Recently, Congress voted to de-fund Planned Parenthood in an attempt to shut down access to abortions. Representative Judy Chu, a democrat from California, accurately described it as a “witch hunt to scare providers from providing abortions” as Republicans showed doctored videos of fetuses, suggesting that doctors did nothing when botched abortions occurred. Basically, they were painted like Steve Martin’s sadistic dentist character– not like the kind doctor that spoke to me gently and stroked my hair while I cried, frightened and not knowing what to do. As a woman who had a very necessary abortion three years ago, this scares the ever-living shit out of me. It seems like as we begin to move forward in the world, the patriarchal powers that be are becoming more and more brazenly anti-women. If you have the baby, it’s your own fault and you’re a slut. If you abort the baby, you’re a horrible person.
I’ve always been pro-choice, but I never thought I’d be having an abortion so close to my thirties. That’s when I imagined I’d be settled down and having children. I am honestly shocked that I have only been in this situation once. I partied a great deal during my teens and twenties, and I treated attractive men like trophies for me to acquire to prove my worth and beauty to myself and others. I was desperately lonely and used it as a tool to drown the ache of sexual trauma, undiagnosed depression/anxiety, and years of self-esteem issues from a loving, yet emotionally abusive father. I made a lot of stupid decisions and somehow came out relatively unscathed with no lifelong STDs, criminal charges, and just one abortion. I say this to paint a picture of where I was at in life, not to shame other women in any way.
A few years ago, I was in a very toxic relationship. I was in my late twenties and madly in love with a man who did not love me, but had no issue with taking advantage of both my emotional and financial dedication to making his life comfortable. I was on the pill and we were having tons of unprotected sex. I was drinking and occasionally partying with other substances. We split up in September, and I was utterly devastated. I was drinking oceans of whiskey to try to dull the searing emotional pain of losing the first person who had ever captivated me the way he had. I was consumed by my love for him, the fire of which was fueled by the toxic dynamic of knowing that he did not love me and that I could lose him at any moment.
While I was mourning my failed relationship, I was living with a few friends and an airhead friend of someone whom I did not even really like in the first place. I let her move in because we were desperate for a quick roommate, as the previous one had left without much warning. This young woman applied Advantage, a very toxic flea medication, to my cat without letting me know. I would have been fine with this if I had known. After I came home from work one evening, I scratched the back of my cats’ neck and absently started biting my nails – I’ve always been a horrible nail biter. I immediately tasted a horrible chemical taste, spat, and washed my mouth out, as well as my hands.
That tiny amount was enough to release a horrible allergic reaction in my system. When I woke up the next morning, I was covered in hives from head to toe. It became increasingly worse and eventually the hives were on the bottom of my feet, my eyelids, and my scalp. I could not walk because simply being on my feet, which were swollen like clubs, hurt every nerve in them and moving felt like grinding gears in a car, sending intense pain through my body. I could not close my hands to clasp anything. Fearing that they would begin inside of my throat, my best friend drove me to the ER where they administered an IV of liquids, painkillers for the intense pain, and prednisone, a steroid. She had to help me drink and eat for the next few days until the swelling diminished.
Before giving me these things, they asked if there was any way that I could be pregnant. I shrugged and told them that I was very sexually active, but on the pill. “Good enough for me,” the young, handsome doctor said. He elected to skip the pregnancy test because I said I was on the pill. Now, speaking to folks who are capable of becoming pregnant and use birth control, how many of you have missed a pill? With approximately 1 million pregnancies yearly reported to be the result of missed birth control pills, I’d say it’s probably a lot of those reading this article.
It happens. Even when you do not miss a pill, it can still happen. One of my favorite people is around because of that, and because abortion was not the right choice for his mother, who is also pro-choice. It was the right choice for me when I found out a month or so later. That’s the thing about being pro-choice: you support the personhood of the human carrying the fetus, which is not yet a person and has a long way to go biologically before you can accurately call it that.
I met my current partner a few weeks after the allergic reaction. I was finally ready to get back on the horse, which would certainly be one of the ways I would have described the surprise I found in bed the night we met. I instantly fell hard for this slightly younger guy with whom I just wanted to share a satisfying sexual relationship. The first night turned into three and when he left for work the third night, it was hard being away from him, though it was good that he left since I was not feeling very well. I was bloated, gassy, and sore all of the time but I just thought it was the leftovers of my two-week illness from the allergic reaction. My period had not been around for a couple of months, but I was not surprised because it has been known to happen when I am incredibly stressed out and I take a new medication. My roommate and long-time friend talked me into taking a pregnancy test after we watched t>he abortion episode of The Sarah Silverman Show.
I called up my ex and we went to the Lovejoy Clinic together. We fought over whether or not to keep it. I was foolishly still hanging on to the idea that it would keep him around and ignoring the fact that I had drunk a great deal and had many other substances, prescription and otherwise, as well as neurotoxins running through my body. We both knew that it was imperative to have an abortion and I came to terms with it. I made it right under the cut-off: I was 11.5 weeks pregnant at the time of the abortion. Oregon Health Plan covered my abortion completely, as all pregnant women are entitled to full health coverage, regardless of whether you choose to continue to be pregnant.
My mother dropped everything and flew across the country to be with me. My ex drove my mother and I to the clinic and waited on me when I got home. The clinic was cold, as most are. The nurses were incredibly kind and the doctor stroked my hair as I cried and went under anesthesia. When I woke up, they were there to take care of me. I had tons of emotions about it, but I know I made the right decision. The only reason why I was mixed up was because this was the time I thought I would be having a child, and I had hoped that it would be with this person. My new boyfriend, who is now my fiancee, was there for me through the entire thing. I now know what it is like to be with someone who really loves me and wants to build a family with me when the time is right.
The hard facts at hand are that Planned Parenthood does not use government funding for abortions. I didn’t even go to Planned Parenthood for my abortion because of this! In fact, only 3% of the services that PP provides are abortion services. The majority of the work that they do is to provide STD screening and medication, cancer screening, contraception which prevents unwanted births and abortions, and a few other women’s health services.
The real cost of de-funding reproductive health services (which are also available to all genders) is that low-income women will cease to have access to services that allow them to lead healthy, autonomous lives. There will be an increase in unwanted pregnancies – people won’t stop having sex, they just won’t have the access to birth control. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a non-partisan office in charge of tracking governmental spending and its effects, found that defunding will produce $235 million dollars for the government. Sounds like a lot, right? Well, not when you break it down to the amount of money the government will be spending on births via Medicare, the cost of unwanted children tossed into the system, and those same unwanted children being incarcerated and financially dependent on federal funding by cycling in and out of prison for the rest of some of their lives. There are statistics that back this up not only based on data from the US, but also Canada and Romania.
When we take the autonomy of choice from a woman, we say that she is not worthy enough to make decisions for herself. Removing financial support for Planned Parenthood is not just an effort to make abortions illegal, it’s so much more – it’s saying that only the health of cis men is important. When you take away funding that saves lives with cancer screening, STD treatments and prevention, and prevents abortion by allowing access to affordable birth control, the government practically screams this at the top of their lungs. The sad thing is that pro-life women often don’t even realize where the money is going and that it does not fund abortions.
This is why it is important to #ShoutYourAbortion. Normalize the situation, discuss what happens and how your life is better for it. Take the mystery out of it for others and let them know it’s okay to have all kinds of feelings about it, but here is what you can expect. If you have had an abortion, consider becoming an abortion doula. We have to do what we can to continue the discussion while there are so many others out there that wish to silence us.
Featured Image Flickr user American Life League via Creative Commons