October is, according to the pale blue banner displayed proudly in Red Square, "Respect Life Month." I find that funny because, as I walk through the chalk writings on the brick -- "Can I feel your clump of tissue kick? Said no one ever" -- I feel everything but respect for my choices. My stomach twists as each pro-life slogan I tread on brings back memories I've tried to move past.
But there I am again. It's early August in the first floor White Gravenor bathroom and I'm desperately trying to convince my eyes they're not seeing two pink lines. I text the Health Education Services pregnancy hotline and am assured that the test is negative despite the pregnancy test packaging and my internet research telling me otherwise. I decide to wait a few more days and try again.
A visibly pregnant nurse at student health offers me a sheet of information about Planned Parenthood, tells me to do whatever I feel is best for me, and hugs me when I can no longer control my tears.
A Friday morning before work, I'm shown a sonogram. A sonogram of my uterus. And there's this little cluster of cells in there, a little gray blob that has the potential to permanently alter the course of my life. The phrase "six weeks and five days" registers and I do the mental math, thinking back to June 24th to figure out what could have gone wrong. We used protection, did everything by the book. I guess if condoms are 99.9% effective, call me the .1%.
So now I have a choice to make. If I allow these cells to develop into a human life, my life as I know it will end. I will almost certainly miss my graduation, as my due date will likely be somewhere toward the end of second semester. I will have to endure nine months of nausea, fatigue, and unknowable pain that will make my already challenging school-work balance unbearable. I will have to pick up extra jobs and move back in with my parents to finance child care and support an entire other life when I've just barely learned how to support myself.
On August 12, I have a medical abortion. For those of you not in the know (which I sincerely hope is all of you), that means I took four tiny white Mifeprex pills. I was told to put them between my gums and my cheeks to dissolve, because if I swallowed them straight I would vomit immediately and have to start all over. This way, I wouldn't vomit until after the drugs had absorbed into my system.
So I waited, thankful to have a few incredibly supportive friends with me to distract me from my fear of what was about to happen to my body. The doctor at the clinic had, as required by law, explained all the possibilities: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and chills, splitting pain (alongside the pills, he scribbled me a prescription for Vicodin which I thankfully didn't have to use). This was all in addition to the heavy bleeding as my body expelled more or less the contents of my uterus. Fun.
After an hour or two of waiting and worrying that nothing was happening, the bleeding started. Yes, it's working! Soon, I was on the floor of my friend's bathroom in a cold sweat, vomiting what felt like everything I'd ever consumed in my life, shaking and thinking whatshappeningwhatshappeningwhatshappening. Though this intense nausea only lasted about an hour, it was only the beginning of the whole experience. The bleeding didn't stop for forty-five more days.
So surprise, Hoyas: it happens here. Debate the hypotheticals of abortion policy all you want, but when it comes down to it there are real bodies and real lives on the line.
The decision to get an abortion is not a careless or a casual decision, as some people I've talked to seem to think. You don't flippantly decide to drop $450 on medical visits since the clinic can't take your insurance. You don't think "hey, you know what sounds like a POPPIN Saturday night?? Having explosive diarrhea and vomiting uncontrollably in my best friend's bathroom for hours." I never wanted to have an abortion, never even dreamed I would need to. But I did.
I'm lucky to have indescribably wonderful friends to see me through this, to have the resources to pay for the medicine myself. I'm lucky, too, to live in an area where abortion is legal and available. I can't imagine how excruciating this experience would have been if I had to fly or drive hundreds of miles to reach a clinic, wait for days, or pay for a hotel in addition to all the other expenses.
Though I'm moving forward with my life, I'm not going to pretend I'm perfectly okay. Seeing Right to Life's pale blue banner makes me sick to my stomach, makes me ache with memory. I want to go right up to them and ask them why they think they have a say in what I do with my body. I want them to look me in the eyes and tell me I don't deserve to make my own choices. If that bundle of cells inside me is in fact a human life (which I do not believe), what gives that life the right to use my body, my blood, and my energy to grow?
If by some terrible chance this happens to you, know that you have options and you are not alone. If Planned Parenthood appointments aren’t available, there are clinics in Virginia and Maryland. And let your friends support you; the more you try to keep it secret, the more it eats at you. Above everything else, know that whatever decision you make is valid because it is yours, because it is your body and your life at stake. If your beliefs encourage you to grow those cells into a human being, I do not hold that against you. But if you aren't ready to be a mother, if you have other aspirations, you should be free to choose what to do with your body. No one should feel justified taking that bodily autonomy away from you.
H*yas for Choice published this narrative anonymously to protect the privacy of the person who shared. We are incredibly grateful for their vulnerability and for telling their story.
One in three American women has an abortion in her lifetime. Abortion is not an abstract idea to be debated at arm’s length and treated as if it is not a fact of people’s reproductive lives both inside and outside of the Georgetown community.
If you have any questions about this story or are interested in learning more about abortion resources, please contact email@example.com or browse resources on hyasforchoice.com If you are interested in reading more abortion stories or finding resources, please visit www.1in3campaign.org.
Note: An earlier version of this story described Mifeprex as "basically a super high dose of birth control." This is incorrect. Mifeprex, also known as mifepristone, is opposite to birth control in that it is an anti-progesterone. Birth control (and Plan B, which actually is high-dose birth control) on the other hand, is either progesterone or a progesterone/estrogen combination. We apologize for any confusion this error may have caused.