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I never thought I’d be someone telling my own abortion story.
Not because they aren’t necessary or part of comprehensive healthcare. Far from it. I volunteer for the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund. I sit on the board of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, and I worked for NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. I’ve been a clinic escort in three states.
But it wasn’t supposed to be me having an abortion. I had assumed immunity despite knowing that nearly one in three women will have one in her lifetime.
I also know that nearly one in every four pregnancies ends in a miscarriage. But that wasn’t supposed to be me either.
Yet I now claim both of those stats, and I’ve joined the ranks of what’s been termed the "super secret awful miscarriage club." But I’m ready to share my story because Planned Parenthood is under fire, again, and my experience with abortion is the point in which my political beliefs become personal.
The day of our first ultrasound appointment, at nearly 11 weeks into a very much wanted and planned pregnancy, there was bleeding. A lot of bleeding. The midwife, concerned, sent us to the radiologist. There was talk about an ectopic pregnancy, about the threat of hemorrhaging.
The next day, we were sent to the fetal and maternal specialist, who, after another transvaginal ultrasound, delivered the news -- the fetus was developing perfectly, its heartbeat was strong, but the placenta wasn’t, and a miscarriage was likely inevitable.
If the miscarriage didn’t happen, the impact of the bleeding on the fetus’s development was unknown, but likely severe. They couldn’t tell us when or where the miscarriage could happen, so with the limited information that was available to us, my husband and I made the decision to terminate the pregnancy.
I wanted to control the when and where, and I didn’t want any more unknowns. The abortion was scheduled for the next day; I’d have my partner, my parents, and some strong anesthesia at my side.
Seventy-two hours after our initial appointment, the one that was supposed to be full of overwhelming joy, I was no longer pregnant.
The fetal and maternal specialist called it a baby; I asked him to call it a fetus, needing distance. The sonographer, assuming we’d want them, handed us the ultrasound photos. We threw them away, too angry that this was happening to us, and too sad to have evidence to remind us of our loss. I made another ultrasound technician talk about the egregiousness of mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds while she performed one on me.
Because here I was, in the progressive bastion of Cambridge, Massachusetts, with providers who respected my decision to terminate, insurance that never questioned my need for coverage, and family and friends who supported our choice.
We didn’t encounter any laws inhibiting my access, my husband and I had reliable transportation for getting us to the surgery, and employers who allowed us paid sick leave, no questions asked.
Factually, all of those elements made the decision to terminate easier, and I recognize this privilege. But emotionally, not so much. This was a wanted pregnancy, and while I demanded we call it a fetus, and still try to avoid picturing the 3D ultrasound images, we were, and are, heartbroken. We were planning a family and then, in 72 hours, we weren't.
But I need to clarify here, to avoid the anti-choice voices gloating, “See, you’re heartbroken because it’s a baby! How can anyone choose to end a life?” I’m frustrated by those people who see my abortion as the "permissible" or "good kind" of abortion. The pregnancy wasn’t viable, so we terminated.
Let me be clear -- my abortion must not delegitimize anyone else’s reasons for termination. All are valid. All are a decision that belongs to the pregnant person and the medical provider.
The heartbreak we felt -- and continue to grieve for -- was about this pregnancy. But it’s two-fold. We grieve over this loss because it represented a potential child, and our potential family. To a smaller degree, I grieve over this particular fetus who had already been given the nickname "Poney," the combination of our last names.
But we were making the decision about how we viewed this potential life, and pregnancy. No one else decides when you consider your pregnancy a baby, a fetus/zygote, or a bundle of cells. It was our decision, and not one anyone else could make.
Planned Parenthood respects that decision and supports all patients who come in, seeking care. That’s why I'm sharing my story now. My abortion wasn’t at Planned Parenthood (though I’ve gotten birth control there), but Planned Parenthood makes it possible for everyone -- regardless of financial means -- to access comprehensive, affordable, and non-judgmental healthcare. And yes, that includes abortions because abortions are part of healthcare.
My convictions about supporting access to abortions couldn’t be more stalwart. Yet, for a few days, I held onto a notion of self-blame -- maybe my miscarriage was payback for my work promoting abortion access? A ridiculous thought -- I knew that factually. But that’s the danger of these recent attacks on Planned Parenthood. I needed an explanation for why this had happened to me and the anti-choice talking points had gotten inside my head.
Fortunately, Planned Parenthood is here to battle those voices, too. By ensuring access to comprehensive health care, and patients the space to make their own decisions, those casting blame become less credible, less powerful.
Planned Parenthood provides health care. We know that. But in doing so, they also empower people to make the choices best for their own families -- if, when, and how to have them.