I lived in liberal Washington, D.C., with a tight-knit circle of progressive pro-choice friends, and I still wasn’t sure whom I could lean on for support.

abortion

If the test was positive, I was going to have an abortion. I made my decision in the aisle of CVS when I was calculating whether I could afford FirstResponse Early Result or if I should just go generic.

I was 24, just two years out of college, living in a group house, with a career that had just started to take off. I wasn’t financially or emotionally prepared to carry, have, or raise a child. Nor did I want to. That’s why I was on birth control. It was why I’d taken Plan B. Neither, in this instance, had worked.

If you’d been in my bedroom the night I found out, you would have seen used tissues scattered on the floor next to the pregnancy-test packaging. I wasn’t crying about my decision, or even about the pregnancy. I was crying because of how alone I felt.

I lived in liberal Washington, D.C., with a tight-knit circle of progressive pro-choice friends and a family I trusted just a phone call away. But we weren’t having frank, open conversations about abortion — and when we did, they were rarely grounded in personal experiences. So I wasn’t sure whom I could talk to, whom I could lean on for support. Worse, I found myself worrying that people might judge me for my decision, for not feeling the slightest bit guilty, remorseful, or sad about it.

That’s how potent the stigma surrounding abortion is.

Because of stigma, women are made to feel ashamed about a routine procedure. Because of stigma, women are made to feel isolated — even though 1 in 3 will have an abortion in her lifetime. Because of stigma, there are women who go through this process on their own — and never tell a soul.

Many women, like me, choose abortion because they don’t want children yet. Other women don’t want children, period. Some desperately want children but find out during their pregnancy that the fetus isn’t viable. Some women, already mothers, know they can’t afford to raise more children.

The decisions and experiences and reasons surrounding abortions are as different as the many women who choose to have them. But stigma — albeit, varying levels of it — is something we all have in common.

Ultimately, I told my best friend — someone I trust deeply — because I needed someone to take me in for my procedure. Her outpouring of love and support prompted me to tell others close to me. They all responded with some variation of “I’m here for you. How are you? Let me know what I can do to help.”

Not one of them questioned my decision or my character. No one jumped in with their personal opinions or asked me to explain myself. I know I was fortunate though: Not all women in this situation have this kind of experience. Ultimately, talking about my abortion became a sort of healing process — a way to break down that stigma for myself and assuage the fear that those close to me might judge me for the choice I made.

And somewhere along the way, I realized that people weren’t just offering their support — they were really listening, they were really engaging. Friends would ask about my experience because they had questions they could never ask anyone else before: Was it painful? Where did you go? How long did it take? What was your recovery like? Others started sharing stories about their own pregnancy scares and abortions for the first time. Some began reaching out because they needed support themselves.

And so, the circle of people who I’d tell about my abortion began to widen — from friends, to friends of friends, to family, to colleagues. With every candid conversation — especially those that happened in person — abortion (not just my own) began to feel a bit more relatable, for everyone. So I made the circle wider still. I talked to new acquaintances about my abortion, posted about it on social media, and would even — given the opportunity — bring it up on dates.

Recently, a woman I hadn’t spoken to in five years contacted me. She’d seen that I had shared my story and advocated for Planned Parenthood on social media. “Hey Tania! This is still your number right?” It was. “Full disclosure, I’m in a panic. I may be pregnant. Who can I call?” I gave her the number to Planned Parenthood and also to an abortion provider in her area.

When I talk about my abortion now, I talk about how — because I had missed the window during which the abortion pill is most effective (the first seven to nine weeks of pregnancy) — I had a 15-minute procedure called a dilation and evacuation (or D&E). I always mention the nurse who stood by my side and let me squeeze her hand when I felt cramps the pain medication didn’t dull.

I talk about how, yes, the weekend after the Thursday afternoon procedure was physically draining; I took off work Friday because I was bloated, reeling from cramps, and dealing with what resembled the absolute worst period I’d ever had.

I talk about the relief I felt after my abortion — and how my doctor nodded when I told her, saying that’s how the vast majority of women feel after their procedures.

And I always, always talk about how lucky I was to be employed, with quality insurance, and living in Washington, D.C, which meant I could call and schedule my appointment within one week. Had I lived in a state like Missouri, I would have had to drive across the state (local lawmakers have shut down all but one abortion-providing clinic), sit through state-directed counseling designed to discourage abortion, and then wait 72 hours before being provided the procedure.

Even if I weren’t talking about it, I would still think about it every day. Because every day, I’m living the life I chose for myself — with a career, ambitions, and a lifestyle that wouldn’t have been possible had I been forced to carry the pregnancy to term. My sense of relief hasn’t faded and I don’t expect it ever will.

It’s been two years since my abortion, and I talk about it openly, out loud and often, because I know that there are women out there who might, one day, benefit from hearing about it.

Of course, not everyone has been so receptive to my story. Someone else I know confronted me through Instagram for my support for “killing babies.” When I offered to talk about our views by phone, she refused.

Her inflammatory language, though, wasn’t what bothered me most. She has daughters, and I imagine what they would do if they ever found themselves with pregnancy tests and tissues scattered on the floor of their bedrooms, and needed someone who wouldn’t judge them for asking, “What do I do?”

So I’m going to keep talking about my abortion.

Because every woman should know she’s not alone. Because abortion is a safe, normal procedure — and should be talked about as such. And because every woman should have the right to choose, and she should feel empowered — never ashamed — to make the choice that’s right for her.

http://www.cosmopolitan.com/politics/a9598266/abortion-stigma-pro-choice/