This story is published at Medium.
My Two Abortions
I have two children and I’ve had two abortions. I am deeply grateful for my children and enraged that my abortions would be anyone’s business — not because I’m ashamed, or regretful, or even feel that it’s especially private (no more so than any other medical procedure), but because for me it’s just not an interesting, important fact of who I am. My abortions were both choices whose significance exists only in the negative: If I had not been able to have them legally and safely then my basic human right to control my body would have been violated and therefore my life would not have been mine to live.
As a practical matter, the access to abortion as a routine medical procedure has been severely eroded over the years, and now we are at the almost previously unthinkable (to me) precipice of seeing it taken away from all women. I am in deep agreement with Leive that we may have basked in the luxury of not having to share details of our gynecological procedures in order to preserve our rights to them. Well, no more. Here are the stories of my two abortions. They’re mundane. Better than most, worse than some. I wasn’t conflicted or traumatized but obtaining them was difficult, enraging, and much harder than the procedure itself. This isn’t a compelling personal narrative about a gut-wrenching choice — it’s just two choices I made in my life out of millions. Now I feel impelled to share this publicly because what should be a mundane medical procedure is in legal jeopardy — so here goes.
Abortion One: It is 1985 and I’m 22 and am living with the man who I will end up marrying, have two children with, and get divorced from. I have not gotten my period, but I don’t notice because my periods aren’t regular. I’m super nauseated and can barely eat, but I don’t really notice that either because I’m trying to become a writer and all I do is drink coffee and smoke cigarettes. I have no idea what brings me to consider the obvious possibility that I might be pregnant but I take a blood test — positive — and end up at my gynecologist’s office. He tells me that I’m 16 weeks pregnant and that he won’t perform an abortion: he says it’s against his beliefs. For my mother and me, this is shocking information. I’m shocked that I’m pregnant to begin with and we’re both shocked that his beliefs have anything to do with whether or not I can obtain an abortion. My mother is a lawyer. She’s enraged. Abortion is legal. My doctor sends me to a clinic on 59th Street between 5th and Madison. The place is well-run and professional and I am treated with dignity and compassion.
Abortion Two: I’m in my early 40’s. I am recently divorced — a truly traumatic and nightmarish experience. I have been dating someone for about a year who turns out to be a colossal jerk. We break up. Then I discover that I’m pregnant. I call my obstetrician who says she doesn’t perform abortions and neither does anyone in her practice — actually she knows NO doctors who perform abortions. (As it turns out, only 14% of practicing OB/GYNs perform abortions.) She gives me the name of a clinic. When I show up, I’m shocked. It’s a free-for-all overflowing with mostly teenagers who have had to sprawl out on the floor because there aren’t enough chairs. Is this my only option?
Why doesn’t the clinic have the professional sheen of any other doctor’s office? It looks like the DMV. I wouldn’t have dental work here or get a wart removed here but yet I’m about to have an invasive medical procedure. I walk out. I send out a desperate email to everyone I know asking if their OB/GYN does abortions. Finally my shrink finds someone for me. The OB/GYN keeps this part of her practice on the down low so she doesn’t get bomb threats and her patients don’t get harassed.
So in 2002, I am going to have a secret abortion on the Upper East Side. I go to her nice Laura Ashley-like office to have the procedure and schedule a follow up to get an IUD. Done. Go home to my kids. Even in New York City getting an abortion, though legal, isn’t easy and abortion isn’t even remotely treated as every other medical procedure is. And I am among the luckiest of the lucky. I have money, I have time, I have resources, I have great insurance (which doesn’t cover abortions!) and a robust network of friends to reach out to.
What about those teenagers? What about everyone else? This scares me. We had lost ground and the people who want to control women’s bodies had scored victories — even in New York City—even before Trump.
We have let others control this conversation for too long. So thank you to all the people who have told their stories so I didn’t have to—until now. Now, I’ll be fighting to preserve the right to abortion and all our other precious rights. Please join me!