AbortionChat A place to talk about abortion; why you're for it, why you're against it, firsthand, secondhand, or curiosity. All we ask is that you keep an open mind.

Category Archives: Healthy Decisions

To Or To Not #ProtectTheZone?

It was sunny the day my friend drove me past the Planned Parenthood clinic in Virginia. It wasn’t even 9:00am yet, and there were protesters lining the sidewalk. They held signs, there were men and women, and worst of all, they were there to tell me I was making a huge mistake. My stomach turned just looking at them.

“Hey,” my friend said snapping me out of my inner turmoil. “Let’s go get something to drink.”

Because I was having a surgical abortion, I hadn’t had anything to eat (okay, let’s be honest, I snuck some candy on the drive up) in several hours, and I was only allowed to have clear liquids. We sat at a diner while she sipped coffee, and I drank iced water. No matter how warm it was outside, I couldn’t stop shaking.

When we returned to the clinic, the protesters had gathered in numbers. “Are you ready?” my friend asked. I couldn’t talk anymore, so I just nodded my head and stepped out of the car. We approached the doors that had signs saying, “Please don’t interact with the protesters,” and I pushed a button. Somewhere, I registered the fact someone was shouting. I assumed it was to traffic, telling the cars passing by of the atrocities that happen inside the building.

Instead, my friend put her arm around me, protectively and said, “Don’t listen to them, Sweetie.”

And then it hit me like a baseball bat to the face. They were screaming at me. Finally I could hear their words, “We know you’re scared, but you don’t have to do this!”

(A bit later)

After the procedure, I was groggy from sedation, and sitting in the recovery room. I can’t remember if it was me, or one of the women beside me, but someone asked the nurse taking care of us if she was ever afraid to go to work.

Her face went very still and she answered, “Yes, sometimes the protesters can be very mean.” I was still too sedated to remember what else was said. I do remember feeling upset because here was a woman helping me, who is afraid to come to her job, to help people like me, and yet was still there on that day.

Some time later, my friend had to pick me up from the back door and we left the clinic. As we drove away, I could see that even more protesters had gathered, and they still held signs. It was the first time I’d ever felt real hatred toward people I didn’t know. Yes, I was afraid. I’d never been pregnant before. I’d never had an abortion before. I’d also never been left by the guy who got me pregnant, was awaiting being evicted from my house, a knee surgery, and a plethora of other complications. I was scared out of my mind, that the protesters were right about. But I did need to have my abortion because for me, my abortion meant life, or my pregnancy meant death by my own hand.

Since my abortion, I’ve become an activist attempting to spread some grey area into the world of the black and white abortion debate. I’ve been to ProLife and ProChoice rallys. I’ve been to writing conferences talking about my abortion. And I’ve also been to counter protests outside of Planned Parenthood in Portland, Maine holding signs that say, “We support you!” and “I had an abortion.”

My friends and I were met with hostility. A man forcing pamphlets into our hands about “willful ignorance” insulted us. There was a sickening, almost tangible element of fear in the air, not only for the women entering the clinic, but the workers, the clinic escorts, and my friends…it felt like any second the world would explode. People drove by screaming at the protesters, “You’re fucking disgusting!” A man on a bicycle rode by chastising them. It was oppressive, and yet they still yelled at my friends and I, asking why we were “scared” of them. When we left, we were followed to our car.

Now, the Supreme Court has voted against the buffer zone in Massachusetts, which may or may not set the precedent for the remaining states in America. Earlier this year, Portland, Maine enacted a patient safety zone of 39 ft. We’ve heard many positive stories since the buffer zone had been enacted. Planned Parenthood of New England (PPNE) stated in a press release, “What is different since the buffer zone has been enacted is that we no longer see the sort of harassment and intimidation we saw previously. The atmosphere outside of our health center is one of peaceful coexistence – which balances the right to privacy with free speech rights.”

In light of the recent decision to strike down the Massachusetts buffer zone, PPNE stated, “The U.S. Supreme Court Justices’ decision today to strike down the buffer zone law shows a disregard for the safety of patients and staff entering reproductive health centers and we are disappointed by their decision to strike down the Massachusetts law.”

