By: Sarah Neal
A 16-year-old girl from the Dominican Republic died after her chemotherapy was delayed over anti-abortion laws on Aug. 17.
The doctors delaying her treatment were simply following the law of the nation that states that “the right to life is inviolable from the moment of conception and until death” – wording that has been used in the U.S. in debates over whether or not embryos and fetuses should be granted personhood status. If fervent pro-life Americans have their way and personhood status is ever granted, similar deaths of pregnant girls and women could easily happen here.
This story prompted me to purchase a button from Revolution Books this Saturday when I picked up my textbooks. The button reads, “Abortion on demand and without apology.” This button inspired me to tell my story.
I had my daughter in 2005. She has disabilities that make life amazing but difficult. I decided at her birth that I did not want any more children, but when I requested a tubal ligation to end my days of fertility, I was told I was too young and had not birthed the requisite number of children necessary to make that decision (the magic number happened to be two, in my male doctor’s opinion).
I then asked for an intrauterine device, as birth control pills had failed to protect me from pregnancy and I had developed erythema nodosum as a side effect from contraceptive pills, a condition which causes painful, itchy lumps to form on my legs. My doctor refused to provide me with an IUD for reasons similar to those listed above. I continued to be denied an IUD until just this year, nearly seven years after the birth of my daughter.
With limited birth control options, I relied on condoms for protection. When this method failed in 2007, I decided to terminate that second pregnancy. I scheduled the abortion as soon as I discovered it, approximately twenty days after conception, when the embryo was about the size of a grain of rice.
Perhaps this abortion would not have been necessary had I been trusted to make my own choices regarding my reproductive rights, and perhaps if the man who impregnated me had had some sexual education he would have known to inform me of the condom’s malfunction so I could obtain the Plan B pill. These are systemic social problems that need to be addressed, but the pro-life movement would rather cast those of us who have had abortions as sex-crazed, reckless women who should have behaved ourselves.
There will be people who read this and think, “If you were not ready to have another child, you should not have had sex.” But I do not want any more children. Ever. Am I to live the rest of my life in a chastity belt? Even after I marry? Should the approximately 250,000 married women who had abortions last year have lived in celibacy as well?
I do not feel guilty and I do not feel sad about my choice to terminate my second pregnancy, though it took me a while to get to this point with the constant social insistence that I did something wrong. The shaming tactics of the pro-life movement infuriate me, especially when statistics show this procedure is incredibly common: an estimated one-third of all American women will have an abortion in their lifetimes, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
LEAVING STIGMAS BEHIND
By sharing my story, I hope to encourage others to stop hiding in the shadows created by the social stigma surrounding abortion. There is nothing wrong with obtaining a legal medical procedure, and if any readers have had abortions, I want to pass that message on to you.
We need to adopt the “abortion on demand and without apology” motto. At the very least, we should adopt the idea of “contraception on demand and without apology.”
After all, if I had been allowed one of the contraceptive measures I had asked for shortly after the birth of my daughter, my ensuing abortion likely never would have come to pass.
First published on Kaleo website.