Are you pregnant? My mothers' text sat open on my phone, glaring at me. I could feel shame seeping through my body, and thought for sure I was the disappointment of the century. I swallowed hard; hoping the lump in my throat was brought about by sheer terror and not, in fact, the crippling morning sickness taking advantage of a swell opportunity. I breathed deeply to try to calm myself as I typed back. Yes. I'm going to get an abortion.
Ever since I was a child, it seemed the ten-foot-pole store wouldn't even touch the subject of abortion. It had been suggested one should fear for their life should they announce their support for the choice to abort, and as a result, I would keep my head down and bite my tongue. I'd walk through my campus with manufactured photographs abortion protesters had slathered across every feasible surface, and I was just to ignore it.
One really hasn't the foggiest idea how they'll respond in a situation until they're facing that double pink line. I had been sexually violated in my sleep, bringing about a string of horrid flashbacks. Mentally and emotionally, I couldn't work through what had happened. Additionally, I had become so violently ill, standing for any period of time would cause me to pass out or expel what little I was able to consume. I knew immediately what I had to do for myself and my overall health.
My mother responded I was to come over for dinner, and we would talk further then. The grip on my steering wheel caused my knuckles to turn white as I tried to plan out what I would say to her. Dinner was mildly terse, neither of us knowing quite what to say. Upon being asked if I'd reviewed all of the options, I exploded into tears, screamed at her about how she couldn't possibly understand what I was going through.
I sank into the couch and cried silently. I felt her weight next to me, and she placed her hand atop mine. "I had an abortion once, myself." I stared at her, feeling suddenly ridiculous for my outburst. I hung on her every word. Tears began to stream down her cheeks as she recounted her own story. We stayed up for hours talking. In the morning, I scheduled the appointment. I felt a wave of relief as I hung up the phone.
There were protestors outside of the clinic. I made it through their line, their chants and their screams. I shook while I filled out paperwork, determined not to let them get to me. I was called back to talk about my options, run through the standard procedure of things, take the first dose of medication, and after about an hour, was sent home with the second dose of medicine to be taken within the next 48 hours.
Were I to do it again, I would opt for the in-clinic abortion. I was curled onto the floor of my bathroom for what seemed like hours sobbing from the gripping pain in my abdomen. My sister stroked my back, held my hair when necessary, and occasionally hummed to try to take my mind away while my mother paced outside of the door, occasionally knocking to ask if I was all right.
As quickly as it had come, the world quieted. Everything became calm again. I laid myself down and slept for five hours, and when I awoke, I ate to my heart's content. The next morning, I went to my classes after eating a full breakfast. I went about my week and back to work without difficulty or problem. I felt completely at ease. There was certainty in my decision, and my life continued on after without hiccup or pause.
I live with neither regret nor remorse. There's nothing for me to feel ashamed about in seeking an abortion, for needing that in my life. I took responsibility by recognizing I was in no state to carry to term, and do not want to be a parent. I wouldn't be where I am right now if I had made a different decision those few years ago.
We all circle through our lives with the false impression we're alone in our personal experiences. A lack of shared stories keeps all of us in the dark about how something can affect so many people, especially a subject so shamed as abortion. With the anniversary of Roe v. Wade this week, a way I'm choosing to celebrate is by sharing my story openly in hopes of shattering the silence and stigma.
Elizabeth's story is the inspiration for a vignette in the new play "Out of Silence: Stories from the 1 in 3 Campaign," which premiered on January 20th at the Studio Theater in Washington, DC.