I had taken control of my future for the first time in years, and it felt powerful.

by Emily Elizabeth

May 20, 2019

Content Warning: abuse

photo by Elizabeth Rudge

Thinking about my abortions calls up a complex suite of emotions: relief, nostalgia, gratitude, anger, pride. I’m writing this in my cozy living room, sipping wine after a couple of outstanding days, listening to my cat purring next to me on the couch. Recalling each emotion and examining them is work; there’s no way around that. But underneath that examination, I feel a calm, solid sense of peace and strength.

The year 2015 was my year of abortions. I’d been in an abusive marriage for four years, and he finally managed to get me pregnant a few months before we planned to move from Houston to San Francisco. Texas is not kind to women seeking abortions, or to uterus owners at large, for that matter. I was the sole breadwinner in my unhealthy little family, and affording a procedure in Houston seemed impossible, so I sped up the move to California, where Planned Parenthood offered the service for free based on my negligible income. I was on the West Coast for one day before my appointment.

My then-husband and I took a Lyft to the clinic where I’d chosen to have the medication abortion, but after the appointment, he made me walk over three miles. The antibiotic the clinic had given

me upset my stomach, and I fought the urge to vomit every step I took through the city. I now understand that I was being punished for standing up for myself because he didn’t want me to have the abortion. The night before, he’d tried to talk me out of it. I’ll never forget the way he badgered me. We were in some woods, and he was telling me how “glorious our son will be.” The way he ignored the daughter he already had stuck in my head. I didn’t let him change my mind.

The next day, I took the misoprostol. I wasn’t really prepared for the pain. For several hours, I bled and cramped, but when it was over, it was over. The fear and uncertainty I’d been feeling were gone. I had taken control of my future for the first time in years, and it felt powerful.

I left my husband later that year, but not before he tried again to sink his hooks into me using another unwanted pregnancy. Despite his wheedling and name-calling, I scheduled another abortion with Planned Parenthood. This time, I chose the surgical procedure, and I went in alone. The staff was compassionate and didn’t even let on how ridiculous my outfit was. (Pro-tip: don’t wear cute tights and shorts to your abortion, you will regret it, no matter how adorable you look.) Within a couple of hours, I was finished. The discomfort was minimal. And once again, I didn’t feel like the murderer my ex-husband tried to tell me I was. I felt confident and strong. I felt like my own person, in charge of who and what I was. And I never regretted my decisions for an instant.

I was lucky. I had the support of most of the people who mattered to me—with the exception of my ex-husband and a former friend who’d told me that God wouldn’t love me anymore. My chosen family understood and held me when I needed it most. The person who was my rock during that difficult time is still my rock today, and our love for each other is deeper and more brilliant than ever. But I was so lucky.

People get abortions for all sorts of reasons, but one thing unites us: a desire to regulate our own bodies, to shape our own futures. My abortions were difficult because of the circumstances surrounding them. But my abortions made me strong. They were catalysts to my realizing that I had agency, that I could choose my path, that I was the one who knew myself and what I wanted best. They taught me that I am a force, and they made me feel free.

Because I was able to control my body, my life has changed for the better. I currently volunteer with a local nonprofit that helps people seeking abortions in Texas get to their appointments. People sometimes come from hours away, needing rides, financial support, and someplace safe to stay overnight in order to comply with the waiting period in Texas.

It’s not that I want everyone to have an abortion; I want everyone to be able to make that decision for themselves. I feel an affinity for others who have faced the absurd stigma associated with choosing one’s own health and life over an unwanted pregnancy, and those who chose to respect themselves despite being told they don’t deserve respect. And I am so sad and angry for the people who don’t have that opportunity.

No one knows what is right for your body and your future except you.

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