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Abortion in High School, An Interview

I had an interview with high school student, “A”, today. Her friend obtained an abortion last summer. Here is “A”‘s side of the story:

Something to always keep in mind
Q: How old are you?
A: 17.
Q: How old was your friend when she sought an abortion?
A: At the time she was 16.
Q: Did she tell you she was pregnant, or that she had an abortion?
A: She didn’t tell me she was pregnant, she just told me through the summer that she was having a really rough time and she couldn’t wait to see me. When I finally saw her, she told me all about it.
Q: How did she tell you?
A: We were having a heart to heart, we were talking about summer. She got a little quiet, not really shy, but she said she had something to tell me. Then she told me not to judge her. Then she told me. It was shocking to me.
Q: What was your reaction?
A: I was shocked. I was kind of heartbroken for her because she told me she’d had a terrible summer, and I thought it couldn’t have been that bad. I was just like, really surprised that something like that could happen to one of my best friends in the whole wide world.
Q: How did she handle her abortion?
A: It happened in the summer, so she had a lot of time to think about it. She went to her mom’s and told her mom. She had a therapist for a little bit. She tried her best to contain her emotions, it was one of those decisions she didn’t make for herself. She was sad. Really, really, sad. I feel like she handled it like any other person would. She was generally upset about it. She was drugged by her significant other at the time, but she insisted it wasn’t rape, and then she got pregnant. She knew she had sex, but she didn’t remember it. She thought they used a condom, but they didn’t.
Q: Did she tell her parents?
A: She told her mom first, and then her dad. Her mom insisted abortion was the only option.
Q: Did she tell her significant other?
A: Yes, and he like too many males out there just kind of fled from it. They couldn’t press charges because she didn’t say it was rape. The age of consent is 16, I think he was either 19 or 20.
Q: Why did she decide to have an abortion?
A: Because she knew she was way too young to be a mother, she wasn’t ready, it was either this baby for the rest of her life, or she goes and tries to live a teenage life. She really just wanted to be a normal teenager. She knew if she had the baby it wouldn’t happen. She was scared, she knew the significant other wasn’t going to stick around. It was one of those “I’m going to hurt this child if I have it. If I have it, it won’t have a good life.”
Q: Do you feel like she was pressured into her decision?
A: No. Not at all. She was not going to have this kid. She wants to have kids when she’s old enough and ready, but at that time she just wasn’t.
Q: Do you support her decision?
A: I definitely support her decision because I know it’s the best for her right now, even if she gets sad about it. I know she thinks about it every day, but I think it’s best for her. If she’d gone through with having a child, she wouldn’t have been happy.
Q: Did any member of the school district know about her abortion? Do you think they should have?
A: Yes, a few of her teachers knew about it. I think her mom sent an email. Definitely her counselors knew about it. I think some people should have known in case she broke down in class so there was someone to go to. It’s not one of those easy quick fixes. It’s been over a year since her abortion, and we’ve had countless conversations about it. She just needs to be supported.
Q: What were the hardships surrounding your friend and her abortion?
A: Oh, man. Seeing little kids, and interacting with small children. She told me a story, one of her teachers
Photo Credit:
Allie Rosnato

has a kid with curly blond hair and blue eyes, and she thought her child could have looked like that and asked, “What kind of monster am I?” Her relationship with her mother was definitely tested. She really liked this guy, but she pushed him away because he was the cause of all this.

Q: What do you feel were the important aspects of supporting your friend?
A: Texting, that was an important thing. Communication, talking to her, asking her how she felt today. I think the most important thing was having her be able to talk about it. A lot of the time people try to sweep it under the rug, I think it’s something that needs to be talked about because it did happen. She told me she doesn’t talk about it with her mom, and I think I was that person she went to to talk about it and her feelings.
Q: Is she okay now?
A: Yes, I mean, there’s going to be that one little part that will always, always see a kid and feel that guilt, and that pain, and that sorrow, but I know for a fact she’s going to be okay. I know when she has kids someday and she’ll know she made the right decision because she’ll give that child the life it deserves.
Q: What is your sexual education curriculum like at your school?
A: Um…well…we have a freshmen year health course, but it’s not really that technical.
Q: Do you feel like this is sufficient?
A: Not at all. I mean, I honestly think we should have this course our junior or senior year. I feel like only 2% is sexually active freshmen year and as you get older it’s more relevant in your life. Freshmen year it’s kind of a joke, and you don’t really care about what’s going on. Freshmen are immature and you can’t take it seriously. When you’re older, it’ll matter to you.
Q: Do you know how to operate a condom?
A: Yes.
Q: Are you a virgin? If no, when did you lose your virginity?
A: No, and April 2013.
Q: What would you do if you were to get pregnant now?
A: Um, well, I’d probably do the same thing as my friend just because I have the same opinions as she does.
Q: Have you told your partner this?
A: Yes, and they agree.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I think that people need to be smarter. If you don’t want kids, do everything in your power to not. Use a condom. Get birth control. Use Plan B if you need to. It’s fun to have fun, but I can’t stress it enough: BE SAFE.
Also, Relationships take two people, and when it ends up one sided, things go wrong. It’s important to know what you’re getting yourself in to.

Choosing Life by Rachel Troumbly

The first 16 years of my life were something out of a Lifetime Channel movie; alcoholic, misogynist, abusive stepfather, enabling and psychologically damaged mother, and a spoiled, bratty, but obedient younger sister. 

We were upper middle class, well educated, Catholic, and lived in a predominately white rural area right outside of a large city. We were the picket fence kind of people, hiding our secrets behind a nicely manicured lawn, shiny cars, and family portraits with exaggerated smiles. 

I reference all of this in effort to illustrate the fact that I was by no means what the far right would consider the “typical” abortion seeker. I wasn’t poor, uneducated, or a delinquent. I may have had a broken home, but I was smart and motivated. Though my family was quietly prochoice, it wasn’t an issue that I ever considered for myself. 

