Most recent statistics indicate nearly one in four women in the United States will have had an abortion by the age of 45. Abortion is more commonplace than we might think which is why many of us have gone through our lives unaware of the women we know who have had abortions. Since so many of us are unaware of the women in our lives who’ve had an a abortion,easy for so many of us to simplify the topic based on our own beliefs and create narratives we want to believe.
Chances are pretty good that if you think of 4 women in your life, one of them has had or will have an abortion. Some women aren’t comfortable admitting or talking about their experience or reasons, but in hopes that you will see the humanity behind the statistics, I am sharing the story of my abortion.
I was raised in a very Christian household in a small town in rural North Carolina. This means I was related to most of my neighbors (who were a few crop fields away), I’ve never heard either of my parents curse and we didn’t have cable. My upbringing was pretty sheltered. Around the age of twelve or thirteen, when the topic of abortion was being discussed, I commented something to the effect that if I ever got pregnant that’s what I would do, to which my mother replied, “Oh no you would not.” I remember feeling rigid and uncomfortable. I was at least a decade away from having intercourse for the first time and still I remember thinking, “Okay, note to self: In case of pregnancy don’t tell mom.” It was never something we ever discussed again and yet it’s always stood out in my mind.
Fast forward to college. I was probably twenty-one or twenty-two. I found alcohol and a fake ID. The only real sex talk I had included the logistics and the information that sex is to be saved for marriage. I started dating an extremely average guy. He was older than me and honestly I don’t think I had many standards other than don’t abuse me. I remember we dated for awhile. I met his family and he met mine. I have flashbacks of some of our sexual encounters. Nothing really stood out. I don’t even remember how long we actually dated.
I remember wondering where my period was.
I remember telling myself it was just late.
I remember questioning, “But we always use condoms, right?”
I remember feeling sick and dread as a question I never wanted to ponder entered my mind. “What if I’m pregnant?”
I don’t remember where I took the test. I don’t remember my initial response. I don’t remember telling the boyfriend.
I remember we still had sex. I remember he looked at it as more of a free for all for cumming inside of me since I “couldn’t get pregnant twice.”
I remember feeling numb.
I remember having to a house party the night I found out. I remember drinking excessively because I thought maybe that would cause me to miscarry.
I remember drinking a bottle of wine and then cough syrup and crying like I have never cried before on the floor of my bathroom and throwing up. I remember getting in the shower because I didn’t want my roommates to hear.
I remember not knowing what to do.
I remember never discussing having an abortion.
I remember going to the clinic by myself.
I remember it was very early in the pregnancy.
I remember going to the appointment for my procedure.
I remember seeing someone I knew sitting across the room with her friend. I remember we didn’t talk.
I remember being given 2 pills. I remember putting a pill inside me as far as I could to open my cervix. I remember taking the other one orally.
I remember waiting.
I remember lying in the room with my feet in stirrups. I remember holding the nurse’s hand. I remember squeezing it for dear life. I remember hating myself. I remember crying the entire time. I remember not knowing what to do afterwards.
I remember being told that I would probably bleed heavily and have extreme cramps for around two weeks.
I remember they tried to talk to me about birth control and I told them I was never having sex again.
I remember bits and pieces of the days that followed. I remember I stayed at the boyfriend’s house the first few nights. I don’t remember him being super supportive.
I remember the days of crying and all of the blood.
I remember punishing myself for being so reckless. For being so stupid. For not knowing better. For doing what I had done – both getting pregnant and aborting the pregnancy.
I remember being in a lot of pain. I remember I didn’t feel worthy of life since I had taken someone else’s. I remember so much blood.
I remember being afraid that if I wrote it down that would make it more real. And that someone might some day read my words and know my secret.
I was such an emotional wreck I moved back in with my parents across the state. The boyfriend and I broke up. He didn’t want to help me pay for the procedure like he said he would. One night when I was visiting my friend where I went to college and he still lived, she yelled at him outside of a bar where he was working which resulted in him giving me the money for the procedure right then and there. I never checked the box that said I had had an abortion anytime I filled out a medical history form. I pretended it never happened.
Fast forward to 2017. Why at the age of 32, considering all the women I knew could I only count three women who’d had an abortion and one of them was me? That was when I began sharing the statistic and talking about my abortion, only to discover that so many people I knew had had an abortion.
Not one of the women that disclosed their abortions did so lightly. Not one of them happily proclaimed, “Me too!” This decision is never one that’s made lightly. So many tears have been shed over sticks with blue lines and in clinics around the country. Tears are streaming down my face even as I write, but my tears are not just for my pain, but for every woman who has to choose, and for women who may not have the choice in the future to make the decision they never wanted to make due to circumstances which force their hands.
I know having a child would have been one lost soul raising another lost soul.
I know there is no simple solution. No magic wand to wave. Each woman’s story is so specific and unique, and it is no one’s right to decide but the woman hosting a potential living being in her body.
I know we can support women who have had an abortion or who are having an abortion by being open and honest and vulnerable about our own experiences. We can remind the world of our unique stories and respect the stories of others.
I know we can teach girls about their worth. We can teach boys about respect. We can normalize sexuality in conversation with our children and work to ensure access to sex education, contraceptives and birth control.
I have zero regrets about my abortion. I made the best decision for me and the potential life that existed at that time. If I had a magic wand and could change things for my younger self, I would create a safe space for her to ask questions and express her feelings and communicate.
Johnna Powers is one in four and no longer silent.