This post originally appeared on Elle UK. It was republished with author permission.
Last Fall, the phone rang and my whole world stopped, the ground crumbled beneath me. My father, my best friend and the only stability I had ever known, an ox of a man I never even saw cough, suffered a sudden heart attack and died. He was gone before he even hit the ground.
The next few weeks were a haze. I wasn’t paying attention to my body; I was barely even eating. When I missed my period, I wrote it off to the overwhelming stress. But it wasn’t my mourning that had made me late. I was pregnant.
Seemingly overnight, I found myself parentless, single, drowning in a sea of grief, knocked-up and financially and emotionally unfit to be a mother. I didn’t know what was going to happen the next day, let alone the next 18 years. I was waking up in tears everyday, barely able to get out of bed. I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to have children, but I knew this certainly wasn’t the way I wanted to start. So I made the only choice I could.
I was way past the six-week mark, as most women who need an abortion are, because at six weeks a woman will have missed only one period. Under Ohio’s new legislation her abortion will become illegal before she even realizes that she’s pregnant.
So what were my options? Force my grief stricken self through 9 months of pregnancy? Raise a child I was unfit to care for, or give the baby up? Anti-choice advocates are always so quick to suggest adoption, as if that is somehow an easy option. I have seen first hand the amount of guilt, longing and pain that comes from giving up a child; my very catholic mother had a daughter when she was 16-years-old, and she put the baby up for adoption. I knew that just wasn’t an option for me, so I scheduled an appointment and spent the next two and half weeks nauseous and nervous, but never once unsure of my decision.
When you have a pill abortion, you are basically forcing your uterus to contract repeatedly to expel the embryo, along with all its other contents. So what exactly does that entail? Sitting over the toilet for hours, pushing out blood clots the size of lemons. Some so large I had to reach up inside myself to pull them out. It means excruciating cramps and pain, far worse than any period symptoms I’ve ever had. Bleeding through pads that should last eight hours in 45 minutes. I was dizzy, sickly, and had a pounding headache. All of this lasted for three solid days.
And then came the shame.
But it didn’t come from within, it was the shame that society forces upon us when we commit to this act. I don’t actually feel any guilt about my abortion. It was the right choice for me and I know that. But I felt all this guilt for not feeling guilty; I felt like it made me a bad person if I didn’t feel remorse, even though there was no other option for me.
But it shouldn’t be this way. It shouldn’t be this taboo thing. Telling your story shouldn’t be considered heroic or courageous, because so many women have had abortions.
One woman in three will terminate a pregnancy in her lifetime. When I talked about mine on Instagram, I got message after message commending me for my courage, but I didn’t feel like it was brave at all. It’s not that it was a casual choice, I’m not trying to knock down the significance of abortion, but it shouldn’t be so shocking.
We should be sharing our stories, and finding solace in each other’s pain because we’ve all experienced similar. We need to voice up, because the people that would keep us quiet are mighty loud.
When the Ohio ‘fetal heartbeat’ bill—that could land women unable to access a safe and legal abortion past the point of six weeks—came into play, I began making note after note, listing all the different reasons why abortion is necessary, all the different reasons that women fight for it, and all the reasons that I fight for it. My lists became endless though, because there are too many reasons.
I thought about the billions of women around the world who are fighting this same fight. I thought about the future of choice, and if that choice is going to be between unsafe back-alley abortions, women puncturing their uteruses with coat hangers, and desperate young girls throwing themselves down staircases – then the future looks fucking harrowing.
So I have a message for the people who think that issuing that sort of limitation to women’s reproductive rights is okay. It is a plea to try to see things from outside of your black and white bubble. To join us in the world where things are messy, where we make allowances for human error, and where pregnancy isn’t a punishment for having sex.
This isn’t a choice anyone is making lightly. No one is using it as a form of birth control—trust me it wasn’t exactly a fun experience. Most women who seek to terminate already have at least one child—72 per cent of them actually. That means these women know exactly what a pregnancy entails, and what it takes to raise a family. They are choosing a better life not only for themselves, but for their actual children.
Let’s stop fighting for a life that might eventually exist and start fighting for those that already do.
Studies have conclusively proven that making abortion illegal does absolutely nothing to reduce the number of terminations. The question I have for you isn’t whether women will have abortions, the question is whether you’ll prevent these abortions from being safe?
Terminating that pregnancy was the only option for me. It was the only choice I could make. You have the freedom to believe in whatever you’d like. You can disagree with my abortion. No one is asking you to get one.
But your god doesn’t give you the right to control my body.