I have had a few medical treatments that were both physically and emotionally painful. My abortion was one of them.
I apologize to everyone in my life who has wanted to know the full me for not telling them earlier. (To the rest, well, bye.) I apologize to myself for not sooner shunning the culture of shame and silence — the false narrative — that even we progressive women have built around abortion.
We can’t get out of this deep hole we have dug, where Roe is imperiled and women are dying, without acknowledging abortion for what it is: a critical and regular part of women’s healthcare. In the US, it is reported — reported — that between one-fourth and one-third of women have an abortion.
When the late Justice Harry Blackmun was tasked with writing Roe, he, a Minnesotan, did research at the Mayo Clinic library. He learned that women have been having abortions since the beginning of recorded time. Women have and will always have abortions because women, like all humans, will always choose survival when they can. Justice Blackmun saw that abortions were both critical — they wouldn’t have persisted otherwise — and regular — they happened all the time. So he opted to make them safe and legal.
And yet, I couldn’t even find regular words to describe this piece! I need to own my abortion, I said. I want to take responsibility. I want to come clean. For fuck’s sake! My grandmother had breast cancer and endured a double mastectomy, hysterectomy, and ovariectomy in her thirties — that’s as physically painful, emotionally gutting, and quintessentially female as it gets. And even the evilest, craziest senator, congressperson, or judge wouldn’t shame or criminalize her for this, or insist that she suffer silently and alone. (I don’t think. These days, one can’t know for sure.)
Having an abortion was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was physically excruciating — not the abortion, but having a laminaria wedged into my cervix to make it dilate, and of course bleeding chunks into an adult diaper for weeks while pretending to be a lawyer and functioning human wasn’t great either — and emotionally torturous. The suggestion that any woman has an abortion casually — it’s a surgery, foreign objects go into your body, it hurts, it’s bloody, it butts up against our Darwinian instincts and society’s constructs of who women are, and just for shits, costs real money — is abhorrent.
I am white, affluent, Ivy League-educated, and come from a loving and stable family. I discovered after becoming pregnant that, had I kept the pregnancy, I wouldn’t have been able to live my life the way I was meant to; I would have certainly become perilously depressed. I believe this depression would have caused my body to become seriously ill. Regardless, I knew I would have died inside. So I sacrificed the embryo, the future baby-version of which I already loved, to save myself. I grieved my loss heavily. But I have never regretted it. I have a beautiful life now. I get to be my whole self and fully alive.
The only thing I regret is repressing an important part of me, being small and quiet, despite living every second of every day with the knowledge that having an abortion under the very best of circumstances — with access, means, and support — is shit.
To the warrior women who save themselves against exponentially worse odds, I embrace you. I hold you close and honor you, and will spend the rest of my life finding ways to make us count.