At the risk of turning this into some sort of tumblr abortion competition, I’ve had two of them. Save your prayers; I can already feel my feet burn.
The first one came as a result of poor planning. I drank a tablespoon of bleach when I realized I was pregnant, but it failed to kill me or anything else inside me. He scraped together borrowed money and I cashed a check from my grandparents. The Planned Parenthood in Appleton is across from an Evangelical church. There is a 48-hour waiting period in Wisconsin, so I spent that time getting drunk. I was in more of a relationship with alcohol than I was with my non-boyfriend at the time.
Less than a year later, I still had trouble sleeping. I used to take a lot of sleeping pills. I was date-raped in my room by someone I’d invited there. I didn’t realize I’d had sex, so I didn’t realize I was pregnant. (If you don’t think it’s embarrassing to ask all of your friends if they’ve had sex with you, you’re actually wrong.) I was using the Nuva Ring, but I had been irregular with it. This time, I told my mom, who drove me to a private clinic in Chicago two days before my twenty-first birthday and wrote a check for the entire thing. Happy birthday to you, too. The doctor was the same. When I told that to my mom, who was embarrassed, she tried to provide excuses for what she thought was an outrageous situation. The doctor asked me, “Do you think that makes you special?” That was how I realized I wasn’t special, but I was lucky.
There is no universal experience.
Seventy-seven percent of all anti-abortion activists are men. One hundred percent of them will never be pregnant. What those men do in their own time is their business, but here’s something else I know: None of them will ever know what it feels like to have their entire reproductive system put up for debate by a country run by a bunch of people who will never really know what they’re talking about. Very few of them will ever wonder if it’s better to die than to deal with a problem someone else put in you.
Everybody seems to want to hold an opinion about whether it’s even possible to regret an abortion. They want to weigh in on whether or not it’s possible for women to suffer from post-traumatic stress or experience a sense of regret in a way that, on both sides, strikes me as callus. It’s as if my reaction to a life-changing (sorry, it was life-changing) event is supposed to dictate whether or not other women should legally be allowed to make a choice that might make them feel the same way.
I don’t regret my abortions. It was a moment in my life during which I took complete control of my fate and decided that what I would do in the future would not be a waste. I decided that I didn’t want to stay with my boyfriend long enough to raise a child with him, and that I couldn’t count on him enough to stick around for it. I realized that there was enough potential in my future that I couldn’t possibly entwine it with someone else’s. I realized that I had a responsibility to myself to prove it. So no, I don’t regret my any of it – I’m thankful that I had an opportunity to look my life in the face in a way that many people never can. Women have abortions for many reasons, and as far as I’m concerned, all of those reasons are good reasons. I have no authority to judge another woman’s experience, sex life, reproductive decisions, or choices. This is simply my story. My abortion arose out of painful circumstances. It shocked me into becoming a different, better, useful person. It jolted me into realizing that I needed to work in a way that helped prevent the cause, rather than banter back and forth about the effect.
Abortion saved my life. I’m not an apologist, nor do I feel comfortable telling lies about it. Not every moment of my life following my abortion has been a romp through the roses, and I don’t wake up every day feeling like a good person. I live with it every day, because I think about it in some way, every day. I promised myself that I would never let myself forget the circumstances and decisions I made that put me in a situation to make such a difficult choice, and I don’t think I have. It made me an advocate for all women, whether or not I like them personally. It made me understand that every woman deserves to be treated with dignity, regardless of her personal circumstances. It made me a feminist. That’s something I’d never give back.
I’ve been thinking lately about whether or not I should write a post about this, but the truth is, I’ve written about it before. This post is about it. Obviously, so is this one and this one. But so is this one. And this one. And this one. And this one. And even this one.
Making choices has become part of the way I live my life. Abortion did change me, and it changed me for the better. If I had continued to live my life without ever having to make an important choice, without ever having to stare down my future and promise to myself to come out on the right side of circumstance, I would never be able to understand that lots of people have lives that didn’t turn out like mine. I would never be person I am today if I hadn’t been forced to live with the ramifications of my choices. And I am really, really okay with that.