My Reality: My Abortion Experience

by | August 13, 2013
filed under My Reality

"Never Going Back!" written in sidewalk chalk on pavement with a drawing of a coat hanger crossed out

“Never Going Back!” written in sidewalk chalk on pavement with a drawing of a coat hanger crossed out

by Jane Person

This afternoon I had an abortion. This is not a sentence I ever thought I would utter. I’m pro-choice. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy writing about, advocating for, and protecting a woman’s right to choice. I never thought this would be a choice I personally would make, no matter how adamantly I support other women’s right to make this choice. It was an important issue to me before this point as a woman, as someone who vehemently believes that every single woman can be trusted to make right choices for herself about her own body.

In a culture dominated by patriarchy where women are not yet equal, bodily autonomy is one of the most important issues there is. If we cannot be agents of our own bodies, what rights have we as human beings? Men’s bodies are not similarity legislated, controlled, and shamed.

***

A few weeks ago my breasts began to get sore. “Great. My period is coming” was the thought I had. But after a couple of weeks they became increasingly sore and my period was late. That’s not uncommon for me. My cycle is very irregular.

But then I started feeling nauseated. I threw up one morning while at work. I couldn’t stand the smells of people on the bus. I couldn’t eat. Everything made me feel sick.

I went to the nearest drug store to purchase a pregnancy test. I still didn’t think I was pregnant. I simply wanted to assuage my anxiety and affirm that my period was simply delayed and my regular menstrual symptoms were just a little more intense this month.

I took the test as soon as I got home. Within seconds of urinating on the stick, a positive indication of pregnancy came up.

“Fuck!”

I’m sure my daughter heard my shout from downstairs. I didn’t waste a moment after finding out I was pregnant. I knew what I wanted, needed, to do.

First I called the sexual health clinic. They told me I could come by Monday afternoon to get a referral from a doctor, required for access to an abortion in Ontario.

Monday afternoon doesn’t work for me. I’ve got a job interview.” was my dismayed reply. It was Friday afternoon. I hid the panic I was feeling. I felt a sense of urgency, a desire to handle this as quickly as possible. I asked for alternative options with a calmness I wasn’t feeling.

I then called the university health centre. I made an appointment for Wednesday the following week.

I knew I wanted the referral sooner than later. My preference was for a medical abortion over a surgical abortion, if at all possible. The efficacy of medical abortion decreases as pregnancy progresses.

The four days leading up to my appointment were agonizing. I was sick. My body doesn’t handle pregnancy well. I just wanted this over with.

I made it the agonizing four days until my appointment. I was nervous about how I would be received when I arrived at the health clinic, having had prior negative experiences. They have this policy where they like students to see the same doctor at each visit, but I specifically requested someone different. It couldn’t have gone any better. Not only were both the nurse and the doctor I saw nonjudgmental, they were sympathetic and compassionate. It was a relief.

The referral was put in to the OB-GYN who handles abortion in my region. An hour later I called to make an appointment, and they got me in for an ultrasound the very next day. At that time, I found out I was seven weeks. Knowing that time was getting thin, as a medical abortion can only be performed up until nine weeks gestation (and this particular doctor was known being known for not performing many, and for typically requiring women to be less than eight weeks’ gestation) the kindly secretary scheduled me in to see him within four days. I’m sure she’d have gotten me in sooner, but it was my luck that Monday fell on a holiday.

When I arrived for the follow up appointment, it ended up being a different doctor than I’d initially thought I’d be seeing. He began by telling me my options – and I jumped right in to say that I had reviewed them extensively and wanted to go the medical route. He agreed, although warned me about the decreased efficacy with the number of days’ gestation (56 – one week prior to the cut off, at this time). I acknowledged that I understood and would agree to a surgical abortion were this method to fail. He gave me the prescription and told me to return the next day to have the shot administered.

