This story is published at Shout Your Abortion.
I have had two contrasting experiences with abortions: the first was legal and provided by Planned Parenthood and the second was illegal in Eastern Europe.
The first time I became pregnant I was 21 and a recent college graduate. I hadn’t found a job yet, my relationship with my college boyfriend was rocky (it has since transformed into a good friendship), and I had just experienced my first taste of freedom as an adult.
We were not careful with birth control and I became pregnant. The decision to terminate was very difficult and I seriously considered every option, but ultimately the right thing to do for me and my partner was to end the pregnancy.
I received a medical abortion at ten weeks from Planned Parenthood and felt very supported and taken care of. Everyone from the receptionists to the ultrasound technician to the doctor made me feel that I was allowed to make this incredibly difficult decision for myself, and I was proud to be among empowered women who are working to provide comprehensive healthcare and reproductive rights to all women.
The medical procedure went very smoothly and I was able to deal with the physical and emotional healing as efficiently as possible.
In contrast, the second time I became pregnant I was 24 and traveling in Eastern Europe. I had recently moved abroad and was still establishing a network of friends and a support system in my new city.
I had learned to be more careful with birth control, but unfortunately this time the condom broke and Plan B also failed.
When I found out that I was pregnant at five weeks, an acquaintance took me to her gynecologist who performed the ultrasound and who agreed to help me with an abortion.
I am still a little unclear of the details as I did not speak the language well at that time and my acquaintance did not speak English well, but the gynecologist was unable to legally prescribe me the pills for a medical abortion or perform surgery.
To the best of my understanding, this was because I was a foreigner and abortions were only available to citizens. However, he offered to get me the pills, and I, perhaps a bit naively because my first abortion had been so straightforward, agreed that this would be the simplest solution.
He told me his personal phone number, and two days later we met at McDonald’s. I gave him $80 and he gave me the pills he had stolen from the hospital and the instructions to text him if anything went wrong since I should avoid going to the hospital because what I was doing was illegal.
Again, I thought that everything would be fine because of my previous experiences, but unfortunately this time I had an extremely adverse reaction to the pills and nearly bled out. I had to take an emergency flight back to America where I was able to be seen by my gynecologist.
She discovered that in addition to the excessive bleeding, the abortion had been only partially successful and I still had a significant amount of pregnancy tissue that I needed to pass. Eventually, I was able to resolve this and after a month my health was finally good enough to return to my new life abroad.
These two vastly different experiences demonstrate why access to safe legal abortion – such as through Planned Parenthood – is vital for our health.
The quality of care that I received from a legal abortion at Planned Parenthood was vastly better than what I received from the illegal abortion where I was unable to seek the medical help that I desperately needed.
People who want abortions will get abortions- whether or not they are legal. It is our responsibility to take care of people seeking abortions and ensure that we do not have to jeopardize our health in these already difficult moments.
Furthermore, safe abortion must not only be legal but also easily accessible. I had the opportunity to return to the United States and receive a perfectly legal abortion there- but I chose an illegal one because I thought it would be easier and cheaper.
Perhaps this was foolish, but this is the reason why Planned Parenthood needs to be easily accessible to every person in this country – because we will choose the illegal route if it is easier.
I am incredibly lucky that I was able to receive both of these abortions, and I am incredibly lucky that I was able to return to the United States to fix the problems created abroad. Every person deserves to have this same privilege.