I was 17 in the autumn of 1993. I lived in the quintessential “Small Town USA,” and even though my parents knew I was (or had been) sexually active, they were very much against oral contraceptives. I had been dating my boyfriend for several months and, even though we used condoms every time we had sex, I got pregnant. There was never any doubt in my mind that I would have an abortion – I was a Freshman in college, unemployed, still living with my parents, and knew that my entire family would be publicly shamed if I were to be pregnant and unmarried. I knew I didn’t want a baby then, maybe even ever, and certainly not under the current circumstances.
I was adamant in my decision to have an abortion, although I did discuss it with my boyfriend. With my 18th birthday still another month away, I decided to go through the judicial bypass process to obtain an abortion as a minor in an effort to have my abortion as quickly as possible while also keeping the knowledge that I was pregnant from my conservative parents. That process involved meeting with a pro bono attorney and appearing in court to explain why I couldn’t get my parents’ approval. The court hearing was over and done in about fifteen minutes. I also met with the local Planned Parenthood for an abortion referral. While I did discuss all of my options with the staff, my mind had been made up at the moment my pregnancy test came back positive. I never wavered in my decision.
I was given a referral and made an appointment a local OB/GYN’s office. I don’t remember much about my initial intake appointment; I remember a mound of paperwork to complete, I remember having an ultrasound to determine how far along my pregnancy was (roughly seven weeks) and seeing the ultrasound. Before leaving, the doctor scheduled the abortion procedure for 8 days later, October 26th. The day after my 18th birthday – the judicial bypass process turned out to be unnecessary in the end.
The abortion itself was $500, and was a surgical abortion (the only option back then). I borrowed half of that from my boyfriend’s parents, and half from a local abortion fund (I paid back both as soon as I could). I remember my boyfriend picking me up, us arriving at the doctor’s office, me checking in at the front desk, and walking into the room for the procedure. I don’t remember being scared, it was more of a “Let’s get this over with!” kind of feeling. I’d had horrible morning sickness for close to a month at that point; I had stopped eating because there was no point, and I could barely walk 5 feet without needing to rest for several minutes. I was given a mild sedative that was supposed to put me into something like a twilight sleep, but I remember everything about the procedure. It took me close to 2 hours to be able to keep the crackers and juice down after the procedure before I could be cleared to leave. When I was finally able to leave, I sat on a bench outside the office for a while in silence with my boyfriend. It was the beginning of the end of us.
I went home and life returned to normal. I spoke of it very infrequently; those I’d confided in before the procedure weren’t comfortable talking about it afterward, so I quickly learned to keep silent and bury it. The loneliness and isolation I’d felt from those around me who were ashamed of me and judged my decision became my cloak of silence.
I do, sometimes, think of what my life would be like had I married my boyfriend and had that child, and I know it would have been a life filed with violence and hatred (we did not have the healthiest relationship to begin with – looking back, I realize how abusive it was). I know I would have hated my life, and taken it out on that child in one way or another. I would never have graduated from college. I would never have moved away from that small town where I’d never felt I belonged. I would have been trapped, and my boyfriend would have been as well. While it was unfortunate that I got pregnant, I don’t regret terminating the pregnancy.
I rarely talk about my pregnancy and abortion in person. I’ve never really been comfortable with that, after my negative experiences early on, but I have found that men seem to be more accepting of it than women. Recently, however, I did tell one of my childhood best friends about it, and I wasn’t judged or shamed. It was such a relief! I do write about it online a fair amount, but this is my first time writing down my entire experience.
I think it’s important that abortion experiences are discussed. I’m really tired of the stigma. I’m tired of the shame. I’m tired of being judged by society over a medical procedure that’s quite common, and was nowhere near the worst medical procedure I’ve had. I also think it’s important to talk about this because I’m watching clinics being closed left and right; the clinic I went to stopped providing abortion procedures shortly after I had mine, and the clinic in my current city is being forced out of town by the local Catholic diocese. I’m frustrated and angry and am tired of being silent.
So here I am. My name is Heather. I had an abortion in 1993. I do not regret that decision.