Sometimes I think I shouldn’t tell my abortion story because I didn’t get raped and wasn’t a victim of incest. I was a 29-year-old adult who had consensual sex.
Then I realize this is the reason my story should be shared, because it is common. Mine is among the quieter stories you don’t hear blared as often or shared as widely on social media.
You hear about the 12-year-old rape victim or the person whose pregnancy was incompatible with life; you hear stories in which the pregnant person really had no choice in becoming pregnant or in ending it.
It is those of us who got pregnant because we had sex willingly or ended viable, healthy pregnancies who don’t speak up as much.
I find myself battling the fear that my abortion may not be seen as legitimate as one that occurred because of rape and incest. But abortions resulting from rape account for just 1% of abortions; and incest leads to only .5% of abortions. Of course the people in those situations deserve the right to end their pregnancies. But they are not the only ones who deserve such rights. Anyone who does not want to be pregnant has an equal right to a safe and legal termination of a pregnancy.
In my case, I was a pregnant woman who wanted control of her life and body back. I had never planned on being in this situation and had been shocked when my method of birth control failed. My pregnancy made me feel trapped and desperate and vulnerable. These words are an understatement. My pregnancy made my suddenly bloated, swelling body feel like a runaway train I could not stop. It threatened my education, my career and my earning potential. It threatened my dreams.
And that is a valid reason to have ended it. We need to change the narrative. There are not good and bad abortions. There are not acceptable and unacceptable reasons for abortion. I admit — even people who have had abortions, myself included, judge others for their reasons. Her abortion was irresponsible, we think. Their reason wasn’t as valid as mine.
But the truth is that when you are pregnant, and only then, do you know if you can have that baby. When I was in those shoes, I realized I was not in a place to have a child. I was single, had no paycheck and didn’t want to be a single mom. The guy I got pregnant with did not want it. I knew having that baby would have required dropping out of my graduate program so I could move eight hours north to be close to my family. I knew I would likely be raising it by myself, with some help from my parents.
My story might make me sound selfish, because I was thinking of myself. I was. But pregnant women do think about themselves, and that is OK and normal. Men would think about themselves, too, if they were able to get pregnant. Men would think about their careers and wonder if they were going to be able to continue them. They would think of how draining it would be to raise a child alone if their partner didn’t want it. Women are not wrong for thinking of themselves in this moment.
And we also are thinking of our children. What kind of lives do we want to be able to give the children we have? I want to give any child I might have an amazing education, tutoring lessons, a chance to travel — but more than anything, I want to give that child a mother who is happy to be a parent.
These are the reasons I ended my pregnancy. My story is very common, and if everyone with a tale like mine spoke up, we could teach the world that this is a normal reality — and that it is not only rape or incest that makes an abortion story permissible to share.