I’ve had 2 abortions

by Anonymous

January 6, 2020

Almost every friend I have discussed abortion with has had at least one. These are a collection of bright, responsible, amazing women. We are all having abortions, and yet it remains taboo. We must tell our stories.

So….here goes. My first abortion was the kind of abortion folks imagine. I was young, in school, unmarried and also living in untreated alcoholism. The procedure was uncomplicated and I went on to finish medical school. My second abortion, however, was not the “acceptable” kind. I was in my 30s, married, had enough money, in recovery from addiction. I actually got pregnant on purpose thinking I wanted to have a baby. You see, I was living with under-treated anxiety and depression and hoped that having a baby would fix me. I stopped my SSRI completely and became pregnant immediately. I was happy for about one day and then gripped with absolute terror.  My mental health spiraled down in various ways and I became suicidal.  I really didn’t think of abortion as an option because I HAD DONE THIS ON PURPOSE and was no longer young and irresponsible (just old and insane?). It was actually my reformed Republican, west Texan dad (who must have had whiplash after I told him he was going to be a grandfather one day and then didn’t want to talk about the pregnancy and couldn’t stop crying the next) who said to me that “we” – meaning he and my mom – would support me no matter what I decided to do. I am so grateful for that support. Those words lifted the boulder off my chest just enough so I could breathe.

My husband was willing to discuss not having a baby. After a lot of tears, my sweet and loving husband supported me in my decision to terminate my pregnancy. Ultimately, this was absolutely the right decision for me and for that potential human and I do not regret it. I was surprised by how much my friends and family supported me. Looking back, I can see how much shame I felt. This was 2016 in urban NC. I was shocked by how difficult it was for me to obtain an abortion. The experience itself was dehumanizing.  I was not allowed to meet my doctor before my feet were in stirrups, I was separated from my husband for 4 hours before the procedure, I was made to come in at 8am and was not told that the doctor doesn’t even arrive until 2pm.  I waited anxiously in a room full of other sad and scared women for hours without any idea of what time my procedure would begin.

The procedure itself was incredibly painful and I was dragged off the procedure table about to pass out from the pain. I am a physician. A fact I did NOT share with the clinic staff.  I was honestly scared to advocate for myself. I had worked up the nerve to have an abortion that day and I was going to have it despite the red flags that caused me to consider leaving many times. Of note, this was not at Planned Parenthood AND I’m still grateful the clinic exists as it is one of the few in the Triangle. Unsurprisingly, the procedure was complicated by retained products of conception and I was eventually taken urgently to the operating room by my OB-GYN a month later for a Dilation and Curettage.

In prep for the procedure, I told them I was a sober alcoholic and drug addict as I felt this was relevant to my care. Here I was …a drug addict physician having surgery after a botched abortion.  Writing this sentence and rereading it brings tears to my eyes every time!  Here’s the thing though…I’m a fucking badass who despite significant mental illness and alcoholism has flourished and become a doctor. In that moment, however, I felt…like trash.  And that was really in my own head, as the medical staff treated me with total professionalism (and competence in stark contrast to the likely critically underfunded abortion clinic).

I later asked this OB-GYN why I couldn’t have had my elective termination at his clinic. He responded, “because we don’t believe in that here”. More shockingly, he then suggested nonchalantly that I could have obtained the procedure at the hospital where he’d done my procedure…as if you can just roll up on any medical facility and obtain an abortion!  So, not only does this clinic not provide abortions, but they also apparently don’t know anything about how to direct women to someone who can. To his credit, he cared for me kindly and professionally and did not bring up his position on abortion until asked. I asked if many OB-GYNs felt similarly and he responded “I don’t know”.

This reminds me of a fellow medical student (white man) who became an OB-GYN and intended to practice in rural TX. He is conservative and anti-choice (though he did stand by me during my first abortion). I asked him how he would deal with unwanted pregnancies in his practice, though mentioned this might be less frequent in rural spaces than in cities. His response shocked me.  He said “oh there’s whores everywhere.”  If we cannot be safe with our gynecologists…where can we be safe?  I left the clinic enraged, but I didn’t say to him what I should have said….I felt too small or perhaps too afraid of “making a scene” or being a “crazy bitch”. So here goes… “how fucking dare you be a man who becomes an OB-GYN of all professions only to refuse to care for women.  Shame on you.”   If we all stand together and shout our abortions, we cannot be ignored.

Remember that our stories are ours to tell. We’d love to hear your story too!