Right when I finished grad school, I found out I was pregnant. I was in that in-between time where I was still covered by my university insurance, right before starting a brand new job. Even before I took a pregnancy test, I knew that I would have an abortion if I were pregnant. I was just about to start my first full-time job since graduating with two master’s degrees. My partner was working at a restaurant. We knew that we did not feel emotionally or financially ready to parent yet, and I knew that I did not want to be pregnant.
The morning after I had a positive pregnancy test, I called my university to tell them that I was seeking abortion care. Even as someone who had been a pregnancy options counselor, even as someone who was currently and previously a sexual health educator, I felt scared. I didn’t fully know what to expect. Even after teaching people about abortion and talking through referrals and options for years, I felt fear.
The university health center’s response was “Umm, call Planned Parenthood.” I couldn’t believe there were no options for me through the university system. (Since my abortion, a law has been passed in California to ensure medication abortion be accessible on all public campuses. This would have greatly affected me and my story).
Upon calling Planned Parenthood, I found out that the closest appointment that would allow me to not miss too much work in my first week was two and a half hours away. My partner drove me to the clinic the day of my appointment, and my heart dropped when I saw protesters. Even in a state that I felt was so supportive of abortion, people were there telling me I was doing something wrong. The stigma only continued inside. In the waiting room before my procedure, multiple people shared parts of their stories, and upon sharing that I had a partner, multiple patients asked me “Why would you get an abortion if you have a partner? Why don’t you just keep it?” I felt the shame rise up inside of me. I never questioned whether my decision was right. But I did feel silenced when sharing my whole truth.
I remember feeling surprised by how many people were in the room during my procedure. And how matter of factly and quickly the doctor worked. I felt the weight of the reality that this provider does this all day every day, and that I was one of many receiving care that afternoon. Now looking back, I wish I would have had a support person there with me in the room, holding my hand. I remember feeling confused as the general anesthesia took over.
After spending $700 (I hadn’t received a paycheck yet, so this was a combination of student loans and babysitting money) on my abortion procedure, my partner drove me to pick up my favorite sandwich and some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. I slept during the two and a half hour drive back. I was exhausted but relieved that it was over.
I was 6.5 weeks pregnant when I had my abortion procedure. I knew that was very early, as I had come into contact with so many people who had abortions later in thier pregnancies. Bans like SB8 in Texas feel particularly personal to me because even as someone who found out so early, my abortion would be illegal today in Texas.
I didn’t know who I could tell and who would be able to just hold space for me. I shared with friends who were incredibly supportive. And I shared with people who expressed judgment in overt and subtle ways. One friend who had previously had an abortion shared her story with me the day before my appointment, providing comfort and care. One friend, days after my appointment, shared that she knew very clearly why she had an abortion in the past but couldn’t understand my decision to do the same.
A few weeks after my procedure, I noticed that I was still bleeding, which is pretty typical. They said bleeding could last 4-6 weeks, so I knew to be patient. After 7 weeks of wearing pads every day and dreading taking off my underwear to see spots of blood, I started to grow worried. I contacted a new doctor and went in for a visit. They found a collection of cells in my uterus.
They gave me the choice between waiting longer to see what might happen, or having a second abortion procedure to remove what was left. All of my irrational fears came up. I knew that it wouldn’t affect my fertility. I knew that it was a completely safe procedure. But doubts crept up, and I wondered what I should do. I opted for a second procedure. I wanted to be done with this 8 week process. I wanted the bleeding to stop. I am glad I did, because they called me the next day and told me that the first procedure had been unsuccessful; the collection of cells was pregnancy tissue.
To all of the people that say that abortion complications are a reason to rob people of the right to have abortions: I had abortion complications and I never once have regretted my decision to have an abortion. I am grateful to be in a position now in which I spend my full-time job advocating for abortion access. I have learned that I can share my story and share community with others who have had the full range of pregnancy and abortion experiences.