I am 36 years old. I’m married. And earlier this year, I had an abortion.
It was, without a doubt, the worst thing to ever happen to me.
Yet I still believe with every fiber of my being that Roe v. Wade should remain legal.
I am terrified of the next Supreme Court Justice and what his confirmation means for my, and other women’s, future. I have been pro-choice my entire life, but what many fail to recognize is that being pro-choice doesn’t mean you’re pro-abortion. Nobody wants an abortion. I didn’t want one, but I am grateful I had access to one.
I have chosen to write this essay anonymously, not because I am ashamed of what I had to do, but because I know I cannot deal with the trolls who will inevitably refer to me as a baby killer.
To those trolls, I will tell you that having this abortion was as heartbreaking as it was traumatizing. Words cannot express the horror of my experience.
But I am beyond thankful the law states, as of this writing, that I have control over my body.
My husband and I were together for seven and a half years before we started trying for a child. Within a nine-month period, I got pregnant twice, both of which ended in miscarriage — the first at 11 weeks, after we had seen and heard the heartbeat; the second at just shy of seven.
It is hard to describe the experience of miscarrying. I was distressed and inconsolable as motherhood literally slipped away from me. At times, I had to crawl around on my hands and knees, because the pain was too much to bear.
And then, it was over. I had labored yet was left with nothing.
Following my second lost pregnancy, a blood test discovered I have a balanced translocation, a chromosomal condition that results in a higher rate of miscarriage.
My husband and I decided to move forward with in vitro fertilization (IVF) because our embryos could be tested for the chromosomal abnormalities prior to implantation. On our first try, I was successfully implanted and was pregnant for the third time. I was 36.
My third pregnancy seemed like any normal pregnancy. I was constantly nauseous but didn’t care, because I was so grateful to make it into my second trimester for the first time, to be carrying what we believed to be a healthy baby.
We’d already shared the good news with family and friends when we went in for my 20-week anatomy scan. Throughout the hour-and-a-half ultrasound, we laughed at how the fetus wouldn’t sit still and was making it difficult for the technician to get the measurements. I joked about how feisty s/he was, kicking and punching me, and that if it were a girl, I was already getting payback for my teenage years.
Then the doctor gave us the diagnosis, and the world came crashing down on top of us.
The fetus growing inside me had Thanataphoric Dysplasia, a lethal single gene mutation that affects 1 in every 20,000 to 50,000 pregnancies. There was no chance for survival outside of the womb. A second opinion confirmed the diagnosis, and we were told I needed to terminate my pregnancy.
Terminating a pregnancy. It’s a gentler way of saying having an abortion without invoking what actually has to happen to end your pregnancy.
In the days after the diagnosis, I was despondent. I would lie in my bedroom with the lights off, cradling my belly as I sobbed uncontrollably. I called my parents at one point and told them I was really struggling with what is the first part of the procedure: stopping the fetus’s heart.
With miscarriages, your body ends your pregnancy for you, but now, I was the one who had to end it. I was consumed with guilt that the fetus would not understand why I had to do this, that if there was anything that could be done, I would have done it.
Walk from California to Carolina? No problem, I’ll do it if I can keep my baby.
My parents said I was conflating movement of the fetus within me with cognition — s/he didn’t need reassurance because there was no understanding to be had. They told me, as I was breaking down, that this act was one of true compassion and love, because there was no future life for the one growing inside me.
I was being a mom, they said.
Intellectually, I knew and still know this. But the guilt and sheer emotional pain was all-consuming. I was having to say goodbye to someone I had dreamt of, someone I desperately wanted — and someone who needed me to let go.
I live in Texas, a state with some of the most restrictive abortion laws, where 93 percent of counties do not have an abortion provider.
Currently, there is a 20-week ban on abortion. I was exactly 20 weeks the day I found out the news and 20 weeks and three days when we got the second opinion. Everything needed to move quickly, because while the ban is at 20 weeks, they give you a grace period of two weeks due to the ambiguity of gestational age.
The hospital that my OB-GYN is affiliated with will not perform abortions, and to have them perform the dilation and evacuation (D&E) related to my abortion, I would have had to plead my case to a committee. I not only didn’t have the strength to do this, I literally didn’t have the time. My husband and I chose a private clinic because we wanted the fetal tissue collected and tested, and Planned Parenthood does not provide that service.
Texas also has other laws that make getting an abortion more painful than it already is. When I called the clinic to make my appointment, I was told there was a mandatory 24-hour waiting period, so we would have to begin the process the next day. The nurse also informed me of a website that Texas mandates the health provider tell the woman about. I was not obligated to visit that website, but they were required by law to tell me about it.
The next day — Day 1 of what would be a three-day process — I learned the state of Texas makes the woman see an ultrasound and listen to the heartbeat of the fetus. I cannot describe the emotional toll that this has on a woman. No heartbeat, no movement of the fetus, nothing would have changed my situation. Ultimately, it’s just a cruel punishment to inflict on an already grieving woman.
Three days later, my pregnancy was over.
What if my anatomy scan had been one week later? It’s possible I would have been too far along to have my abortion in Texas. I could have flown to California, where I have family, and had the procedure there, but only because I’m lucky enough to have the means to do so. Abortions are not cheap. The cost is over $3,000, which is cost-prohibitive for so many women. And my insurance did not cover it.
Thankfully, Planned Parenthood ensures that all women can be taken care of in their time of need. The day after my pregnancy was terminated, I made sure to donate to the organization.
But where will we be if Roe v. Wade is either overturned or chipped away at so egregiously that it makes it virtually impossible for women in certain states to terminate their pregnancy?
This very real prospect is terrifying to me.
As the Senators begin their judicial review process of Judge Kavanaugh, I sit here questioning what will become of my rights. I am going to try and get pregnant for the fourth time, and while I am hopeful to bring a baby to term, my past gives me pause. Unforeseen, fatal issues can arise that are completely out of my control.
What do I do if Texas bans abortion? What does the woman who cannot afford to fly out of state do when she gets the same diagnosis?
Abortions are a deeply personal, traumatic undertaking for a woman, no matter what the anti-choice politicians and supporters say. Sixty-nine percent of the country does not think Roe v. Wade should be overturned, so why does this continuously shrinking constituency get to decide the fate of my body and my life? And what can we do to stop them?
Given that the confirmation process will likely begin in September, before the November elections, as an ordinary citizen I commit to calling my Senators and voicing my opinion.
If you are part of the 69 percent, I urge you to do the same.