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Actively Making Choices and Taking Action Toward the Future

by Alana

November 28, 2018

I found out I was pregnant in February 2010, only four months after my 21st birthday. I had been dating my boyfriend, who was nine years my elder, for approximately two months. We’d had our first date on Christmas after meeting at a bar a week or two prior. I’d suspected that I might be pregnant for some time, but I’d been unable to take a test and face my reality. At the time, I was still in the process of letting go of my faith in Christianity and recognizing the effects Christianity had on my daily thinking. I was no longer Christian and no longer believed in any God, but my first two visceral responses to my pregnancy were the paradoxical “No” and “I don’t want to kill anyone.” First, I did not want to subscribe to the “If my mama can do it, I can do it” mentality. I knew that motherhood was a choice I was neither ready nor required to undertake. I also felt that to have an abortion would mean that I had singlehandedly denied someone the right to live. But ultimately I didn’t believe aborting a fetus was the same as ending a human life.

A family friend sent me to a clinic that was ambiguously described as a place that could assist me in choosing an option. is “clinic,” however, did nothing of the sort. The tables in the lobby held magazines promoting adoption and even included profiles of families looking to adopt. As I spoke with a counselor, I quickly realized their sole objective was talking me out of having an abortion when I thought I had come to discuss all my options. I left that fake clinic (also known as a “crisis pregnancy center”) with an ultrasound photo of the embryo, newborn booties, and a baby blanket. My confusion was palpable. I named the  alien inside of me “Feet”—he started as “Fetus”— and spoke to him often.

I didn’t get an abortion until I was 11 weeks pregnant. is is because I did so much research beforehand, because I spent so much time speaking with the women in my life, mothers I knew, friends, and siblings. I considered adoption, and my older sister even offered to raise the baby as part of her family. During the five weeks I knew I was pregnant, I learned something about myself: if I gave birth to a child, I wouldn’t want to give it away. I would keep it. Termination became the only option.

The night before the procedure, I sobbed on my couch, rocking back and forth. I clutched my bloated belly and cried to Feet, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.”

My boyfriend and I went to Planned Parenthood early the next morning, and I was calm. I was doing the right thing. I requested a final ultrasound so that I could say goodbye to Feet. He had grown three times bigger than the last time I had seen him at the covert anti-choice clinic I’d visited only weeks before. The speed of his growth terrified me. I quickly said goodbye to Feet and hastily swallowed the medicine provided to soften my cervix and my nerves. The medical staff was comforting and professional. I felt little to no pain, and I left Planned Parenthood feeling gloriously empty, magnificently grateful that I lived in a place and had the means to take control over my body, my life, and my future.

Years later, I was living in Seattle when Shout Your Abortion exploded. At the time, I was working on embracing things that frightened me, and shouting my abortion definitely fit the bill, so I volunteered to tell my story on camera for SYA’s new YouTube channel. It was incredibly empowering to openly discuss my choice and to take my first leap into shattering the way I’ve been socialized to treat abortion as too taboo to be discussed.

My involvement with SYA eventually led to my participation in a national marketing campaign with Planned Parenthood, which has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever been a part of—the video ad in particular. The bar where I work is called Witness, and twice a week staff members offer “sermons” to whoever happens to be sitting in the bar. Sermons cover a range of topics, generally beginning with something anecdotal and ending with a call to recognize or attempt certain behaviors that week. I’ve given sermons on doing my first movie for an erotic film festival (“Try something that scares you!”), on dating in Seattle (“Stop ghosting and give more cunnilingus!”), and on my fear of being the “angry black woman” stereotype (“I’m allowed to be angry in response to routine injustice and so are you!”).

In collaboration with the Planned Parenthood marketing campaign, I gave a sermon about my abortion. I spoke to a packed bar of people on first dates, celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, and enjoying a casual cocktail with friends, many of whom did not anticipate hearing a sermon in a bar, let alone about abortion. I literally shouted my abortion to 60 strangers, friends, and coworkers, on video. It was one of the most nerve-racking experiences of my life, and when it was all said and done I felt super brave. I also felt certain that my sermon had sparked a lot of conversations that wouldn’t have happened otherwise and maybe helped a few people who’d had abortions realize that silence and shame are not the only option.

In July 2017, I learned that I was pregnant again with my partner of only one month. is time, I was not the 21-year-old girl I was before. I was 28, a woman secure with myself and my sexuality, actively making choices and taking action toward the future I envisioned for myself. My partner and I knew we wanted to have children together someday but ultimately decided we wanted more time to establish a stronger foundation in our relationship. is pregnancy was infinitely more painful than my first, in the sense that I wanted to let this embryo grow so that I could love and raise it with my partner. I felt ready for motherhood, but the timing just wasn’t right. So I had another abortion, this time with my partner in the room holding my hand as hot tears streamed down my face. is abortion was so much different yet still the same; while the procedure was remarkably painful both physically and emotionally, I left Planned Parenthood feeling the same overwhelming sense of gratitude as I had leaving that same building seven years earlier.

I had my abortion at 8:15 a.m., and at 4:00 p.m. that same day I was scheduled to speak at a rally. The Seattle Storm had become the first professional sports team to publicly endorse Planned Parenthood, and I’d been asked to speak on behalf of PP patients. I announced to the crowd of hundreds that I’d had an abortion only hours prior to standing at that podium to address them. I shouted to WNBA players and reporters, to mothers and daughters, and to the 30 anti-choice protesters holding enlarged posters of aborted fetuses and signs reading “abortion is murder.” It felt fucking amazing.

I still really believe in doing things that scare me as a way to neutralize my own sense of fear, and I keep getting braver. The louder I shout, the more I know I’m helping other people do the same.

photo by Elizabeth Rudge

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