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In the summer of 2016, it felt like all my ships were coming in: I’d secured a teaching job, and I was dating someone new. “Buy a lottery ticket!” a friend said. I did.

Then, unexpectedly, I got pregnant.

Alena Graedon

Alena Graedon

I’ve wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember. Two years earlier, I’d had an IUD removed when a longtime boyfriend and I began discussing kids. Instead of having a baby, we broke up. And then things worsened: My finances crumbled. My dad got cancer.

But then that golden summer came along. I almost believed I could win the lottery.

Instead, my luck turned again — and soon after, the luck of every American who cares about reproductive rights turned too.

To some, I might seem like an anomaly: a Southerner raised pro-abortion rights. But the South isn’t a monolith, and in the college town where I grew up, being pro-abortion rights was the norm.

I’ve always supported abortion in theory. I attended my first pro-abortion rights rally in high school. In the mid-1990s, there were many — that was when House Speaker Newt Gingrich made abortion a “wedge issue.” But reproductive freedom wasn’t just an abstraction to me. A close relative had terminated a pregnancy. In my 20s, several of my best friends had abortions. In my community, it wasn’t taboo. Still, I considered it an option for others. I was too careful to ever need an abortion, I thought.

When I got pregnant, it was partly because of a failure of technology but mostly because of human error. I didn’t like hormonal contraceptives, and my new boyfriend didn’t like condoms. We opted for the rhythm method, aided by an ovulation app that was supposed to be very scientific.

Unsurprisingly, this method failed the first time we tried it. On a hunch, I took the morning-after pill, too, just in case. It also failed.

When I learned I was pregnant, I was shocked, devastated and elated, all at once. My first thought was to terminate the pregnancy. We’d been dating for only three months. But days later I changed my mind. I was 36. I didn’t know how many more chances I’d get to have a baby.

My boyfriend didn’t feel the same way. Crying, he said it would ruin his life. His reaction was understandable and also wrenching. I decided to abort.

It was the hardest, most anguishing decision I’d ever made. But I’m grateful to live in New York City, where the choice was mine to make. Three years later, I feel no anguish or remorse. It was the right choice for me.

Making that decision was only hard emotionally. Not morally: I don’t believe life starts at conception. Not financially: Insurance covered most of the cost. My (by-then-ex) boyfriend and I split the rest. Also, crucially, it wasn’t hard politically. As a privileged white Brooklyn resident, I faced no repercussions. I scheduled an appointment right away. At a nearby clinic, I was administered RU 486, the so-called abortion pill.

The procedure wasn’t seamless. For a while, it looked like I might need follow-up surgery. I remained technically “pregnant” for two months and had to see my gynecologist weekly. These visits, too, were covered by insurance — and, needless to say, legal.

All this took place throughout fall 2016. My last gynecological visit fell on the morning after Donald Trump was elected president. In the subway, riders wept openly.

When my doctor entered the exam room, I tried to make light of the election. “I guess if I do need a D and C,” I said, “I should get it now, before they’re illegal.” She smiled tolerantly. “That won’t be necessary,” she said. “It’ll be state by state. It won’t be outlawed in New York.”

It would be state by state, I knew. This didn’t reassure me. I started to picture an invisible fence rising around the South, like the one now marking Alabama’s borders. Why should I have more right to terminate a pregnancy than a 12-year-old incest victim? Or anyone else unlucky enough to find themselves pregnant-while-Southern when they don’t want to be? The answer is easy: Of course I shouldn’t.

Carol Sanger, a legal scholar and author of “About Abortion: Terminating Pregnancy in the 21st Century,” argued in a 2017 lecture that privacy and secrecy shouldn’t be conflated. Everyone deserves privacy, but a person keeping their abortion secret out of shame or fear of reprisal isn’t exercising that right freely.

Initially, I told almost no one about my abortion. I thought I was choosing privacy.

Discussing abortion openly may be frightening, but it’s vital, Sanger argued. Thirty years ago, homosexuality was judged both a mental illness and a crime. Now, gay marriage is legal. “How did that happen?” she asked. “In part by bravery and people stepping up.”

