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I am not pregnant.
Four days ago, I thought I might be. My occasionally erratic period had been making a regular appearance for the last year, with the exception of the past few months. Eventually, Aunt Flo always made her gnarly appearance, but this time was different.
I was two weeks late, and I was officially freaking out. I hadn’t had a pregnancy scare since I was in college, and at 27, I didn’t feel any more prepared to have a baby than I did back then.
Even though I have a relatively stable life, I am not ready to be a mother. I’m not ready to give over a significant portion of my life to another human being. I know that for a fact. Without any hesitation, I knew that abortion was the only option that made any sense. I never wavered in that decision throughout the entire two-week scare. Unfortunately, I also knew that getting an abortion would be harder than ever in my home state of Texas.
If you haven’t been paying attention, the United States Fifth Circuit of Appeals recently upheld provisions of a Texas abortion law that is considered to be one of the strictest in the country. This law, known as HB2, requires abortion providers to jump through a series of regulatory hurdles, including obtaining admitting procedures at a nearby hospital and operating in a facility that is designated as an ambulatory surgical center.
The law also includes a provision that specifies the temperature of the operating room during an abortion.
After the Fifth Circuit upheld the worst provisions of HB2, all but eight clinics in the entire state of Texas (population 26.5 million people) were forced to close their doors. Two years ago, there were more than 40 clinics. The case is likely headed to the Supreme Court, which doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence. The fate of women’s health is in the hands of a mostly-conservative court, but that potentially forthcoming decision would have zero impact on my hypothetical pregnancy.
Three of the clinics that remain in Texas are located in Dallas, where I live. Closures at clinics across the state, though, mean that abortion facilities in my area are severely overburdened with a glut of patients who have driven across the state. As a result, it is extremely difficult to get an appointment at an abortion clinic. Many clinics in Texas have even extended their hours to include Saturdays and Sundays to meet the demand.
Faced with this reality, I obsessed for two weeks about what it would be like to obtain an abortion. I have never had an abortion, but I have supported several friends through the process. Clinically, I knew what to expect, thanks to time spent volunteering at Planned Parenthood. I also knew that the laws in my state would force the abortion provider to show me a sonogram and tell me misleading lies about the “after effects” of abortion. I knew that I would potentially have to walk through a crowd of people who would call me a “murderer” to get through the clinic’s doors.
What I didn’t know, though, is how long it would take for me to actually get an appointment with an abortion clinic. If I accidentally walked into to one of the state-funded crisis pregnancy centers who strategically position themselves as “abortion education” facilities near actual abortion clinics, I could have missed the appointment for my procedure. A million ways that I could somehow screw up being able to get an abortion flew through my mind, most of which were entirely plausible thanks to the Texas Legislature.
Despite all of these barriers, I know that I am one of the lucky ones in Texas. I make enough money that I could afford an abortion, even though it would be a serious strain on my budget. I have a supportive partner and friends who could drive me to the clinic and care for me afterward. Unlike one million Texas women who face a 300-plus mile round trip to an abortion clinic, there’s one three miles away from my apartment. It is harder for me than it has ever been for any woman in Texas in my lifetime to obtain an abortion, but still easier than the terrifying reality that women in West Texas and the Rio Grande Valley face.
I am luckier still in the fact that I was not actually pregnant and won’t need to have an abortion. I didn’t tell anyone until my period was officially 14 days late. When I finally did tell my boyfriend what was going on, he immediately went to the drugstore and picked up a pregnancy test. The expensive kind, complete with a digital readout. We wanted to be sure. I waited the three excruciating minutes for the chemicals on that pee-covered stick to determine my future. I have never been happier to see the word “no.”
Economic barriers to accessing abortion have always existed, but I never thought in a million years that it would be impossible. I have always lived in a post-Roe world. I do not remember the horrors that existed for women who needed abortions before. I had become complacent, always assuming that the right to abortion would exist, even though I knew that there was a concerted, multi-state effort by anti-choice activists to make abortion almost impossible to access.
If circumstances had been different, I would be looking at a pregnancy that the state of Texas was functionally forcing me to carry to term. If the test had read “yes,” and I were a few months pregnant, could I have even gotten an appointment with an abortion clinic before the 20-week cut off? What happens if my car broke down and I had to choose between having reliable transportation or paying rent and having a child? These are questions I do not have to answer, at least not today.
But it could happen again, no matter how diligent I am with taking my birth control and practicing safe sex. That is terrifying, and I wonder what the anti-choice lobby will do next to keep abortion away from women who need it. I wonder if the Supreme Court will ever get around to reaffirming a woman’s fundamental right to choose what is best for her body. Most frequently, though, I wonder most about what my life would have been like if that pee stick had read yes.