The Education and Outreach Coordinator at the Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center in Bangor, Maine, Abbie Strout, said, “I am dissapointed in the Supreme Court for ruling against a buffer zone. We all deserve the right to make a decision about our lives and should be able to access necessary health care services without facing fear and intimidation.”

In regards to a potential added level of danger to the decision, Abbie stated, “I think it is important to acknowledge that we all face a certain level of danger doing this work.  It was only 5 years ago when Dr. George Tiller was murdered at his church, he was a well-known abortion provider and hero.  Everyday people across the country face fear and intimidation going to work or while accessing medical care.  This is unacceptable. At the same time, we are all incredibly lucky that there are women and men who understand how important access to abortion care is and will risk their lives for it.”

The fact of the matter is, when people are allowed to be hostile, to add tension, it becomes an unsafe environment. Not just physically, but emotionally as well. As someone who is a mental health profession, and who has struggled with my own mental health, these “protests” or “clinic counselors” are a danger to any person walking into those clinics.

Why I Do What I Do by Savannah King

When people ask what I do and I tell them that I do a lot of work in the field of eating disorders, pretty much without fail, I only ever get two types of responses. Half of the people tell me that they or their daughter or their brother or their friend had an eating disorder at some point and they thank me for the work that I do. The other half become very uncomfortable and usually try to make some kind of joke, oftentimes along the lines of “haha, you mean you work with people that are fat like me?” or “maybe you could help me out, I need to lose some weight.”

While one of these responses is much easier for me to react to (hint: it’s the first one), I can’t help but think about how neither of them are particularly great things to hear. The second response, of course, is steeped in ignorance and stigma. And the first response, while it’s wonderful to be able to connect with people who can speak so openly about struggles and know that I’m making an impact, means that so many people know someone suffering from an eating disorder.

I do the work that I do because eating disorders don’t discriminate. They can impact people of any race, gender, age, class, or body size. I do this work because approximately 24-27 million men and women in the United States are struggling with an eating disorder. And on college campuses, like the one that I’ve called home for the last four years, those numbers are even higher. About 18-19% of college students are struggling with an eating disorder. That means that at UNC Chapel Hill, the school I attend, this beautiful tar heel blue piece of heaven, around 3,200 of my peers (there’s about 18,000 of us) might really be suffering. Many of them in I’ve seen so many people that I know lose themselves to eating disorders. I’ve seen the way these disorders can take over every aspect of life and wreak havoc not only on the body, but on the mind, the personality, the social life, the academic career, the happiness, of so many people that I love. But more importantly, I’ve seen recovery. Through my work, I have met some of the strongest people that I know, warriors and fighters. I have seen people grow and evolve in recovery. I’ve seen them take an awful situation and turn it into a moment of opportunity and learning. And I have seen that the health and happiness once lost can be reclaimed.

This is why I choose to spend my time fighting stigma and raising awareness about eating disorders. While at UNC Chapel Hill, I helped create Embody Carolina, a training program that teaches students how to effectively and compassionately support those with eating disorders. I’ve conducted research on pro-anorexia websites. I’ve smashed scales and lobbied congress and supported friends that needed help. And I will continue doing the work that I do until it’s no longer needed.

ssmashSavannah King is a senior Women’s and Gender Studies major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She enjoys drinking tea, practicing yoga, and painting. Savannah will be attending Boston College next year to pursue a Master’s of Social Work and hopes to continue working within the field of eating disorder treatment and research.

What Does AbortionChat Do?

Almost a year ago, I took up the idea of protesting Crisis Pregnancy Centers because, well, they scare me. I’ve heard stories of women being shamed as they come to utilize their “Free Pregnancy Tests” and stories about women who at the abortion clinic, didn’t want one, so a good doctor reached out to a near CPC who stated, “Well, what do you want me to do about it?”