I moved out at seventeen with two-hundred dollars in cash, a full tank of gas, and only one goal: to be better than the home I came from. Granted, my road to self discovery wasn’t without pit falls. I found the bottom of a bottle, various lovers, and some debt along the way, but I was determined to get where I was going. 

I hear a lot of people talk about the “convenience” of abortion. I want to note here that I’ve had two children, one before and one after my abortion, and neither child came at a convenient time in my life, but neither were aborted. This is because my convenience wasn’t a factor in my decision to abort. What factored into my decision was directly tied to the complications and ensuing health problems that were brought to light in my first pregnancy. 

I was 19 when I found out I was going to be a mother. It came at a time when I was still trying to find my way. I had a new car, a steady job, and a home with my boyfriend. I didn’t want a child, and I considered adoption, but never abortion. 

Not because I was against it, but because I had no reason, in my mind, to do it. The nightmare of my pregnancy prompted me to decide against adoption, as I was too scared to go through pregnancy again and I didn’t want to miss out on having children. 

I suffered a rare complication while pregnant called hypermesis gravidarum that caused me to vomit violently at all hours of the day, for the entire pregnancy. I couldn’t hold down water, let alone food, and I often passed out from dehydration. Since most women experience vomiting in their pregnancy, my doctor thought I was exaggerating the circumstances, so I wasn’t diagnosed until the 7th month. All in all, I lost 12 lbs, and only ended up 7 lbs heavier at the end of my pregnancy than I was before it. 

I wish I could say that my sickness was the worst of my pregnancy problems, but it was only the tip of the iceberg. Like most women, I was prepared for the long process of labor and vaginal birth; the idea of a Caesarian never crossed my mind. I didn’t want the epidural either, but after a couple of hours of back labor, I was screaming for the euphoric release of a spinal tap. I had little time to relax before the real nightmare began. After six hours of labor, my doctor informed me that the baby’s heart rate was dropping and that I hadn’t dilated past 2 centimeters. After two shots of pitocin and no improvement, I was prepped for an emergency c-section. 

I was terrified. 

All I could think of was the life of my child. When they finally pulled my little boy out, I held my breath waiting for a sign that he was ok. One, two, three, four… Silence. I heard someone say that his cord was around his neck and I saw his blue face. Tears fell down my cheeks as I lay there, strapped to a table and unable to help him. Then, finally, I heard him scream. It was the greatest sound I’d ever heard. My baby was ok, and after a few days, we headed home to live happily ever after….

     …. For three days. 

Six days after my son was born, my left leg had swollen 3 times its normal size. It had turned red and purple and I sobbed with every step I took. My mother rushed me to the hospital emergency room. After one look, doctors swarmed around me, sticking me with needles, checking my blood pressure, and poking at my feet. I was informed that I had a clot in my femoral artery and my lower calf and they had progressed to a point of imminent danger. 

The doctors said with the size of my leg and the amount of elapsed time, I was a ticking time bomb and could release the clot with the slightest movement. No one knew exactly why I had developed a clot, and from what I learned, a femoral clot was rare. After having it, my chances of future clots increases, since the old clot leaves the major artery corroded and scared. 

I spent seven days in the hospital, with blood draws every six hours, heparin every twelve, and a strict order of bed rest with absolutely no exceptions. Those seven days were torture. Since I’d already left the maternity ward, I wasn’t allowed to keep my son with me. My mother and husband worked, so I saw my baby for a couple hours a day. Outside of that, I was all alone. 

Turns out, I had an undiagnosed blood disorder that causes my blood to clot easily. I was advised to abstain from having more children, as my disorder (known as Factor V Leiden) coupled with the femoral clot, made pregnancy an extremely dangerous endeavor. Unfortunately, the Catholic run hospital wouldn’t preform a tubal until I’d had a second child,  and I couldn’t take any birth control that released hormones without risking further clots. I chose to use condoms as a means of preventing pregnancy from there on out.

My second pregnancy
After my scare, I went on to go to college and I worked full time to raise my son. My husband at the time wasn’t very reliable and rarely held a job, so I took on all of the responsibility. We split up when my son was two. When my son was three, I dated a guy who was very controlling. I wanted out of the relationship and started making plans to leave, but I was keeping the relationship going until I could get my ducks in a row. 

Apparently he knew I wanted to leave, because soon after I found out I was pregnant by him, he revealed to me that he had poked holes in the condoms as a means to get me pregnant so that I would stay. 

I was terrified. Given the situation I was in, my medical condition, and the brush with death from my first pregnancy, I wasn’t prepared to risk another one. I moved in with my family, three hours away, only two days after discovering that I was pregnant. We discussed my options. I knew that the father wouldn’t help with the child, just as my ex husband didn’t help with my son. I had only one year of college under my belt, and couldn’t afford another child. 

At only six weeks pregnant, I was already vomiting day and night, and feared being able to care for myself and my three year old. My aunt told me that she would adopt my child if I wanted, but I was only concerned with the prospect of dying. I didn’t want to leave behind the child that I paid for in blood, sweat and tears. I lived for him. What good was I to him if I died? 

After days of consideration, I chose to have an abortion. My great grandmother, who was Catholic and extremely pro life, stood behind me the whole way. 

The day after my 24th birthday, she and my grandmother drove me to the clinic, three hours away. As we pulled in, I looked out the window to see the pro life protesters lined up on the walk way. 

They yelled at me, begging me to choose a different option, throwing fliers at me. 

I felt the tears running down my face. They don’t know me, I thought. They don’t know where I’ve been or what I’ve been through. If they knew, would they still ask me to risk my life for this baby? I couldn’t force my legs to move. I knew I was doing the right thing, but I couldn’t endure the spotlight that they were shining on what was the hardest and most private moment of my life. 

I looked up, with tears staining my eyes, to see my 85 year old great grams. She pulled me to my feet, wrapped her arm around my shoulders, and told me to ignore them. She sat right next to me in that clinic, holding my hand while I filled out my papers. 

