I have had two abortions – one at age 23 and another at age 24. I had just graduated college with a bachelor’s degree, and my boyfriend and I had just gotten together.
The passion of a new relationship led me to make the decision, against my better judgment, to have unprotected sex. Without ever telling my boyfriend, I made an appointment with Planned Parenthood. I chose the abortion pill because I liked the idea of being able to do it at home – it seemed more natural and like I had more control. I went alone, took the first pill while the doctor watched, and went home with the rest of the pills. I took them the following morning, as soon as my mom left for work. Within half an hour, I started to feel very ill and began throwing up (which was normal according to to the paperwork and instructions from Planned Parenthood). Within an hour, the nausea and vomiting had passed, and I began to experience heavy cramping and started to bleed – profusely for the first few hours, but slowing down throughout the day. I continued to bleed for the next week or so, with a flow similar to my regular period. I felt so relieved, and so lucky to have been able to do it without having to tell anyone. From then on, I asked my boyfriend to use condoms, and he did.
When I got pregnant the second time, I suspect it had something to do with the fact that we tried a new brand of condom, and though they seemed to fit a bit too tightly, we used them anyway. I decided to tell my boyfriend this time, only because by now we were living together and I didn’t believe I would be able to hide it from him. I showed him my positive pregnancy test and immediately told him I wanted an abortion. I knew from conversations we’d had before that he did not want children either. He told me that it was completely my decision and would stand by me no matter what I chose. Again I went to Planned Parenthood – my boyfriend drove me there, waited with me for hours, and even helped me pay for the procedure, though I didn’t ask him to. I chose the in-clinic procedure this time, only because I didn’t have the flexibility in my work schedule that I’d had before and needed to get it done in one day. I wasn’t given anesthesia or sedatives (I imagine this is to keep both the health risks and the cost to the patient as low as possible). I had only a large dose of ibuprofen and a few shots of lidocaine directly to the cervix. The actual procedure was extremely painful, but only lasted a few minutes. When it was over, I had a slight reaction to the lidocaine, feeling very dizzy and faint when I tried to stand up. The assistant helped me get dressed, took me to the recovery room, and put me in a reclining chair, where after a few minutes I started feeling better. There were several other girls there too, resting and talking about their experiences, which I found comforting. Again I was relieved, and felt glad not to have to endure the burdens of pregnancy and motherhood.
Since that time, I’ve been using Nuvaring (a hormonal birth control method), in addition to condoms. I had tried birth control pills years before, but I stopped because of unpleasant side effects and the fact that they made me not feel like myself. The gynecologist I used to see suggested that I try several different kinds of birth control pills until I find “the right fit,” but I don’t like the idea of hormonal methods in general, let alone switching every few months, putting so many different mixtures of hormones into my body and changing its natural chemistry. Nuvaring is manageable enough for me – I still have some side effects, but it’s better than the alternative of risking a third pregnancy.
It’s been almost two years now, and to this day, the only people who know about either of my abortions are my boyfriend and those kind, merciful souls at Planned Parenthood. I don’t know where else I could’ve gone to have an affordable, safe, and confidential abortion. I do not regret my abortions by any stretch, but my feelings about them are very complicated. My Christian upbringing makes me feel very guilty for ending the lives of what would have become my children. Not a day goes by when I don’t wonder if what I’ve done is morally wrong, wrong by God, and wrong by my family. But the logical, liberal side of me believes that it is every woman’s right to decide what to do with her own body and her own life. I may very well spend the rest of my life struggling to reconcile my feelings about it all, but I am sure of one thing – I am happy to have the freedom to figure things out for myself.
It is alarming to think that there are people who are trying to take this freedom away from women. I do hope a day comes when no woman has to feel alone and suffer in silence over something that is apparently more common than people realize, and discussions about abortion can take place without passing judgment on women for exercising control over their reproductive abilities.