So last year I gathered friends and we car pooled to a Crisis Pregnancy Center. We held signs saying, “We support choice!” and “Come talk to us!” among others. We talked about abortion, -my- abortion. We talked about laws, and old men shaming women at clinics. But we talked in an environment which made us comfortable, and we used the time to spread awareness with each other.

This week, a friend confided in me that she had an abortion this summer. One of the very friends who’d protested Crisis Pregnancy Centers with me. This was her message:

Hey Lynne! I just wanted to say thank you. I had an abortion this summer and the whole time I was terrified, there were men shaming me on the way in but I remembered all the things we had talked about. You had a bigger impact than you can imagine

If you find yourself coming to AbortionChat and wondering what we do, THIS is your answer. We’re not here to cause more confrontation, hatred or fear. We’re here to offer support, no matter the decision. We’re here to spread information, clarify mis-information, and allow you, whoever you are, to make your own decisions about your body, your health, your relationship, and your family.

 

In other news, we will be taking a small hiatus this month to focus on panel proposals, conferences, and things of the like. Our chats will continue, and we’ll be open to submissions, but the blog will restart in May. Thank you for your patience.

Things Both Sides Agree On

On January 18th, 2014 I was able to attend a ProLife rally in Augusta, Maine.

Pastors, priests, and political officials spoke in favor of dismembering abortion, while I sat in the audience shaking in fear. They made places like Planned Parenthood a target. They said that abortion is murder, and x-amount of babies have died since Roe v Wade was passed 41 years ago. They marched with stop signs that read, “Stop Abortion Now” to the capitol building.

A counterpart and I took several ProLife pamphlets for research and attempted to engage with people to gather an understanding of why they’re so adamantly against abortion rights. And while the two sides have many differences, today’s post is going to focus on the similarities that both sides are fighting for that rarely get recognized because we’re all so focused on how ignorant “The Other Side” is.

*Support
One thing I was incredibly impressed by at the rally were some pamphlets that addressed, “How to talk to a friend who’s had an abortion,” or “Father No More, Where are the FATHERS of abortion?” Both pamphlets say things like, “There are counselors, priests, deacons, support groups and retreats prepared to help.” They address giving yourself time to grieve. They say, “Assure the person of love and support.”
This is incredibly similar to what Planned Parenthood, ProVoice, and what AbortionChat does. Everyone involved recognizes that this is not an easy decision. People will need support after their abortions.

*Pressure
Both sides are adamantly against the person who is pressured into seeking an abortion. Whether it is a significant other, a family member, or a friend telling the pregnant person to seek an abortion, both sides fight against the coercion.

*Lowering Abortion Rates
One side venomously opposes abortion. The other supports a person’s right to choose. Both, typically, work to lower abortion rates. One side does this by comprehensive sexual education, and having people understand the wonder of contraceptives. One side does this by prayers and picketing. Either way, both sides fight to lower abortion rates.

*Families
Governor Paul LePage spoke during the rally and identified himself as “ProChild.” As he talked, he spoke of broken families in Maine, young men in correctional facilities at young ages, and child abuse. He addressed the fact that families need help.
Again, Planned Parenthood and several ProChoice activists rally for this cause, the assembling of a family. Bringing a child into a broken household is dangerous and destructive. Helping families come together and be ready for a child is a miracle that both sides appear to recognize.

*Ending the Shaming of Single Mothers
LePage also spoke of lessening the shame and stigma of a single working mother. Many who support abortion rights also attempt to do the same thing by offering support, counseling, and government programs to assist single mothers.

*Older Generations Are Set In Their Ways
Though both sides often try to change people’s minds, typically there is one thing both recognize: The older generation is typically set in their own ways and belief systems. It is incredibly difficult to engage them in conversation, especially political, without feeling some form of wrath.
Therefore, it appears that both sides aim to reach out to the youth.

This is a small list, but it is a list that at least starts the conversation of how we can all work together to lower abortion rates, mend broken families, support single parents, support people who’ve sought abortion, and end the pressuring of a person to obtain an abortion.

What else could we add to this list?

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.

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?