I was escorted back for a checkup before receiving an ultrasound. The technician asked if I wanted a copy of the ultrasound, and I said yes. In the back of my mind, I felt like it was my penance to pay, my scarlet letter, a reminder of my sin. After the ultrasound, I was escorted to a psychiatrists office. She asked me why I chose to have an abortion, whether I was forced and the process of the procedure, including diagrams of d&c and the possible side effects. 

The woman gave me phone numbers, literature, and a variety of alternative choices like adoption and raising my child, before sending me back out to the waiting room for a required four hours, encouraging me to consider all given routes before they would continue the procedure. 

When the time came, the nurse came to get me. She explained again the procedure, and the medication options and side effects. I received my dosage and was escorted to the procedure room. It looked like any other room in a hospital. The walls were white, the floor was cold, and there was the unmistakable smell of rubbing alcohol and cleaner. 

I laid down, closed my eyes, and waited. It was over in minutes; quick and painless, a fact that, for a long time, plagued my conscience. I knew the implications of my choice, and the social stigma that it carried with it. I was, and still am, at peace with my choice, but that doesn’t mean that I am without reverence for it. After time in the recovery room, I walked out to my car, with my great grams wrapping her arm around me, drowning out the angry voices of the protesters with her fearlessness. 

She died a month later, not long after telling me how proud she was of my strength and my courage. 

I’m 27 now. 

Last month marked three years since my abortion. Since then, I’ve gotten married to a wonderful man, and we’ve had a child of our own. You might wonder why I could argue my health as a means for abortion, yet risk it in another instance. 

It’s because this time I didn’t have to worry about leaving my child alone in the world. This time, he had a steady, reliable father to love him and raise him. When I chose my abortion, I didn’t disregard life, I simply weighed the life of the 8 week old fetus against not only my own life, but the life of the child that I was already charged with protecting. I weighed how his life would be affected by my death or impacted health, against the life that hadn’t even begun, and couldn’t miss what it didn’t know. 

I know that I made the right choice. I know that it is because of that choice that I can hold my children at night and love them and kiss them. I know that it’s because of my choice that I can give my children two loving parents and a home where they are protected. I know that it’s because of my choice that I can finally reach my goal. My home is better than the one I came from. I love my family and I will continue to put them first until my dying day. 

When it comes down to it, convenience never played a part in my abortion. It would have been most convenient to have one at 19, when I had the world at my fingertips. It would have been convenient to have one at 25, when I was newly married and my child was going to school, leaving me the chance to pursue a degree. 

No, convenience wasn’t a factor, life was. My child’s life, the child with memories and warm hugs and sparkling blue eyes, the one I bled for… His life mattered. This is why I can confidently proclaim that I am pro LIFE; because I chose to protect the lives that I was already responsible for. 
     I am only one of thousands of stories, each unique to the individual. Our voices have been silenced by those who refuse to listen, but I refuse to remain quiet. I refuse to return to the shackles of slavery, where my body is synonymous with an incubator. I’ve heard that its easy for me to fight for abortion, because I got to be born. I think this is inaccurate. I think it’s easy for people to argue for life, because they are, in fact, living. 

Life isn’t biology. 

It’s not a heartbeat, or the air in your lungs. When a person is only kept alive by machines, they aren’t living, because there is no life to live. There are no memories for that person, no laughter, no warmth. They survive only at the mercy of the tubes that tie them to the living world. They know nothing beyond the dark abyss behind their closed eyes. 

It is only the person who’s mind is aware of what would be missed, that can argue for it. 

If they had never lived, they’d never know it. 

Rachel Troumbly is a 27 year old psychology major living in the frozen tundra of Northern Michigan. When she’s not nose deep in her studies or chasing after her two boys, she can typically be found rummaging through thrift stores (pack-ratting), mastering her culinary skills (hello hot pockets) and attempting to blur the lines of societal expectations by the glowing light of her keyboard. If all goes well, Rachel hopes to one day open up a shelter for abused women that will help them to start a new life. 

Betrayed By Your Body

People tell you your whole life how great of a thing your body is. They tell you to eat right so everything can work right. They tell you to take care of it, because it’s the only one you have.

But they don’t tell you what to do when your body betrays you.

Most girls begin menstruating by the time they reach eighth grade. Around that time, most are subjected to “Always Changing” videos about how they should take care of their bodies, and just because a period means that your body is capable of having sex and therefore creating a child, you may not be ready for it. They tell girls about choices; do you want to use pads or tampons? They explain the risks and things like Toxic Shock Syndrome. It is one of the first decisions a girl makes in what makes her comfortable with herself.

After awhile, as a female, you become accustom to “Aunt Flow” visiting once a month. You learn to wear dark pants for a week, carry extra pants/pads/tampons in your car/backpack/locker. You learn to hide the fact you’ve just bled through your pants onto your chair in chemistry. You learn to adjust to your cycle, because there is nothing else you can do.

Typically, your body becomes like clockwork. Some are so in-tune with their bodies they can tell you down to the day when their period will start.

Until it doesn’t start.

You can be as proactive as you like. You can use all the contraception in the world, and it can still fail.

So what then?

What do you tell a girl who’s known her body well enough to predict her cycles? The girl that’s always eaten the right foods to keep her body running properly. And the girl, who because she took care of herself, got pregnant. It doesn’t matter how; a night of passion, a one night stand, rape, whatever. She trusted her body. She took care of her body, and suddenly, she’s staring at a test that’s reading positive.

How does this question change when the girl is twelve years old? Seventeen? Thirty-six? Is there an age degree where one abortion is more acceptable than another? Why is that?

What about the circumstances? A one night stand verses a night of romantic passion verses a rape? Is one unwanted pregnancy like another?

School systems support taking care of your body. Physical education tells you to stay active. Health class, especially, teaches you to eat right, stay active, stay healthy. But the problem is, if you take care of yourself, your biology takes over. Women can get pregnant.

And if you don’t want to be pregnant, it can be like your body has just betrayed you. The thing you’ve taken care of all your life, the thing you thought you’d made some unspoken agreement to, has ulterior motives. In that moment where the tests turns pink, turns into a plus sign, turns into ugly black letters that read PREGNANT, your life changes.

