This is my abortion story. When I was nine, I remember buying a gold pin shaped like tiny feet. Not truly understanding what they meant, I read the note that accompanied while walking away from the table. The tiny feet were representative of a baby, just ten weeks old. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to kill a baby.
All these years later that little girl with the pin has matured and understands that life is not so cut and dry. Having written about my cancer journey my readers know that my life has been, well…. complicated. After completing lumpectomy and radiation the next leg of my cancer treatment began. May 9th, I began taking an estrogen suppressor called Tamoxifen and was blissfully unaware that the estrogen suppressor was originally developed as a fertility drug. The summer came and went and life settled into a new rhythm. I had been advised that my periods would change and I may be thrown into menopause. Many weeks after missing my period I decided to take a pregnancy test before calling my doctor about my body change. When the tiny line on the pregnancy test proved positive, I was thunderstruck. And then panic set in.
My oncologist immediately punted me to the perinatologist and OBGYN and anyone but him. I was a case nobody wanted to touch. Not even nine months after my cancer diagnosis I was pregnant, and on medication to suppress pregnancy hormones. How in the world did this happen? My doctors gently shared that the baby would likely have genitourinary development defects and might not live long after birth, if they made it that long.
I was overwhelmed. Having endured nine months of diagnosis, biopsies, MRIs, mammograms, surgery, and daily radiation, oral medication was the last step in preventing a reoccurrence. My body autonomy was robbed in the name of saving me and now we faced having a baby with a congenital defect that would not survive. Make no mistake, this was not all about me. My three babies under seven and husband would have to endure this journey as well.
For as long as I could remember I was the person who supported abortion rights but, “would never have one myself.” There I was, on my knees, paralyzed with fear and I was given a choice. “You have been through so much, your body has endured enough, you don’t HAVE to do this.” My OBGYN’s voice still echoes in my ears, I had a choice. I vividly remember being in that room, I didn’t see it coming. The choice was presented, long discussions ensued and I left to contemplate my path, my body, my family.
During those long drives up to perinatal appointments I sobbed. I resented my doctors for not sharing the short-term increase in fertility with a woman of childbearing age. I hated myself for not doing research on the drug, looking for that possibility. Instead our fertility plan was to lean into the fact that we had done four rounds of IVF to have the three babies we so desperately desired.
I lamented the shame of making a decision contrary to my religious upbringing. I tried to reconcile my having watched my babies develop since they were blastocytes and the cataclysmic impact of watching the same, in this body, this depressed body that had again betrayed me. In my head I tried on that woman, that life, those words and arrived at the decision that if anything was wrong with the testing, I had an option and it would be embraced.
In life there are no guarantees; this was no different. The doctor performed an amniocenteses, genetic testing and then…the testing became too invasive. My husband and I decided that it was done. Things looked good enough. We were going to have this miracle baby. But I was given a gift, I was given a choice. Abortion is body autonomy. Abortion is care. Abortion is benevolent.
Six years later I sat in a peace education seminar and the concept of abortion was couched. A minister from New Jersey pontificated, “but what about all of the black girls?” I was stunned, was it possible this is actually a perception? I remarked that abortions are not just for “black girls,” in fact body autonomy is for everyone. Women everywhere need access to healthcare. Abortion is healthcare. Later at lunch she shared her story of teenage pregnancy. Being sent to the nuns to birth her baby and then sign them over to another family. I was reminded, everyone has a story.
I cannot imagine facing a world where I did not have the right to choose if my body was too tired. Having endured months of cancer treatment with three children under seven, perhaps I was not mentally stable to bring another life into the world. Cancer bills can bankrupt a family, what if we couldn’t provide for a fourth child (by the way who is paying for his college?). Though I did not exercise my right I am forever in debt to my physician for laying the option on the table, allowing me the choice. I cannot imagine the anguish if that choice was taken away.
My story is not unique. People of all ages, races and religions need abortions for a multitude of reasons. Really the reasons are none of my business or yours. If overturned, rich people will fly or drive to states that allow abortions and those without the resources will be stuck. In states with “trigger bans” in place, abortion will be considered a felony with prison time of up to 20 years for both providers and patients.
My readers, what is your story?