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Op-Ed: Local Thoughts on Healthcare Access

Words by Anonymous Mom.

Trigger warning: pregnancy loss

I was a responsible, 30-40-year-old woman in a healthy marriage, and I had an abortion.

I could be your daughter. Your sister. Your mother. Your wife. You.

I’m one of the fortunate ones. I live in Virginia where it was legal and safe for me to have an abortion as an outpatient procedure in a hospital facility that my doctor recommended.

Not that it should matter if you know someone who has had an abortion. Nor should it matter the circumstances of her abortion. Like any medical procedure, the decision to have an abortion should be between a woman and her doctor. It should not be illegal for either of them, and it is none of your damn business.

Here is my story.

I found out that I was pregnant, and my husband and I were over the moon with excitement. I had waited a long time to become a mom, and it was finally happening! We told our parents right away and, after my first doctor’s appointment at 7 weeks to confirm, our siblings and a few close friends. I had read 3 pregnancy books by the time I went for my first ultrasound at 10 weeks. This was during Covid, so my husband was not allowed to come with me, but we were on a video chat so he could see our little one, too!

During the ultrasound, the technician wasn’t able to find the pregnancy with an external (on the belly) ultrasound, so they had to conduct it transvaginally. They were then able to find the pregnancy and take measurements of my baby to confirm gestational age and due date. I should have known something was really wrong because they kept getting measurements that were only about 6 weeks when I knew I was 10 weeks pregnant. And then when they tried to get a heartbeat, they couldn’t find one. My husband told me later he knew immediately what was going on, but I was still sure they would find it. The tech then pivoted and took pictures of my ovaries (I assume the doctor would want to know if I would be able to get pregnant again). I was made to wait in an exam room alone until the doctor could see me, worried but determined to be optimistic, trying not to cry yet. My husband sent me text messages telling me how much he loved me. I had never felt so vulnerable in my life.

The doctor confirmed that the fetus had no heartbeat, that there would be no baby. I had what was called an incomplete miscarriage. The baby was dead, but my body still thought it was pregnant. I could wait and let my body figure it out (which could take up to 4 weeks). Or, he recommended, I could have a procedure called Dilation & Curettage (D&C) in order to ensure that the fetus and all the necessary tissues were removed from my uterus. Even if I wanted to wait and let it pass naturally, there wasn’t a guarantee that I wouldn’t need the procedure later, and the longer the tissues remained, the higher the risk for infection and other bad outcomes. From a medical perspective, there was only one choice. I chose the D&C.

The procedure was scheduled within a week of the ultrasound. I remember feeling surprised by how urgent that seemed and that if they were able to rush and get this procedure scheduled so quickly, it must be an emergency and I made the right choice to have the D&C. A few days before, I went to the hospital to pre-register. During this process, I was asked to provide information and to sign papers.

One of the papers I had to sign made me acknowledge in writing that I was having an abortion. I remember feeling very angry about that form, about that word. Why wasn’t the procedure called something more like what it was: the completion of an incomplete miscarriage? It was the first time that word had been used throughout this terrible, traumatic experience, but it’s true. Medically, whether I wanted to or not, I was electing to terminate a pregnancy. I was having an abortion.

For me, and for many women, it was the only real option during one of the worst times of my life. What would the pro-lifers want me to do in this situation? My baby was measuring 6 weeks old while I was 10 weeks pregnant which meant I had already been carrying a dead fetus in my uterus for 4 weeks. If it hadn’t come out on its own already, it probably wasn’t going to. Should I have to keep carrying my dead baby to term? And if it didn’t come out, could it kill me? What about my life, pro-lifers?

I didn’t even want anyone to know I was going through pregnancy loss (another flaw in our society and our failure to support women and families), and I certainly didn’t want anyone telling me what I could or could not do with my own body in that situation. And again, I’m one of the lucky ones: I had a great doctor, supportive family, and good insurance.

I didn’t want an abortion, and I don’t want anyone else to have to have one either. To be clear: no one is pro-abortion. That’s not what this is about. (Incidentally, if the pro-life movement’s goal is actually to decrease the number of abortions, then the solution is providing comprehensive sex education to teenagers and continued access to free contraception, not criminalizing abortion.) What is at stake here is loss of personal liberties and privacy which is very dangerous to our democracy. Taking away a woman’s right to choose opens the door for many other attacks on our freedoms.

I doubt my experience will change anyone’s pro-life mind, but I hope it at least reminds us that above all else abortion is healthcare, we should not legislate women’s bodies, and someone else’s medical history is none of your damn business.

The author of this piece has requested to remain anonymous for reasons of privacy.

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