I was treated with dignity and respect throughout this whole process. I felt I was afforded autonomy and agency as a patient. There was no judgment placed upon me. My experience, I know, does not mirror that of many other women. My wish is that for others going through what I did to be treated with the same dignity and respect that I was, to be afforded autonomy regarding their decision, and to feel empowered throughout the process. This experience has made this issue even more important to me – all women deserve to have the right to reproductive choice. To me that is an unquestionable right. Women should not be shamed for making choices that are right for them.

I’m sharing this because my story could be any woman’s story. Perhaps people will judge me for having refused contraception that my previous doctor tried to force upon me (a decision I made deliberately, with agency, and for good reason). Perhaps people will judge me for being a sexually-active woman of reproductive age. I’m just glad that I had the ability to choose.

And in terms of psychological consequences – often cited as reason for legislating women’s bodies – terminating this pregnancy has caused me no more emotional turmoil than the three spontaneous abortions (i.e., miscarriages) I had prior to this. This was something I knew I had to do. I don’t regret it. I do not feel badly or guilty. On the contrary, to have been forced to carry this pregnancy to term would have been far more physically and psychologically taxing.

I am, quite frankly, just relieved. And I can’t help but empathize with the millions of women who aren’t quite as lucky as I am. The women who live in regions of the world – like our neighbours in the United States, even – who are often denied access to what should be an accessible health service, basic healthcare. I feel for every single woman who has discovered she’s pregnant after doing everything “right”, only to find herself unable to make a choice that is right for her. And for those who didn’t do everything “right”. This experience only reaffirms for me why the right to choice is such an important feminist issue. Women will never be equal until men stop legislating what they do with their own bodies. Women must be given the autonomy and respect to decide what is right for themselves and their bodies.

In the apt words of Ani DiFranco:

“And if you don’t like abortion/ don’t have an abortion/ and teach your children/ how they can avoid them/ but don’t treat all women/ like they are your children.”

Editor’s Note: the post above is by a cis woman sharing her own experience in her own words. Gender Focus recognizes not only cis women can become pregnant and that a full range of reproductive health care – including abortion – needs to be freely available without discrimination to anyone who can become pregnant, including trans men.


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  • Roxanna Bennett

    Thank you so much for your candid and excellent post.

  • Alicia

    Thanks for sharing this.

  • http://www.fatandnotafraid.jigsy.com JeninCanada

    I remember the panicky feeling of urgency when I found myself unexpectedly pregnant (IUD failure ftw!) and later ‘oh my god I have to wait how long?!’ in order to get a surgical abortion (my wait was 4 weeks in a small Northern Ontario town). Thanks for sharing your story. I hope it helps to destigmatize something that is unfairly judged.

  • Jane

    Thank you, ladies for your supportive comments. I really hope that speaking candidly about my experience will help to destigmatize a necessary health service. I’ve wondered if maybe some women who express regret later do so because of the stigma and shaming. It is certainly a decision that can invoke ambivalent feelings and emotions, but I know for myself there was only relief.

  • Sadia

    I will always be pro-life, you have the right to choose when it comes to your body, but the body within yours doesn’t belong to you. Abortion is murder, that child deserved a chance. It’s not opinion either, terminating a human life is always murder.

    • Erin

      You just gave that potential life more rights than any other human being in the world. And reduced this woman to less rights than a corpse.

      If I know that my brother will die if I do not donate, say, bone marrow or a kidney or whatever, and I choose not to, no legislation on earth will force me to do so. You will not attempt to force me to do so. Even though I know that he. Will. Die. If I do not do this. There is no other option. I either donate, or he dies. But I get to decide what happens with my body. And if I agree to it, and then change my mind just before the surgery, then the doctors will pull back and I will get off the operating table and leave the hospital.

      If someone died in a car wreck and it turns out that they could save a life, that there is a person waiting for an organ. That person will die if they do not get that organ, and this is the only option that could get them the organ in time. The deceased is not listed as an organ donor, and they can’t contact next of kin. They will let that person die rather than take the organ from the deceased.

      • Andres Riofrio

        Thank you for a reasonable response to the argument that, since the fetus is human, it has the right to live. Too often people respond with slogans instead of counterarguments, on both sides.