To me, part of supporting a healthy body is supporting a healthy mind. You’re taught, literally, your entire life to take care of yourself.

Shouldn’t part of taking care of yourself consist of the ability to choose what is right for your body and your life?

Gender Roles

This is a small list of preconceived notions of what a woman is/does and what a man is/does. Then, it’s a small list of how to go out of your way to break the mold. Enjoy.

Wears makeup
Wears frilly clothing
Attracted to neon/bright things
Plays with dolls at young age
Mood swings (PMSing)
Nonassertive, nonagressive
Peacekeeper, socialite
Have a natural maternal instinct
Gush over infants
Views pregnancy as a blessing

Aggressive, assertive, competitive
Likes porn
Plays poker
Smokes cigars
Sleeps around
Fanatic about sports/athletics
Drinks lots of beer
Likes cars/working on them
Expected to be employed (ideally with a high paying job)

Break the Mold:
Rarely, if ever, wears make up
Childfree/Hates kids or infants
Plays with GI Joe’s or race cars at a young age
Wears men’s basketball shirts/baggy t shirts
Seeking to accomplish goals verses seeking a husband or significant other
Drinks. Lots. And not just fruity shit.
Surfs rather than sunbaths.
Wears skate shoes verses high heels

Wears make up
Cleans the house and cooks
Hates porn because it objectifies women but supports sex workers
Respects condoms/birth control/women
Hates sports
Doesn’t drink or if he does, drinks fruity shit
Fearful (of things like spiders, etc)
Likes small dogs and/or cats
Likes Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber, or Nicki Minaj
Talks openly about his feelings

Stay tuned to the #AbortionChat tomorrow (9:00pm EST) to find out what typically happens when the mold is broken.

~JA and LS

Forming an Opinion by Jeremy Allen

We got a lot of Honks for Choice

Until recently I’d intentionally veered clear of the abortion debate due to the extremeness of demonstrations on either side of the confrontational topic. What most caught my attention in the past were those infuriating images of dead fetus’ that so-called “ProLife” demonstrators held outside of Planned Parenthood clinics.

Between these and the Christian terrorists, I’d conceded that such a topic wasn’t worth fighting over. I hadn’t even considered the legitimacy of the arguments, and believed that as a man, it isn’t my place to get involved. This, and the highly discouraging language of my parents (they didn’t want to talk about abortion practices) prevented me from forming a solid opinion.

Today, my view point has changed. After attending one such demonstration and speaking with people close to me about their abortion experiences it seems simple and rational understanding that every situation is different, and in instances of rape, incest, or when a to-be mother is unfit or incapable of caring for a child, abortion should most definitely be allowed, without question.

If a woman can, with a clear conscience, abort her own fetus, perhaps she isn’t prepared to raise a child yet, anyway. Now I don’t suppose myself to be highly knowledgeable on the subject, but it seems that the person who understands their situation best is the individual choosing.

Under a few circumstances this line of reasoning could certainly be challenged, however nothing can justify the guilt inculcated by protesters screaming, “Child killer.”

Regardless of my viewpoint, change is thick in the air, and the war rages on.

Jeremy Allen is a graduate of Green Mountain College and a part time hippie. He studied business, and enjoys social activism, as well as making tea. He’s one of those people who thinks, long and hard, before he opens his mouth.

In his spare time, he can be found wandering around Maine, trying to start conversations with people.

Abortion with Sedation by Lynne Schmidt

This is a chapter from my memoir about my personal abortion experience.

We arrive at Virginia Beach way early. The protesters are already out. It’s not even yet. To kill time, we stop at Shoney’s so she can have coffee and I can have water.

When we deem it is time to go, we drive to the clinic and park. I take a deep breath, take my bag and exit the car. As we walk, I hear someone yelling, I know it is one of the protesters but I assumed they are either talking to each other over the traffic, or yelling to the traffic.
Instead, when my friend puts her arm around me, I realize, They’re yelling to me. At me?
“We know you’re scared but you don’t have to do this!” a woman’s voice calls out. I hear this for a long while after this moment. She has no idea what fear is, she has no idea that I have to do this.
“Just ignore them, Sweety,” my friend assures. Under the safety of her arm, I push the button on the outside of the building. This time, when they ask for my name and appointment, I’m prepared.
They unlock the door. “Go to the room to the right,” the woman had told me. We step in, protesters still calling from behind. There are three rooms. I can’t remember which way is right, and I’m terrified of missing my appointment and being forced to stay pregnant.
“This way,” my friend says taking the lead of the lost little girl in front of her.
When we get to the door, I can’t figure out the lock on the handle. She has to open the door for me. Slowly, uneasily, I make my way to the check-in window. Keep going. You’re okay. You can do this.

“Check-in, please,” the woman behind the glass tells me.
I write my name:
Stephanie Schmidt
Arrival Time:
Appointment Time:
I look at my name in blank ink on the lines of the paper. My name. For an appointment to have an abortion. Me. My name. Proof that I am here, right now.
“Do you have your envelope?” the woman asks, breaking me out of my horrified trance.
I hand the woman my information and ID.
“Your total is $255,” she tells me. I get out the money I got at the ATM wondering how much of this bullshit he’ll actually help with.
She hands me back five dollars. “Take a seat, they’ll call you shortly.”
As I’m sitting, I see another girl walk in with black sweatpants. She has, who I assume is, her boyfriend with her. It’s suddenly hard to breathe. I can’t look at her because she’s so much like me right now.
My friend puts her arm around my shoulders and says reassuring things. I again consider suicide as a viable alternative. I think about just asking to leave, and finding the razor blade in the bathroom and slitting my arteries. The one in my neck would cause me to bleed out in seconds.

