first day, to do everything required by the state before the waiting period; it cost about $450, from initial visit to follow-up. I had the free time but I don’t know how a low income, working woman could do it. If I had a job, it’d be difficult to take the time off. There was a lot of waiting involved and various steps to take: filling out the brick of paperwork, getting an ultrasound (mandated by Texas), talking to the doctor, getting vitals taken and counseling. We spent most of the day waiting and talking. There was a little patio outside, where the father and I talked and hugged and cried. Much as we both wanted this child (and discussed that at length), neither of us could see taking care of it. We were heartbroken.
There were journals in the waiting room. Entry after entry written, from women who had abortions. Years of revelations and testifying. Not one of the women were happy about the choice; every single one was grateful that they had the option. Married women with children, single women with no children, and every variation in between. Rape victims. Christians. Atheists. Women with dignity and honor. Women who had multiple abortions and were horrified to be in the same position again. Me? I wrote an entry, while I was waiting to receive my medication, twenty-four hours later. I sat there and I cried. I spoke from the heart. I gave solace. I tried to reassure the women who read my entry that they were not alone.
I was six weeks along, so able to do a medicinal abortion – basically taking medication to complete the procedure, instead of having the fetus sucked out of you, surgically. After the mandatory waiting period, I went back to the clinic and took pills that dilate the cervix. Then within forty-eight hours, I took another set of medications, at home, that simulate labor and expunge the fetus. You are suppose to take the medication with food, however, I forgot to and thirty minutes after taking the medication, began feeling the worst pain I have ever felt, in my center. My heart burned and my uterus felt like it had hot pokers being jabbed into it. This lasted about three hours and the father held my hand through the whole process. I saw the potential life leave me.
There is a war being fought in the US: a war against a segment of the population based solely on their gender. There is legislation being pushed to strip women of their basic human rights over control of their bodies. A zygote, in some states, has more rights than the mother carrying the zygote. We have been compared to farm animals, beasts of burden and utility, by our leaders. Our ethics, sexual and otherwise are under scrutiny and fire. It may become legal for our doctors to lie to us, to push an ideological agenda. The state I live in recently defunded the Women’s Health Program, a program that I utilized. Every person has a point where they realize that they can take no more and this is my line in the sand. I do not want to live in a society where I am compared to chattle and where I am only valued by what my vagina can or cannot produce. Where, even if I were to keep a pregnancy, I would have no way to provide for the child and if do not keep a pregnancy, I am shamed and degraded for doing what is best for myself and my family.
I love life. I love all life. Furry lives, like my pets, and small beings, like my children. I love people, animals, rocks, earth. I am a Christian and I celebrate and thank God every day for the gift a of a body. I want to give that gift someday. I just can’t do it if I can’t take care of that being. The message I want to leave you with is that you know someone who has had an abortion. You do and they deserve your love, support and respect because it was the single hardest decision they ever made.
Anonymous enjoys musing and reconciling the grey areas between opposites and feels firmly that there are consequences for our actions and choices. She supports women being able to decide for themselves what consequences they, personally, are willing to accept. She is a practicing Roman Catholic, a mother, and a lover of life.