t 27 years old, I found myself at Planned Parenthood’s Bleecker Street clinic in New York City for an abortion. According to the ultrasound tech, I was six weeks and five days along. I stared at the small mass on the screen waiting for compassion or guilt to hit me, trying to feel something maternal for this pseudo-life inside my body, but it never came.
Instead, I felt rage. I felt disgusted and violated by this thing I hadn’t asked for and certainly did not want. In truth, I was surprised by my own coldness — would someone who felt this angry at the idea of her own baby really be capable of becoming a mother? A mother would never feel the revulsion I did in that moment. A mother’s first thought upon discovering her pregnancy shouldn’t be, “it wouldn’t be so bad to close my eyes and step into a busy Brooklyn intersection.”
This was an accident. My contraception had failed me — why should that mean that my boyfriend and I should have to face a wholly life-altering consequence? We had inadvertently created something out of virtually nothing. Not a life, but the possibility of one and nothing more. I didn’t want this and I had his full support in that, so our choice was immediately clear.
According to CDC, in 2015 approximately 35% of all pregnancies in New York (excluding spontaneous miscarriages)—approximately 93,000 — were terminated by abortion, and 86% of those women were unmarried (most were in their 20s).
The top two reasons?
23% of those women either could not afford to have a child, and 25% were simply “not ready to do so.” Imagine if this choice is fully taken from us. Thirty-five percent of pregnant women throughout the entire state of New York. Take a moment to picture that. And that’s just New York.
After the sonogram, I sat in a waiting room with 20 other miserable-looking women for about four hours until I was called into another room to place my things in a locker before being handed a gown and whisked to the room where my procedure would take place. I made a joke about the gown, mostly to make light of the situation for my own good.
The nurse and tattooed doctor laughed; I immediately felt at ease. The doctor asked if I’d like to see the instruments, and I eagerly said yes, asking each one’s specific purpose and what to expect when its turn came. I wanted to soak up every detail of what I was about to experience so that I could relish it.
As our collective opportunity to make this bodily decision becomes less and less accessible, I’d chosen to stay awake during the procedure for my own memory’s sake. I wanted to remember as much as possible so as to be able to share it with other women in the future; there was a certain peace in knowing every little sensation and step brought to me. (It was also $50 cheaper than full sedation. The cost of my surgical abortion at Planned Parenthood with local anesthetic totaled $450.)
I was on the bed for all of five minutes. The nurse held one of my hands and placed a wad of gauze in the other for me to squeeze while the doctor began the procedure, talking me through each step and letting me know what to expect. It hurt, but a bit less than I thought it would. In short, there was intense cramping — think about the worst period you’ve ever had, multiplied by 10 — that took over my abdomen for a few minutes and would linger, spiking sporadically, for the next three weeks or so.
The procedure and its sensations were so quick, but at the same time almost froze, allowing a million thoughts to run through my head.
Four hours was a bit much for this. I could’ve gotten so much work done. Did I have a deadline today? I didn’t know I was capable of cramping this much. Is my boyfriend ok? Is he worried about me? He must be bored out of his mind. I cannot wait to have a coffee later. This fucking hurts. Is this parasite out of me yet? I think it’s out now. I feel lighter. I can breathe so much better now. Was that really it? And so on.
The suction stopped and the pain subsided, at which point the doctor slipped in the IUD I’d requested at the beginning of my appointment. (They’re free at Planned Parenthood — spread the good word).
“Okay, you’re done!” The doctor disappeared while I was transferred to a wheelchair and moved to recovery, where they administered a RhoGAM shot and gave me some painkillers and water. I walked out after 15 minutes or so. I felt better than I had in weeks.
My boyfriend was waiting patiently on the other side of the lobby doors, taken aback by how completely fine I was. I was great, actually. I was still in the throes of processing the entire experience, but deep in my subconscious, I recognized a rite of passage. I felt like I had a new and more well-rounded understanding of what it means to be born into a female body. I felt empowered.
I didn’t have to be pregnant if I didn’t want to be.
Choosing not to become a mother is just as powerful as making the decision to become one, but there’s a sinking feeling that came with all of this — the understanding that the privilege of choice is one many women don’t have easy access to, if at all. I looked at the ultrasound screen because I wanted to, not because I was legally forced to. I was annoyed about the four-hour wait, but I hadn’t been sent home for a mandatory 24–72 hour period to “think about my decision.” I wasn’t bombarded by anti-choice protesters outside of the clinic. I also had the support of my partner, which made this all the more bearable.
It felt like a victory to have made it through the ordeal without having faced those obstacles and the only guilt I felt (and still feel today) was for other women who’ve been shamed, guilted, or forced into motherhood by circumstance, society, or their relationship.
Valuing the life of an adult woman less than a clump of spontaneously spawned tissue is a fraught and dangerous stance, yet conservative lawmakers and their supporters continue to champion this hierarchy, undermining our very humanity.
And under the new Georgia law — as but one example of reproductive rights legislation hurtling down the pipeline — any woman in the state can theoretically be charged with murder if they have an abortion performed after six weeks.
There is no positive ending to such a scenario, no silver lining. In fact, the handful of studies about the mental health effects on women carrying out unwanted pregnancies — like the 2016 research by The American Journal of Public Health — concludes that “unwanted pregnancies were strongly associated with poorer mental health outcomes in later life [for both the mothers and children].”
This analysis was the result of an ongoing, decades-long Wisconsin survey — which points out that half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended. It focused primarily on married white women, all of whom held at least a high school diploma.
And just what happens to women of historically less privileged demographics?
As pointed out by the Center for American Progress, women of color are already more likely to face obstacles in reproductive healthcare in general (black women die in childbirth at almost four times the rate of white women, to put that into perspective), and that “in almost every aspect of reproductive health, women of color have poorer health outcomes than white women.”
Stripping these rights away would only exacerbate these issues for all women, and unsafe “back alley” abortions — one of the most easily preventable causes of maternal mortality — would become a widespread issue. It’s a simple formula: when abortion is illegal, unsafe abortions increase. Unsafe abortions result in higher maternal complications and death rates. Those complications and death rates have fallen drastically since Roe v. Wade, and if we reverse Roe v. Wade, they’ll undoubtedly spike.
It’s been five months since my abortion, and I think about it every day. It’s hard not to when there are pregnant women, parents with kids, and reminders of pregnancy at every turn, both in real life and on social media. But instead of jealousy or regret, I feel lightness. I can’t help but feel a wave of relief that we’re not currently expecting a baby — I’m 28 years old now and in the most genuine, happy relationship of my life, one that’s full of love and still growing every day, and the thought of having to abruptly sacrifice that for a baby that neither one of us wanted or was ready for seems like a waking nightmare.
One of the most impactful thoughts I carry with me in the wake of my own abortion is whose happiness is real and whose is a mask for internal stress, anxiety, regret, sadness, or fear — it’s impossible to tell, but it serves as a stark reminder that not all pregnancies are joyful, although society expects women to be nothing but.
Some of these women just don’t want to be a mother. Some of them didn’t have a choice.
Getting an abortion was not physically or emotionally easy by any means, but I wake up every day feeling righteous and thankful for having had the opportunity to do so as restrictive laws continue to be proposed and passed, tightening their grip on the throat of women’s bodily autonomy.
Every time I see an article about the Trump administration or lawmakers waging another phase of their war, I am proud to be a woman who has made that choice for herself, even though we’ve been constitutionally entitled to it since 1973.
Nothing is a given anymore, but no matter what happens, my abortion will remain, without question, the greatest choice of my life.