The importance of choice

Disclaimer: This post involves me talking about my reproductive system in a personal and political manner. If you’re easily offended, get over it or go elsewhere. This post has been cross-posted on the Feministing Community blog.
This month, my period was nine days late.
Days one and two, I didn’t worry. My cycle is pretty regular, but it fluctuates a bit, and a day or two past due isn’t anything unusual. Days three and four, I started worrying a bit. I crossed my fingers and told myself it wasn’t a huge deal.
 Day five, I told my mom, just in case. I’ve had one or two seriously late periods before, and for me, the point when you tell someone else makes a big difference. If only you know, your worries are all theoretical. What if I am pregnant? you ask yourself. Who would I tell? How would I tell them? As soon as you tell someone, as soon as you verbally acknowledge the possibility, you move on to planning. Ok, you say, my mom/boyfriend/best friend knows this is happening. They’re going to be with me no matter how this plays out. You start thinking about options and choices.
 Day six, I took a home pregnancy test. It came back negative, but still no period. I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled anyway, and since the last thing I wanted was to head off to Ecuador and discover that I really was pregnant once I got there, I asked my doctor to do a blood test. It came back negative on day nine, and my period finally started within two minutes of me getting off the phone.
I was lucky. But it could have gone the other way. I could have been pregnant now or this spring or last year or a dozen other times. I’ve had one or two other minor pregnancy scares, but none of them—not even this one—has been a truly scary experience for me. The reason for that is because I know that where I live, it’s still legal for me (and only me) to decide what I want to do if I do get pregnant.
I’ve never been pregnant, so I can’t say what I would do in that situation with 100% certainty. But I’m 99% sure I would have an abortion. I’m twenty years old and in school. I’m about to spend four months in Ecuador. I want to travel the world and be an investigative journalist and do a bunch of other things that would make me a terrible, negligent parent for the next five or ten years. I believe that there are too many people on earth, and I have no interest in carrying a pregnancy to term only to let someone else raise my child. I promised myself a long time ago that I would never let someone else raise one of my children.
During the week or so where I was worrying and thinking about my options, I had this conversation with my mom and my doctor. I asked my mom if my gynecologist’s office does abortions, and she said yes. Before I got the blood test, I asked my general practitioner if anyone in her office does abortions, and she said they did. We discussed medical versus surgical abortions for a few minutes. She answered all my questions thoroughly.
While talking to her, at no point did any of the politics surrounding abortion enter our discussion. She didn’t judge me. She didn’t ask me if I had considered other options. She behaved like a medical professional answering questions about a medical procedure.
I’ve been pro-choice my whole life. I vehemently support a woman’s right to choose whatever she thinks is best for her if she gets pregnant, and I believe access to abortion is a right and an issue of social justice. There are few things that make me as angry as politicians and zealots who argue against access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion. This issue has always felt more personal to me than almost anything else. I’m a sexually active young woman. Pretty much any policy aimed at limiting access to reproductive care is going to affect me or someone very close to me in a negative way.
When I was sitting in my bathroom, counting down the two minutes before I could look at the result of my pregnancy test, I was a little bit nervous. I was hoping and keeping my fingers crossed. But I also knew I had an out. I knew that if I didn’t want to carry a pregnancy to term, I wouldn’t have to.
For millions of women around the world and in the US, this isn’t the case. Most counties have no abortion clinics in them. Looking online, the cheapest abortion I could find in Seattle cost $420—a small fortune for many people. Women often have to drive hours and spend the night far away from home to get an abortion. Access is already a huge issue, especially if you’re poor. And thanks to the Republican Party’s crusading anti-women platform, it’s getting worse.
When you’re sitting in your bathroom, underwear around your ankles, praying to God that that second line doesn’t show up on the stick you just peed on, you want every option you can get. You want to know that whatever happens to you from that point on will be your choice, and that you will be supported no matter what. Most of all, you don’t want anyone who has never been in that position, anyone who isn’t capable of being in that position, making laws deciding if, when and how you get to make choices about your own body.
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