What I wish I knew before getting an abortion
Shit. This is actually happening. The lurking fear that has been balled up in the pit of your stomach ever since the day you were supposed to start your period has just manifested itself in the form of a positive pregnant test. Instantly, a flood of emotions and worries sends you catapulting into a dizzying flurry of anxieties and all you know at this point is, this isn’t how it’s supposed to happen. So, you’re pregnant...and it’s not good news…but it’s still early so you know you have options. Weighing the risks and benefits of an abortion can seem complex and overwhelming, especially with the current state of affairs in our nation and radically changing abortion laws. Nevertheless information, assistance, and options are still available to any woman who is facing an unplanned pregnancy. Here are the answers to a few of the most commonly asked questions from women who are considering seeking abortion services.
It’s more common that you think:
The National Abortion Federation reports that each year, almost half of all pregnancies among American women are unintended. About half of these unplanned pregnancies, totaling 1.3 million each year, are ended by abortion. That means 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime. These American women come from all racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and religious backgrounds. Women of all ages obtain abortion services with the majority being women who are older teenagers and young adults, and 88% of these abortions are obtained in the first trimester.
What is an abortion like?
My own experience in a women’s clinic has been refreshingly standard and boring, but that is not always the case for other women. I signed in at the front desk, filled out typical patient paperwork about my medical history and is sprinkled with awkwardly invasive questions that secretly made me cringe on the inside because although I’m a strong, independent woman who advocates for freedom of sexual expression, I’d rather not recount my handful of poor decisions (read: drunk one night stands) on paper. How many partners have you had in your lifetime? Hmm…rounding down on that one…when is the last time you had sex and did you use protection?...Great, now I’m a whore because I raw-dog banged my fiancé this morning…How many times have you had unprotected sex? Have you ever had sex for drugs or money? Has anyone ever forced you to have sex? The paperwork is designed to create an accurate description of your sexual health and history for the doctor because all of that information is somehow relevant to seeking abortion services.
There are a few different types of abortions available: the medication abortion and the aspiration abortion. The method utilized primarily comes down to how far along a woman is in the pregnancy and both services are sought through an office visit at a local women’s clinic. The medication abortion is for women who are no more than eight weeks along in the pregnancy and it works by taking two different pills over the course of a couple days. The first pill is mifepristone and it works by blocking the hormone progesterone, which breaks down the lining of the uterus thus stopping the pregnancy from being able to continue. The second pill, misoprostol, causes the uterus to contract, causing cramping and bleeding, similar to a miscarriage.
The aspiration abortion takes place at an abortion clinic, it is for women who are too far along for the abortion pill, but still in their first trimester, and there are two types of surgery. The first is a vacuum or suction aspiration and it involves inserting a tube into the uterus and removing the pregnancy using suction. The second is dilation and evacuation which involves slightly dilating the cervix and then inserting forceps into the uterus to grasp the pregnancy and remove it. You can opt for pain meds or general anesthesia in either case, both procedures last only a few minutes, and once the procedure is completed, you are allowed to return home and carry on with life. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists (ACOG) states that abortion surgeries have been in practice for over forty years and all methods are safe. You can breathe a sigh of relief because according to ACOG, the fetus does not feel any pain due to the part of the brain which would register pain having not been developed yet. Any future pregnancies are marked safe as well, as doctors have determined that having an abortion now, will not prevent a woman from having children in the future, if she so chooses.
In an email interview with Amy Grant, a local Denver native and Starbucks barista, she detailed her experience with obtaining an abortion via the abortion pill.
“I went to Planned Parenthood and sat in a waiting room. Luckily there were no protestors that day like there have been in the past. I was called back to an exam room where I had to do blood lab work to confirm the pregnancy and then an ultra sound to date the pregnancy. I talked to a psychologist and doctor where they gave me the spiel on all my options and the risks of having an abortion and sent me home to weigh my options, even though I already knew what my decision would be. After all of that stuff was said and done, I went back to the clinic and was given a pill to take there and I was told to take the second pill the next day. I went home and soon after I had some of the most hellacious cramps I’ve ever experienced…there was tons of blood. But when it was done, it was done, and life carried on business as usual.”
I’ve never had an abortion myself but having known many women close to me that have gone through the procedure I can say there is one thing they all have in common: None of them regret their decision, despite the emotions they experienced before and after. Some call it heartless; I call it peace. However, if you are struggling with your decision to abort a pregnancy, chances are you ultimately won’t regret it. Even science says so.
It might sound harsh right now but, it’s true. The overall majority of women report that they do not regret their decision to abort an unplanned pregnancy. A landmark study called The Turnaway Study conducted by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) made some profound discoveries when studying 1,000 women who were seeking abortion services. The study revealed that although more than 53% of the women who got abortions found the choice “difficult or very difficult”, over 99% of the women believed that they had made the right decision.
Mary Serona, a 32-year old communications professional from Boulder, explained in an interview why she chose an abortion.
“I had always wanted kids, but I was still in school and was due to graduate that spring. I really considered keeping the baby. When I considered the reality of what having a baby right now would be like, I knew I had to make a selfish decision and terminate the pregnancy because although I wanted to be a mom, I wanted to be a good mom, who could give her kid all the resources and opportunities they deserve, and I just wasn’t at that place yet.”
As a mother myself, I’ve learned the superhuman mom-power of unconditional love. Unconditional love and selflessness are absolutely the roots of all great parenting. As an adult, we should be able to determine whether or not we are ready, or even want, to rocket-blast ourselves into the “no turning back now” world of mom-hood. Adulting requires being honest with the place you are at in your life and making tough decisions…and sometimes that decision is whether or not you are ready, willing, or able to dramatically change the makeup of your life.
“Of course, I grieved the loss of my baby”, further explained Serona. “But I never regretted or doubted that it was the right decision. And today, I have a degree, a good job, a husband, and two children that we later brought into this world on our own terms, and they will succeed because of it.”