Before I’m able to think further, the door opens. The woman with the chart looks right at me. “Stephanie?”
This isn’t a knee doctor appointment. For the first time in my life, I’m ashamed to hear my name.
I rise, unable to shake the chill that’s swallowed me. It hasn’t even been ten minutes of me sitting. The song Brick by Ben Folds Five runs through my head, “They call her name at ,” only in my life it’s . But he was right, I am alone.
I follow her and she tells me to, “Empty your bladder.”
I don’t tell her how much water I just drank at Shoney’s.
The bathroom is stark white and much too big to make me feel comfortable. I lock the door, then pee and wash my hands.
For the last time I look in the mirror. I turn to the side and see the slight bulge that no one else but me, the girl who’s spent hours staring at herself in the mirror thinking she’s too fat, would notice. It shouldn’t be there. It’s what I’m here to get rid of. My eyes feel raw as they tear up again.
I’m sorry, God. I’m sorry body, stomach for what I’m about to do. I’m sorry, Baby. I pull my shirt down, I step out of the bathroom.
When I come out, she motions to a chair and takes my pulse and blood pressure. Like a robot she hands me a cup with a horse-sized pill in it, “800 milligrams of ibuprofen to help with the cramping after the abortion,” she tells me in a matter-of-fact tone of voice.
How old are you? I wonder as I swallow the pill with some water. How did you decide to work at Planned Parenthood? What is the hardest part of your job?

She sticks my finger to test if I’m anemic (I’m not) or RH Negative (I’m positive). I could have told her all of these things.
What do you think of me?
She leaves the room to run the blood samples and while she tests, I sit and roll my finger over my lip and try not to cry. If I cry, will they still give me the abortion?Or worse, if I cry, will they refuse to sedate me?
She comes back. “Are you okay?”
I’m not. My hands are freezing, it’s too cold. I’m pregnant, I’m terrified. He isn’t here, my mom doesn’t know I’m here. One of my sisters doesn’t even know I’m here. I have to work tomorrow. Am I even going to be okay enough to work tomorrow? Deep breaths, Steph. Keep going.

“I’m fine,” I say. She leads me to another waiting area. There is a book on the table that says “Tell Us You Story” and the writer in me wants to add the missing R. Tell Us YouR Story.
I flip through the pages and read a couple entries. They’re written in beautiful bubble script, stories of girls who have been through the same thing as me. Girls who some day admit in these pages that they want to have children and that Planned Parenthood was the best thing for them. These are the stories I tried to find online.
I put the book down. How will I feel? Will I regret my decision? Will I someday thank Planned Parenthood?
I don’t know and the uncertainty is ripping me apart. I try not to cry. I try not to imagine what’s going to happen. Why am I not sedated yet?
Down the hall, the girl with black pants who came in after me is told to empty her bladder, to take the pill that’s supposed to help with cramping. Then she is lead to the chair beside me. I’m reminded how business like this process is. They probably see a hundred girls a day. I don’t matter to them. My baby doesn’t matter to them.
Then again, my baby doesn’t matter to me either, right?
Beside me, the girl picks up the story book, flips through, puts it down. We sit. Men In Black is playing over the radio. I make a comment. She laughs.
“I wish it were Madonna playing,” I tell her. But then she has Papa Don’t Preachand I’m not keeping my baby. She has Like a Virgin and I never want to be touched again. He was playing Madonna when I got in the car. He’s not here now. I take a deep shaky breath.
As if on cue, Borderlinecomes on and we laugh.
She admits that this isn’t her first abortion, that she’d be afraid of sedation, that she already has three kids. Wow, I think. You should take better birth control.

In a split second, I realize, I am in no position to judge.
Soon, I’m lead back to another room and the girl and I wish each other luck.
“Undress from the waist down. Put your clothes and bag there,” the nurse tells me. “You can cover yourself with a drape.” She exits quickly.
Why aren’t you here to hold my hand again?

I look at the exam table, it’s the same sort of drape that covered me during my first clinic visit. I expected a hospital gown this time, or something that signifies how traumatic this ordeal is. My manager had called it life threatening surgery, yet…I’m in a drape that refuses to cover up my ass crack.
As I look around the room, it looks like someone’s living room made into a surgery lab. I wonder if this is a legitimate abortion clinic or if it’s one of those horror stories you hear about on TV. Are those protesters outside are actually collected pregnant, desperate girls, and torturing them so they learn their lesson?
Panic, real cold, breath stealing panic sets in. I haven’t stopped shaking since Shoney’s and my hands still haven’t warmed up. I take a deep breath and allow myself to fall out of the safety of my pants. I scurry to the exam table wondering again, Why aren’t you holding my hand? I can’t breathe, think. I keep telling myself to just keep going.
I’m about to have an abortion.
Keep going.

The floor around the table has blood spots from girls before me. I wonder if this is actually a sanitary area, or if I’m going to end up like that girl in Dirty Dancing. This is all just one big horror scene, isn’t it? I try not to look at the stains, but there’s nowhere else to look.
A nurse comes in. “You doing okay?”
“Define okay,” I answer. Will they still sedate me if I panic? Why am I not sedated yet?
“Nervous?” she asks.
I vacantly nod.
“Do you have any questions?”
“Actually, yes. I read on the forms that the tissue can be donated. I was wondering if I can do that, so it’s not a complete waste.”
“They didn’t tell you?” she asks suddenly standing still, making sympathetic eye contact with me.
I shake my head, confused.
Her face looks sad for a second. “That surgeon is only here on certain days, not Fridays. You won’t be able to donate it. You came on the wrong day.”
“Oh,” I say while my heart sinks. Don’t cry, you’re okay. Keep going. I don’t tell her how many times I’d asked the pissy nurse about the donation, or how they were the ones to set up my appointment for this day even after I’d asked, several times, about donating. I got pregnant, and now everything is going to be wasted, and killed because I was irresponsible. This is my fault. I hate myself. I hate myself so fucking much. I deserve this.
Silence falls in the room. Can I reschedule for next week? Maybe then he’ll be able to come.

If I leave now, I’m not coming back. Things won’t change. Even with a different date, he won’t come.

If I leave pregnant, I’ll kill myself.
Keep going.

