January 24, 2016

GUEST ROOM | My Abortion Story

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Editor’s Note: This story is being published anonymously for the safety and protection of the author and those involved. 

On November 27, a man stepped into a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. He killed three people and wounded nine others in the name of life. Exactly one week later, I stepped into the Planned Parenthood in Ithaca to have my abortion procedure.

I discovered my pregnancy just two days after the shooting, after missing a second period. The following morning, I went alone to the Ithaca Planned Parenthood. I needed an ultrasound to determine how far along I was. As an athlete, I miss periods a couple of times per year. Before I confirmed that I was pregnant, I had no other symptoms besides my two missed periods. I couldn’t even think of a time when it might have happened; in my memory there were no broken condoms, no sex without protection. I thought that I was nine or ten weeks along …

“Twelve weeks and four days.” “What?” “You are 12 weeks and four days pregnant.” Suddenly, I felt an enormous weight on my shoulders and lump in my throat; the alternative reality of carrying a baby to term became very real. The cutoff for a first trimester abortion procedure is 13 weeks, and the Ithaca Planned Parenthood is only staffed to carry out abortion procedures on Fridays. My last chance to have a first trimester abortion was that coming Friday when I would be at exactly 13 weeks.

The procedure that Friday was safe and easy, lasting only about 10 minutes; still, I hope that I never need to have it again. For one thing, though not particularly painful for me, it still involved a lot of things being put in my vagina that I never wanted in there. It’s very uncomfortable. For another thing, I don’t want to be in that situation again. While the abortion provided the solution to my situation, becoming pregnant was still a mistake, an accident.

And then it was done. I was no longer pregnant. I was out and about that evening. The next day I woke up early, worked for five hours in the morning, ran for and was elected to an executive board position in one of the organizations I’m involved with in the afternoon and helped with an event for my sports team that evening. I survived my finals and went home.

There is only one lingering effect from my abortion. While driving yesterday, I saw a car with a “Choose Life” license plate background and started crying. It’s not due to sadness or regret. It’s that my alternative reality, what truly could have happened to me, is all too real.

I pictured my body getting larger, forcing me to drop my sport. I saw my parents struggling with my medical expenses on top of sending me to school here, I watched my summer internship opportunities dwindle as I prepared to have a baby around the middle of June, a baby I wouldn’t be able to support, a baby I would have to give up for adoption, or give up my own future in order to be a mother.

It terrifies me that my story — where I received only support from those around me, I was able to get the abortion I needed when I needed it, I was not harassed and faced no adversity and I was able to carry on with the life I wanted to have — seems atypical; there are so many people who want to prevent anyone from having the care that I received.

It doesn’t matter to me what your religion is or what your personal values are. If you do not believe in abortion, don’t get one. Make sure your sex life reflects your values, too. But your values have no place in my uterus.

After my ultrasound, I asked to see the image. I went in knowing that I wanted to see it, though the reason why is complicated and somewhat beyond my own understanding. Sure enough, there was a grainy silhouette of a spherical head and oblong body, not at all in the shape of a child, but more than just a blob.

Perhaps this came through earlier, but I strongly desire to be a mother. I want to have kids and give them everything I can. My heart throbs when I see pregnant women or parents walking around with their children, and when I imagine my future family.

But I looked at the ultrasound image … and felt nothing. This was not meant to be my child. This was not my future. I know, I know that people can learn to love their mistakes. Maybe in another three months that image would have made my heart throb, too. But in that moment it made no difference and still doesn’t to me. I realized that having a child now, when I am in absolutely no place to support it, is the biggest risk to the future I want to give my children.

There is one important person I have not yet mentioned. Who was the guy? He’s my boyfriend. I knew he was amazing before, but he proved himself to be truly incredible during this process. He didn’t ask for a say in my decision to have the abortion and eased my stress instead of exacerbating it. Since then, our relationship has only grown stronger. He doesn’t understand how incredible this is to me; I expected, at minimum, that this would be a rocky point for us, but we remained smooth, steady and loving.

I supported Planned Parenthood before my abortion, but now I am a true believer. Before my abortion, I prepared myself for hate and judgment from even my loved ones, but now I pledge to return and pass on the incredible love and support they gave me. I am so happy to have regained control over my life and body. That is my abortion story.