This July, I lost my health insurance. I am a fairly healthy person, so my biggest concern was being unable pay for my birth control. I went straight to my local Planned Parenthood (where I volunteer weekly as a clinic escort) and enrolled in their Family Planning Benefit program so that I could finally get the kind of birth control I had always wanted but couldn’t afford—a copper IUD called ParaGuard. Non-hormonal, 99.4% effective, and good for twelve years, the copper IUD was the answer to all my birth control problems, but at around $700 it had previously been beyond my reach. The secret blessing of losing my health insurance was the ability to get a copper IUD at no cost to me. The clinician I met with scheduled an appointment for me during my period (when it is easier to insert IUDs) and I waited, anxious to finally have worry-free birth control.
The day of my appointment arrived but my period still hadn’t. After two days, I knew what had happened. Used to having back-up birth control, my partner and I had not been as careful as we should have with condoms. I spent a week grasping at the reality of the situation by drinking too much and mentally abusing myself before I took a test that confirmed what I already knew. I went to Planned Parenthood the next day, where I went through counseling, another pregnancy test, two blood tests, and a transvaginal ultrasound. I saw the tiny life growing in my uterus on the grainy ultrasound image: at around 5 weeks and 4 days, it was 0.3 centimeters long, and looked like a fuzzy smudge. I cried before the ultrasound—not because I felt anything for the fetus, but because I felt I had let myself down. My parents were the same age I am now when I was born, and I always swore I would not repeat their mistakes. I felt like a failure. I couldn’t tell anyone but my partner—not my sister, not my friends, not my grandmother—because I was afraid of what they would think of me.
I didn’t like the situation that I had found myself in, but I never had any doubts that I would have an abortion. I chose to terminate the pregnancy with the abortion pill rather than a surgical abortion for a few reasons. The abortion pill is a two-step process. First you take Mifepristone at the clinic, which blocks progesterone in the body, causes the placenta to detach from the endometrium, and encourages the cervix to soften. At home twenty-four hours later, you take a pill called Misoprostol, which encourages uterine contractions, emptying the contents of the uterus. I liked the idea of completing the process at home, where I would be comfortable. I wanted to experience the whole abortion, not be drugged through the procedure. I wanted to be able to see the products of conception so that I would be able to better conceptualize what my abortion really meant to me. And I didn’t want to have to walk through the doors of Planned Parenthood on surgical abortion day, when a line of religious anti-abortion protesters regularly harass women entering the clinic.
As a clinic escort, I stand for a few hours every week as a symbol of support for women who have made the decision to have an abortion. These women face hate and harassment on their short walk from their car to the clinic doors. I make sure that anyone who wants to come into the clinic by foot or by vehicle can do so without physical barriers from the protesters. I make sure women know that they do not have to speak to the protesters when they try to stop their car or distribute pamphlets with fake medical information. I shield them from the dead fetus posters, walk them to the door, and ask them how their day has been over the screams of “You can still save your baby!”
When I decided to have my medication abortion, it just so happened that I took the first pill, Mifepristone, the day before my usual shift as a clinic escort. The next morning as I stood staring at the protesters and their “Mommy, please don’t kill me” posters, I was halfway through my abortion process, counting down the hours until I could take my second pill. My partner (who volunteers with me) stood stronger than ever against the protesters, the only person who knew that they were screaming at me more directly than they understood. I was the only woman escort that morning, so when there were no patients entering the clinic, the protesters began targeting me more than usual. “You’d think her motherly instincts would prevent her from helping other women kill their own babies,” they screamed. “Let us pray for this young woman, that someday she will know the joy of motherhood,” they sung, throwing Holy Water in my direction.
When I finally opened up a few days later and told my closest friend what I had gone through that week, she was most amazed that I volunteered the morning of my abortion. “You are so brave,” she told me. But I didn’t feel brave. I felt necessary. As an old man screamed that the potential life inside of me was more important than me, than my life, my education, my relationship, and my choice NOT to be a mother, I wished I could absorb his insults so that perhaps another woman would not have to hear them. This is why I escort. This is why I care so much about abortion rights. This is why I am a feminist. Today, I can write this with the knowledge that I will be able to continue my college education and achieve my goal of finishing a PhD. I know that my future will be financially stable— I will not have to rely on minimum wage jobs and government assistance to provide for my family. I know that if I ever choose to parent, I will do so when my partner and I are both ready. I know that if and when I am ready, I will be able to provide my child with a life different than the one I had. This knowledge empowers me. I am so grateful for my abortion. And I am so grateful for the generation of feminists, health care providers, and clinic escorts who made it possible for me to have one.
Submitted by an anonymous reader
Header Image courtesy of Planned Parenthood