“Thank you, though,” the woman offers.
The next nurse comes in and brings my pants to me, which contain my iPod. Then the doctor comes, a male, not a female, and I die inside a bit. He greets me, asks how I am. The first nurse says nervous while the second places my bare legs so that the world can see inside me. I stare at the ceiling to avoid focusing on the fact that the drape isn’t even covering me anymore. I again consider suicide. I could just pull the cap off the IV, bleed out…
The doctor’s fingers are inside me. He didn’t even warn me. Oh God, oh, God. Fuck, fuck, fuck. My stomach rolls into my throat, into my mouth. Stop touching me, stop touching me! I try to act like I’m not freaking out, like time isn’t spinning so fast I think my head will fall off. I feel nauseous, not just because of the pregnancy anymore.
Keep going.

“Nervous,” he reiterates as he removes himself. “We can help with that.”
The second nurse pushes play on my iPod, rests it near my head. The doctor injects stuff into my IV. It takes less than five seconds before I feel it. The ceiling takes on a heart beat, waves and cascades in and out.
And then I’m in darkness.
In the dark, like I’m rising to the surface from a black out, it hurts for a second, like my insides are being torn out of me. Oh God, they’re ripping the pregnancy away from me. I can feel this.

Whatever. You deserve it.

Rip, rip, rip.

When I’m present again, I’m trying to help the nurse get me into my pants, and then I’m in darkness again. Sometime between the darkness and seeing light again, it’s like I’ve become two different people. Stephanie, the girl who walked into the clinic, and Stephanie, the girl whose pants are on, with a thick pad somehow in my underwear. There is the residual voice (the Stephanie in pants) that continues to say, Keep going, and the old voice that still says, You can still kill yourself. One voice struggles to keep me alive, to keep me going. I recognize the voice from my Alanon meetings, the one that says slogans like One day at a time, and Let go and let God. The other is the voice my parents instilled in me.

There are girls sitting on lazy-boy chairs like an abortion mill. I join them, scared I’m the only one losing consciousness because I’m the only one that’s a coward and chose to be sedated. Thankfully, I’m still too tired to care.
I’m woken up and offered something to drink. I choose Ginger Ale like I do every time I’m on an airplane. They hand me my cup and a bag full of papers and pills. Antibiotics, so I don’t die from this shit, my poor life decisions.
Though I’m safe inside the haze of residual sedation, and the confines of the walls, I know just outside the doors there are protesters. I also know that in 2009, George Tiller, an abortion doctor, was shot and killed as he walked into church. I also know that there have been bombings and fires in other Planned Parenthood clinics. While I sit in my Lazy-Boy chair, I wonder, is someone going to blow this building up?
“You deal with the protesters every day?” a girl asks.
A nurse nods her head while handing a drink to another girl in a large comfortable chair.
“Aren’t you afraid of working here?” someone, possibly me, asks.
“Sometimes. Sometimes they can be really mean,” one nurse states. Another also says she’s sometimes afraid to come to work. The girls and I continue to talk: mainly about the protesters.
I’m amazed and humbled by the fact that they’re still here, taking care of girls and women like me, potentially afraid for her life.
One by one the nurses have us all pee and change our bloody pad. When we emerge, we’re asked to gauge how bloody it was and say it out loud like show and tell.
All of us seem like we’re fine, like we’re not bleeding out too badly, though there’s still time for that to change.
Shortly after, they match us up with our rides and I’m again reminded that it’s my friend and not him driving me home. Keep going, you’re okay. They have us leave out of the room with the comfortable chairs, the back exit. At least you have someone, anyone here.
As I rise to leave, still slightly high off the sedation, I miscalculate the way I’m walking and manage to knock over a box of Kleenex. I realize that those are there, because it’s okay to cry after the surgery, to grieve the loss of life.
I start to bend to pick the box up, and a nurse runs to me, “Don’t worry, we got it.”
I thank her, apologize, and continue my walk of shame.
I’m still wobbly and as my friend pulls her vehicle forward, we see that the protesters have gathered in numbers. Hatred runs through my bones for them. Sometimes it’s the best option! Sometimes we get left alone! I want to make them understand that those girls inside that room are not monsters, that I’m not a monster.
I imagine what I’d say to them, We’re young, and you’re right, we are terrified. We may end up regretting our decision, but it was our decision to make. For whatever the reasons, we made this decision. We have to deal with the consequences, you don’t. Stop judging us because for some of us, this was the only option!
“Are you hungry?” my friend asks breaking up my thoughts.
I’ve only had candy to eat this morning. “I think so,” I tell her. I’ve still only been able to eat roman noodles at home, so I’m not sure if I’ll be able to eat anything right now.
We make our way back to Shoney’s and I move slowly, now because I’m terrified to move too quickly. My stomach is cramping like I’m being serrated with butcher knives from the inside out, and it hurts.
The mean unsupportive voice tells me, You deserve this.
We eat and talk. She makes me laugh and each time my abs contract, the knives twist and slice. Though I wanted to take her out for lunch, since she won’t even let me pay for the gas to get here, she refuses, and pays for our meals. I thank her and she gives me her keys to I don’t have to stand long.
She drives, we get lost. I sleep. We make it back to the parking lot we met up in this morning. “Do you need anything else?”
Though I need more liquids, food, a thermometer to make sure I don’t run a fever, I don’t tell her this, she’s done enough. I expect him to call, to ask if I need anything, and then I’ll get these things that I need. “No, I’ll be fine.”
“Do you want to rest on my couch?” she offers.
“No, I need to get home to Baxter,” I tell her.

            She nods, an animal lover herself, and hugs me before I exit. I hug her goodbye and tell her I’ll be fine. 

Lynne Schmidt is the Real People columnist for the Advertiser Democrat, and a memoir and young adult author. Her work has appeared in Zephyr and Authors of Tomorrow.
She lives in Maine with her dogs Baxter and Kyla.
You can find her on her personal blog or twitter.

