Apr 052013

I never got pregnant and I never had an abortion. Considering how weird and painful my ovaries can be, I wonder if I was ever fertile at all. It isn’t a question now, because I took essure implants when I was 30. When I talk about that procedure, I get excited about how great my anesthesiologist was* — the moral or personal implications of my reproductive status aren’t really a thing for me.

Today I read this piece by Molly Crabapple about her abortion (please read that, you have to read it) and I cried. Partly because it is a very moving piece all the way through and maybe partly because I’m currently lying on an overstuffed chair with a heating pad and painkillers while my right ovary stabs flaming spikes into my guts.

I never had an abortion, but I’ve wept with pain in probably the same Manhattan Planned Parenthood, behind a metal detector and security doors that made me feel like a criminal for getting STI tests and asking whether I might have to have another cyst surgically removed.

She writes: “There are so many reasons why women need abortions. Those reasons are often wedded intractably to money.” Money figures into a lot of people’s abortion stories. Money and class are the worldbuilding of every abortion story — that’s why so much of American politics right now is filled with stupid hateful sound bytes about women’s bodies. If you want to get into sentimental reductionism, then class and politics and economics always come down to somebody bleeding and somebody crying.

This is a body that never had an abortion.

This is what a body that never had an abortion looks like.

Here’s my abortion story: When I was an angry lesbian teenager, I wore patched BDUs everywhere and had a green mohawk. My parents supported all of this because they’re supportive motherfuckers, and also I think it must have been a relief not to have to worry about their daughter getting pregnant. I couldn’t figure out what my politics were, but I read too much sci-fi and didn’t like anything and wanted to go to a military academy so someone could tell me what to think. I read an article about how difficult it was becoming for young women to get abortions, because terrorists, not just murderous domestic terrorists but legislative ones, and how there were already entire states with only a few, or no, abortion providers. I bitched loudly about this in the way of a teenager trying on causes, and a well-meaning older relative took me aside.

“Don’t worry so much,” in hushed maternal tones. “If you ever have that sort of problem, you’ll go to a regular doctor and it will get sorted out.” All the implications hit me immediately and I felt sick, not the nausea and little upward punch from the pelvis to the spine that mean I need to check my tampon supply, or the spreading flush of heat from my sternum around to the back of my skull that means I ought to find my migraine pills, but the intellectual terror of instantly understanding some piece of knowledge that you wish you could un-know.

In the real world, my world of white Lutherans and discretion and plenty-but-not-wealthy, “finding an abortion provider” would never be any trouble. It wasn’t even a matter of othering the poor people or scared daughters of strict religion, it was as if those people were an abstract fantasy tribe. Don’t worry, when dragons come, you won’t be sacrificed because you’re not blonde. Sci-fi worlds made a lot more sense than this bullshit, small wonder I kept my nose in books.**

I was supposed to be relieved by my relative’s advice. I still get upset when I think of it. I don’t remember how I responded; I’ve never been mad at my relative for this.

Today I know more about why access to abortion means so much to me. If organized religion is a means of control, outlawing abortion is a means of codifying that control while heaping misery and death on a whole lot of people. It isn’t even about being a woman, not really. If you look at people without wombs and think they can’t understand what being in your body is like, viscerally or politically, then you’re still thinking in terms of gender binarism, and you’re not paying attention to all the wonderful writing out there about being human.

And you know what? If you’re uneasy about the whole debate and think abortion is wrong and evil? Then please make sex education and safe, readily available contraception your causes, because outlawing abortion doesn’t fucking prevent it. Education and contraception, not stupid laws and shame, mean fewer people will have abortion stories. Or maybe their abortion stories will be about support and comfort instead of stark cramping fear, or even about how they never had one.



* All the literature says you don’t need a general for it, but I had a general, and then excellent painkillers and adequate time off work.

** Because Jo Walton’s Among Others also deeply affected me, I will mention here that I remember everything important by what I was reading or listening to around the event: I was reading Sheri S. Tepper and listening to Enya at the time.

  6 Responses to “I Never Needed an Abortion.”

  1. My abortion story is that I could have been one.

    And that’s okay.

    My abortion story is that for long stretches of my life, up to and including right this very minute, if I got pregnant I couldn’t keep the baby. Wouldn’t. Now is not the time.

    And that’s okay.

    People act as if death is the worst thing that can happen and it’s not. A life of suffering is far, far worse, and if you think all accidental babies that are kept leave lives of happiness and sunshine after awhile, then you’re sadly mistaken. What about the kids whose overwhelmed parents hurt them? Kill them? Would abortion have been worse than that? No.

    Fix sex ed. Make contraception freely available. And hey, how we keep funding those programs that help those parents that DO keep the babies? Babies can’t eat bootstraps, ladies and gentlemen.

  2. This is beautiful and moving and I want everyone in the world to read it.

  3. Thanks, Jen, for your moving essay.

    My abortion story goes a long way back, to whispered conversations in a college dorm, a nightime train ride to meet “someone,” and a sense of relief on entering a clean, bright room with professional equipment. Keeping abortion safe and legal is necessary because women will always need abortions sometimes, and returning to the conditions of illegality is unthinkable.

    My abortion story also includes an almost worshipful gratitude for an heroic Minnesota doctor who invented an early pregnancy test in her young years, guided my parents through dozens of early fertility interventions so I could have two wonderful brothers, spent years on the hospital ship Hope, and then worked into her old age flying weekly to northern Minnesota where there were no abortion clinics, so women there could share in the hard-won right to choose the if and when of their parenthood.

  4. Thank you, Obsidian Dragon & Cynthia, for your moving stories. Sharing stories makes powerful change happen.

    skzb: Thank you 🙂

  5. I was 17. I was terrified. The clinic treated me as though I was dirt, which was not how I, a privileged child of privilege had ever been treated by medical professionals before, and I got an infection that took months to eradicate. It’s the only pregnancy I ever had. Cervical cancer in my 20s, endometriosis etc robbed me of my fertility. When I was ready in my let 30s to have kids we adopted ( as I was adopted).

    Your beautiful and moving post and the blog you linked to reminded me of how we still treat women an their reproductive issues with disdain and disgust.

  6. “how we still treat women and their reproductive issues with disdain and disgust.”

    That disdain just makes me sad. So many medical things, we tell stories about like badges of honor — chicks dig scars! I want people to tell *these* stories. They’re part of who we are.

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