        There are three relevant differences between your examples and abortion. First, in your examples the agent is a sibling or a stranger. In abortion, the agent is a parent. Second, in your examples, the agent is donating a part of their body. In abortion, the agent is donating food and shelter (by lending residence in a part of their body). Third, in your examples, the born person is let die. In abortion, the fetus is killed through lethal injection or dismemberment (in late-term abortions).

        I think the last difference is especially relevant to this discussion. The dying man who needs a blood transfusion cannot force anyone to donate, but neither can the dying man be killed through lethal injection or dismemberment if, through no fault of his own, killing him in this way is the only way to refuse donation. Do you agree with this intuition about the right to not be killed superseding the right to body autonomy?

      • Andres Riofrio

        I forgot to say that I agree with your intuitions regarding bodily autonomy taking precedence over the right to life-saving medical treatment.

      • Molly

        Do you not see a material difference between actively taking someone’s life (abortion) and opting to not donate some life saving treatment?

  • Jane

    People are entitled to their opinions. If someone chooses to be pro-life, that is their choice. However, what they don’t get to do is to choose what I do with my body. I didn’t ‘murder’ a ‘baby’. That is rhetoric designed to inspire emotional response. I don’t regret and will never regret this decision. Nobody, with all the anti-choice rhetoric in the world, could make me regret this decision.

    Here’s the thing about choice – I support all reproductive choices a woman makes. If a woman chooses to carry a pregnancy to term, that’s her choice. If a women chooses to place her child for adoption, that’s her choice. If a woman chooses to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, also her choice. A mass of cells does not trump her bodily autonomy.

    Interestingly, this is the first judgment I’ve faced regarding my decision. Everyone – friends, family, medical staff – who have been involved in or aware of this situation have offered nothing but unbiased support. I’m grateful that my experience wasn’t like what many other women have to face with judgment, criticism, insults, and people attempting to ‘educate’ them about their choice (as if they weren’t aware of what they were doing). No, my experience went probably as well as it could have gone. I was treated with dignity and respect and felt empowers through the process because my decisions were honoured and I wasn’t spoken to as though I was unwittingly doing something with my body that I couldn’t fully comprehend the repercussions of. I was prepared to deal with such judgment if need be, given that I’m a strong advocate for myself and others, but thankfully it didn’t come to that. I feel so much for the poor women who encounter criticism, judgment, and are harassed about they’d decision who may not have the ability or voice to deal with that.

    If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one. It really is that simple. But who are you to tell other women what they should or should not do with their bodies? Abortion always has and always will exist. Doesn’t it make better sense for it to be a safe medical procedure rather than one that claims the lives of desperate women who choose not to carry a pregnancy? A fetus is not more valuable than the life of the woman carrying it.

  • Molly

    You open your piece with a complaint that women are not equal, that through legislation their bodies are somehow not their own. You later talk about “autonomy” and “agency” and empowerment. We’re you ever, even for a brief moment, struck by the heavy irony of using such terms in the act of denying these things to a unique and unrepeatable human being?

  • Nichole

    Did I misunderstand something here, you were given birth control options and you didnt use any? Did you use abortion as a birth control method? There are so many ways to protect against pregnancy, exploring every option should have been done before the deed was performed. I found Jane to be very cold in her tone when talking about abortion. The reality is yes you do have a right to choose what you do with your body but to think you didn’t kill a person is frankly wrong. I wonder what your daughter would say knowing that you killed her brother or sister? Or are you going to teach her that killing a baby is right? Its like religion, I cant make my children follow my beliefs they need to decide and choose for themselves. i hope you let your daughter decide which side she wants to be on, Prochoice or Prolife. Justifying it can make you feel better but simply the fact is you killed a baby!

  • Duzzy

    Jane, your logic is flawed.
    You complain that “Men’s bodies are not similarity legislated, controlled, and shamed”. The fact is that the law legislates against many bodily actions of men, including assault, rape, murder etc. – all crimes committed by the body against another living human.
    Similary, abortion kills another human being therefore should be punishable by law.
    I wonder was it another girl that you killed.