Things To Be Aware Of

If you’ve lived on the planet, by now you’ve heard of Wendy Davis’s bravery regarding her filibuster. But maybe you haven’t heard about what’s happening in other states.

Right now, states like Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, and many other states are under fire.

What can you do to help?

If you live in these states, GET INVOLVED. Let your legislatures know that you WILL NOT stand for your rights being taken away. Go to the hearings. Tell your friends. Get people involved. Many states are trying to sweep this under the rug. Why? Because they know their people will get pissed. Tell people. Let them stand for their rights.

If you’re not in these states? Send support. At the filibuster, people were donating pizzas to the people. Tweet about it. Talk to your friends about it.

One thing at this point is certain. The anti abortion bills are coming for us.

Are you prepared?

Similar Experiences, but Never the Same by Renee Bracey Sherman

A post originally posted at Exhale and Abortion Gang, cross-posted with permission of the author.
Indifferent. As I rode home from the abortion clinic and the days after the procedure, I felt indifferent. I had been told to expect overwhelming feelings of sadness and physical pain, yet I felt none. I felt fine. Not better than normal, but also not worse than normal. Indifferent. It was not at all what I was told to expect, by the doctors, the nurses, or what I had heard from friends.
I grew up in what many would call a ‘liberal’ family. We were middle class; my parents are both nurses, college educated, we lived in the suburbs of a major city, and we were a very open family. My parents are both ‘pro-choice’ and would have supported my decision when I was 19 years old to have an abortion, yet, why did it take me six years to tell them about it?
My experience wasn’t unlike other women’s; I had a steady boyfriend, I was on birth control, but I missed a few weeks of pills and became pregnant. At sixteen, when I told my mom about a friend’s abortion decision, she told me that it was a personal choice and one she supported. So, I should have been able to go to my parents when I needed support, right?
It just wasn’t that easy for me. Many of my cousins had children in their teens and were unable to finish high school and college, yet I was on track to do both. I didn’t want to disappoint my mother, I felt that if I told her that I was pregnant, I would let her down, make her mad. I felt that she and my father would be disappointed, even though they would have supported my decision.
Even until recently, I was afraid to tell anyone, for fear of the reaction that I would get, or the way they would view me. I felt that if I told my story, I would be wearing the scarlet ‘A’ forever. I felt that I would be one of the vicious women that senators and representatives talk about who ‘abort their babies to fit into a prom dress’. That kind of rhetoric hurts me because that wasn’t what happened. How could I make others understand without having to share the whole story of the abuse I had endured during that relationship, how to say that it was my choice and it was a way to get out of a really bad situation. It’s hard to justify your actions without giving away a huge part of yourself every time.
Even though some people may see me differently after knowing I had an abortion,  I’ve chosen to share my story to let others in the community know that abortion shouldn’t be a taboo subject. We can comfort one another and change the conversation. We can shape what people hear about our lives and our stories.
After talking to many of my friends, family members and co-workers, I found out that almost everyone has an experience with abortion; whether they themselves had one, a partner, a parent or a sibling, it is not uncommon. It is an experience that crosses all racial lines, the gender spectrum, class backgrounds and sexual orientations; yet, we don’t talk about it. I understand that there are many reasons some folks won’t want to share about their experience. Even if I don’t hear their story, I want them to know they are not alone. We’ve been through a similar experience and there is love and support available to you.
I recently told my mother about my abortion experience and she cried, not because she was mad, but because she was proud of me for having the strength to make a tough decision on my own. She wished she could have been there to support me. When I asked her if she was disappointed in me, she said, “No honey, I am proud of who you have become. You made a decision for you.”
Abortion is different for everyone. Each abortion is like stripes on a zebra; while on the surface they may seem similar, no two experiences are exactly the same. I hope that in the future, the abortion debate moves from above the heads of the people it affects, down to a conversational level, where women and family members who have experienced abortion can talk about how to best support each other. Our voices matter. Let’s listen.
Renee is from Chicago, Illinois where she graduated from Northeastern Illinois University, studying economics and sociology. Renee found a passion in working to break down barriers of multiple oppressions that women/people of color/LGBT/low income/immigrant folks face each day by sharing stories. Renee currently lives in San Francisco and volunteers with the Bay Area Doula ProjectExhale and ACCESS. Renee hopes that by sharing her personal abortion experience, she can help move the conversation past partisan lines and to a compassionate level.

My Crisis at the CPC by Cynthia Di Angelo

New location of the CPC. They’ve moved in directly next door to the actual clinic. They have been confusing women into missing their appointments at the clinic next door by having misleading signs. I was told by some of the clinic escorts they will offer women thinking they are at the clinic food when they walk in, so when they realize they are in the wrong place they can’t go next door and have their procedure

A few years ago, I made the decision to return to school and found myself living on my own in Kentucky. Most of my life had to be financed with student loans and the small wage I made at my job. I had left a very good job to return to school, but paying for the COBRA plan was out of the question. I had done well in taxes the year before so Medicaid was out of the question. I have a pre-existing condition so buying a health insurance policy was not in my price range.

Another Crisis Pregnancy Center

During this time, I hadn’t gotten a period in about 4 months. I hadn’t been sexually active for at least 6 months. I knew I should start by getting a pregnancy test before assuming anything, so I stopped at what I assumed was a free health clinic. The sign out front read “A Women’s Choice: A Free Special Health Clinic” and advertised free and confidential pregnancy testing.

The clinic I walked in to was small, and had posters and propaganda for finding Christianity. This should have been my first clue. A majority of the healthcare in Kentucky is affiliated with the Catholic and Baptist faiths so having religious affiliation didn’t raise any concern. A volunteer greeted me, and told me about their free testing and ultrasound capabilities for diagnosing pregnancies. Why was I not to think this was a healthcare facility? I went to the bathroom with my test, given to me by either a volunteer or employee. No way to tell. 

It was negative.

Next I was waiting in what seemed like it was an exam room, sitting on a chair next to the ultrasound machine. I assumed a doctor or nurse would be there. Nope. A volunteer with brochures about salvation came in to counsel me about my negative test. I was confused and scared, and still without any explanation to why I was having medical issues.

