It's a common medical procedure, but it's often whispered about amongst friends. It's a legal right recently upheld by the United States Supreme Court, but it's being debated on televisions and used in political platforms. It's something I had when I was 23 years old, and wasn't ready, willing or able to become a mother. It's abortion, and it's something 1 in 3 women in the United States will choose for themselves over the course of their lives. As common as it is, sadly, there are things about your abortion that no one will tell you; things that, when hidden or erased from the national conversation concerning women's reproductive health, make women feel like they're alone; things that, when I was 23 years old and walking out of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bellingham, WA, I desperately needed to know.
I was in a very unhealthy relationship, financially unstable and fresh out of college when I found out I was pregnant. My pregnancy was very unwanted, and felt more like an attack on my person than the result of sex and a few missed birth control pills. It definitely didn't feel like, or in any way was, a "blessing." While I spent a significant amount of time weighing my options and discussing potential decisions, the choice to have an abortion was a relatively easy one, as it was clear I wasn't in a place to become a mom, nor did I want to be one with my then-partner. However, for as simple as that decision and my subsequent abortion were, the aftermath was just as difficult. Anti-choice rhetoric bombarded me via social media, as certain friends and family members and acquaintances "weighed in" on the national abortion conversation. I was called a murderer by unknowing friends. I was labeled as a "slut" by oblivious family members. I was attacked by certain people who did know I had an abortion, and bombarded with unrealistic pictures of what anti-choice advocates pass off as aborted fetuses. I was asked questions like, "Why?" and "How?" and, as a result, I suffered.
What women hear about their abortions, no doubt, shapes their potential reactions to them. How we, as a society, continue to talk about reproductive health and reproductive rights, no doubt has an impact on women and the decisions they know they need to make for themselves and their bodies. Until the national conversation changes in a drastic and long-lasting way, the best we can do is be supportive of all women, whatever they choose, and let the women who choose abortion know the following:
An estimated 1 in 3 women will have an abortion during their lifetime. An estimated 59% of all women who have an abortion, already have one other child. The majority of women who have abortions are in their twenties (60%) not young teenagers with a lack of sex education (12%) or minors (4%). Out of all the women who choose abortion, 62% are religiously affiliated. Chances are, statistically, you know someone else who has had an abortion. In fact, you probably know many women who have had an abortion. It is a common medical procedure and you are not alone in having chosen it for yourself.
It's Not A Debate
It can be hard not to think of abortion as a debatable topic, especially considering the current political climate and the constant attempts to defund Planned Parenthood or enact Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws that make it much harder for women to procure a legal procedure. However, it's not. Your abortion is not and should not be some focal point of a political campaign. Your abortion is not something you need to justify with facts and complicated reasons or, well, anything at all. Your abortion is not something you need to fight to legitimize. It is a right, held up and defended by the constitution of the United States, and it is not a debate.
It's Not Shameful
You have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. You did absolutely nothing wrong. You do not have to apologize for making the best choice for you and your body and your future. You do not have to be ashamed that you didn't want to be a mom or couldn't be a mom. Your value does not begin and end with the choice to procreate. You are more than your reproductive system.
Unfortunately, it took me far too long to realize the aforementioned. Thanks to judgment and shame and anti-choice rhetoric that tells women they're "murderers" for taking unapologetic control over their own bodies, I felt that I had to feel ashamed about the choice I had made. I thought that, in order to prove I was a "good woman," I had to repent and feel remorse. This is no way to live, and I definitely wasn't living for myself. The choices I made after I made one of the best choices of my life, was an attempt to gain the favor and acceptance of people who wanted to insert their political and religious agendas into my personal life. You don't have to live for anyone but yourself. You don't have make decisions with and for your body that will benefit anyone, ever, but you.
It's Nothing You Need To Hide...
Because an abortion is nothing but a common, legal medical procedure, you don't have to hide the fact that you had one. It isn't some shameful choice that deserves to be buried in the past. It is not a "bad decision" that is somehow indicitive of the kind of woman you are. It is not something you need to conceal from future lovers, family members, friends or anyone else.
...And It's Nothing You Need To Talk About (If You Don't Want To)
Of course, because your abortion is a medical procedure, you don't need to tell anyone about it, either. You're entitled (by law) to your medical privacy, and in no way do you have to divulge the fact that you have had an abortion to a future lover or current lover or friend or family member. You don't "owe" anyone anything, especially when it comes to your reproductive health and the decisions you make about and for your body.
It's A Common Medical Procedure
That's all your abortion is: a common medical procedure. In fact, an estimated 730, 322 abortions were performed in the United States in 2011 (a number that has been steadily declining thanks to sex-positive, facts-based sex education).
It's Completely And Totally Legal...
Thanks to the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, abortion is legal in the United States. Why? Because it's necessary. Prior to 1973, thousands upon thousands of women were being treated for botched abortions, even dying from internal bleeding and serious infection. Those who didn't die were left with chronic illnesses and/or sterile.
As a reaction to the countless women who were suffering prior to Roe v. Wade, in the late 1960s the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion (made up primarily of pastors and rabbis) created a network to assist women in finding safer and cleaner places to procure, at the time, what were illegal abortions. That Clergy, along with countless other pro-choice groups and feminists advocates and brave women (and men), spearheaded what is now known as the pro-choice movement, and abortion was finally legalized. Abortion wasn't legalized in order to make it "common," it was legalized because it was already common, and women were dying.
Sadly, history is being repeated, even though abortion has been legal for over 40 years. After Texas enacted strict and unnecessary abortion laws, that essentially shut down the majority of the abortion clinics in the state, an estimated 100,000 women were self-aborting their unwanted pregnancies.
This is why your abortion was legal. This is why abortion needs to remain, legal.
...And, As Such, It's Your Undeniable Right
The Supreme Court recently upheld the right for women to be granted access to safe, affordable, legal abortion and reproductive health care. Your abortion was your right. Your abortion was a right held up and defended by the highest court in the land.
No One Can Decide How You Should Feel About It
No one gets to tell you how you should or shouldn't feel about your abortion. Many women do feel remorse and sadness directly after their abortion. Many more, however, do not. A 2013 study conducted by the University of California, San Francisco surveyed 843 women procuring abortions in 30 clinics, and found that 90% of those women felt relieved after they had their abortion. More than 80% of the women who felt a negative emotion, still believed they made the right choice.
Any feeling that you have after your abortion is valid and worthy of expression, if you choose and feel safe to express it. You don't have to feel sad in order to prove something to someone else. You don't have to feign regret or remorse in order to give someone a certain impression you believe they will benefit from. You get and should feel whatever it is you feel. You are the teller of your own story.
You Deserve Better
While abortion is legal and it is a common medical procedure and so many women choose it for themselves and their bodies and their families, you deserve better. You deserve better if your abortion was easy to procure, and you didn't have to go through a 72 hour mandatory waiting period or sit through mandatory counseling or travel long distances, because you're still living in a society that shuns you for your decision and wants to debate your right to make your own decisions about your own body.
If you live in one of the 14 states that passed laws, this year, to make it harder for you to get an abortion, you deserve better. If you had to travel hundreds of miles and spend extra funds and if you had to wait for a mandatory amount of time and if you had to look at a monitor for no medical reason, you deserve better.