The volunteer said, “You are just lucky all of your sinning hasn’t caught up with you yet. While you aren’t pregnant, how do you know you haven’t been infected with HIV, and have been infecting others? You have to walk away from how you have been living your life, hand yourself over to Jesus, and beg for forgiveness for what has lead you to us today”… My mind drifted off as she scolded me, and I began to worry about my health even more. She asked if I had any questions and I mentioned I have an auto immune disorder that could be the root of my health problem. The volunteer obviously wasn’t a healthcare professional, I was told about a place that was hiring locally that had great benefits. She reached for my hand and asked me to pray with her. Again, my mind drifted away and I found myself just looking at the floor, thinking about the physical pain I was in.

The Crisis Pregnancy Center

Many people see no harm in the Crisis Pregnancy Center. However, I can’t be the only person who has confused one of the Crisis Pregnancy Centers as healthcare. Emergency mental health centers are often called “Crisis Centers”. If they were called an adoption recruitment center, or a chapel then I would have no reason to be complaining that I had showed up seeking medical assistance.

To promote itself as a medical resource is just irresponsible. The poor who have little access to quality healthcare are the most likely to have this confusion. Any number of medical emergencies could present themselves as a women being confused she is pregnant. How would they diagnose a situation requiring immediate care from a doctor such as an ectopic or high risk pregnancy? Substituting the care of doctors, nurses or midwives for religious guidance does nothing to serve the community. 
In my case, I ended up in the ER a few weeks later. I had a week long hospital stay for my auto immune disease. I can’t help to think this situation could have been much easier for me if only I had found actual healthcare, not a religious organization posing as a clinic.

Cynthia Di Angelo has been battling Crohn’s disease for over 20 years. A native New Yorker, but somehow wound up living in Kentuckybefore ending up in Philadelphia. She has a three year old daughter and is an adult adoptee.

How I Became A Feminist by Damien Berard

A bumper sticker.
I haven’t really been into helping support abortion rights until about six months ago, when I met a girl. One of the first times we hung out she asked, “Are you pro choice or pro life?”

At that time I didn’t exactly know what the terms stood for or meant, plus, here I was, trying to impress her. So she explained, “ProLife basically says that if you get pregnant, you must carry the pregnancy to term. ProChoice on the other-hand, recognizes that sometimes an abortion is necessary, and supports whatever decision the pregnant woman makes.”

Okay, so with that context and still trying to say the right thing, I answered, “I am not really for abortion unless it’s a rape or incest case.” She didn’t care for that answer and the topic was quickly changed. Every time we hung out she would tell me more and more about the ProLife movement and what they were doing to try to stop the right to have an abortion.
A couple of weeks later, she dragged me a rally called, “Moving Choice Forward For Maine.” Sitting in the car before we walked in, she said, “I feel like you should know something…” I started to get nervous. Then she continued, “I had an abortion a little over a year ago.” She told me why, and how hard and traumatizing of a decision it was. That was definitely a new experience for me. I was kind of expecting for her to say that when she said, “I feel like you should know something,” because she talked about women’s rights every time we hung out
From Moving Choice Forward for Maine

and was passionate about it.

It didn’t make me think any differently of her. She went on to tell me the about getting pregnant having the guy say he doesn’t want anything to do with her and leaving her for her best friend. She said she was against abortions and the only way she could think of to not be pregnant was to kill herself. She went on to tell me that her abortion saved her life. That is definitely when I looked at abortions in a new light. It opened my eyes and made me want to make a difference with her so that no other woman would have to go through that same thing. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to make that decision.
At Moving Choice Forward, there were a lot of vendors. I can’t remember most of the names of them but I do remember that Planned Parenthood was there. We colored birds for the Repeal Hyde Art Project to show support. We walked up to one table and the lady asked me if I would like to, “knit a vagina.” I can honestly say that I never in my life thought that I would get asked that. 

Towards the end they had some speakers. They told some stories that I couldn’t believe. Like the story about women using rusty coat hangers and then getting sick from it and dying. One thing that I hear a lot is, “If a women doesn’t want to be pregnant she won’t stay pregnant” no matter what she has to do to not be pregnant.
Since that rally, I have protested at a Crisis Pregnancy Center. We made signs saying “your body your choice” “honk for choice” “I had an abortion” and others. We had well over 100 honks in the first hour to hour and a half. It was nice seeing some of the women driving by seeing my sign, “your body your choice” and smiling.
Posters from the Crisis Pregnancy Center protest
The girl also made a ProChoice twitter account and asked me if I wanted to be a part of that, I have been on there a few times and read a lot of articles that just hurt my heart. Like the case of a pregnant lady, whose fetus had 0% brain function and had no chance to survive long after birth, but a congressman blatantly said that the lady should be forced to have the baby. 

Think about what that woman will have to go through; having a baby and having it not survive. Instead of just having an abortion.
I think that both of those things would be hard to go through. Giving birth is dangerous. There is always a chance of something going wrong and the woman not surviving it. An abortion can be safer, and maybe a little less stressful than having a brain dead child and it living for an hour or two before it dies. I don’t think that a congressman or congresswoman has any right saying that a woman should have no choice what happens to her body and her child. I strongly believe that she has all the right in the world to do what she feels necessary.
I know one girl’s story changed my opinion on abortion. I no longer feel that abortion is only okay in cases of rape and incest. Now, I feel like a woman should be able to do what she wants with her own body. In the end I am ProChoice now and will always be. I am glad that I had the chance to have this girl a part of my life and teach me so much about what is going on in the world regarding the war on women’s rights. I’m proud to say that I am a male feminist.

Damien Berard is a fun outgoing individual who loves family, friends, and his dog. In his spare time he enjoys snowboarding, skateboarding, making peoples days or saving the day. He is a feminist fighting for women’s rights.

You can find him on twitter: @DamienBerard and @AbortionChat on Fridays.