The Me Too movement has offered further evidence that en masse testimony can effect change.

One in four U.S. women will have an abortion by age 45, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The best way to ensure that abortion remains legal throughout the South and Midwest is for more of us to speak up, normalizing the procedure and making ourselves visible to politicians.

I agree with Sanger: The antidote to the stigmatization and now criminalization of abortion is a flood of real-life accounts of them. This is one.

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Alena Graedon is a novelist. She wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.

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(10) comments

jdinfinity

Well Hive, he one upped that 'drivel' meter by a bazillion there.... Wow, coming off talking like that Khansky? You define exactly, to a tee, what I see as an inconsiderate, tone deaf right wing, with no consideration for human life. As to what you said? No, sorry man, I'm not an arrogant, rich, pretentious guy like you that can wave my money around to help fund organizations I feel worthy of my causes, to metahporically increase my penile size, all while probably not really caring, because it gives me a tax break... You want to talk about a disconnect from reality through ignorance? Furthermore entailed by hypocrisy you support my arguments with? You are the insatiable king of scumbags Khansky... Along with many other republicans that put on a guise on to pretend they are looking out for human life, but are really looking out for their beliefs, control over others, and safety of their pocketbooks..... All of which wrap into each other, and usurp the sanctity of human life...

Khansky

Ahh, much rhetoric, but little said.

Khansky

In other words, your a cheapskate. Who talks, but won't do the walk. Sure sounds like a hypocrite.

Khansky

jd... Obviously you seem to limit pro-life individuals only to pre-birth situations. While there may be some that do that, I personally don't know any, but maybe you can enlighten me on those that do? However the vast majority of pro-life organizations consider life prior to birth & after birth, human life. Here are some I'm aware of are: Heartbeat International CareNet Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) Gabriel Project Rachel Ministries According to some stats, these organization aid about 1.8M women a year. Assuming you are really interested in helping others, you might consider a charity like Our Lady of Victory Homes of Charity Lackawanna NY, which provides help and services to new borns and mothers, as well as children with physical & mental handicaps. To show you are really humble, you could even sign your generous donation as 'Hive J'.

jdinfinity

Republicans think they are doing the right thing, trying to save the child, but such bans will do far more damage to the woman.

By removing the right of women to have an abortion, you are doing 2 things. One, you are outright endangering women's overall safety. And two, you are dooming them and their children to a decrease in quality of life through poverty.

But hey, as the republicans have always, always hypocritically promoted, quality of life is only viable until after it is born. And the kids are on their own to gun violence, poverty, corporate exploitation..

Such hypocrisy points to not caring about fetuses, or already born children persay, but control over the means and faculties of another human being, despicably so much as to using them as an ends to a means as a political game.

Whether women or children...

Hive

K, such drivel. It is not for you or me to aim the "crosshairs;" K, it is only for the person who must make the aiming choice...a birthright decision.

Hive

Czech, Excellent observation...republican are immune (or unable to deal with) the ironies which they present to us mortals.

K, the foundation for all of it came long before Sanger...

Even before the first set of laws that began "We the People" meaning laws had to be approved by the governed, not set roughshod by some selfish yo-yo...a birthright...all that follows must fit---and why slavery was so vexing in 1788 era.

Khansky

There was other Sanger, Margaret Sanger. The use of abortion to achieve eugenic goals is not merely hypothetical. The foundations for legalizing abortion in America were laid during the early 20th-century birth-control movement. That movement developed alongside the American eugenics movement. And significantly, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger recognized the eugenic potential of her cause.

When man aborts the natural beginning & end of life, with selective boundaries, then any innocent human is in the cross hairs for termination.


czech

Individual choice. Nobody is forced to get an abortion. It's a difficult and emotional decision at best. Republicans usually are for keeping government out of our lives. They put together a group of issues to rebuild their party such as gun rights and abortion, both of which they've reversed their beliefs on starting with Nixon.

Hive

Not a biggie. Thomas is FoS.
No way Roe goes, else what will the far right have to bitchh about?

Amazing how republican pols play these dingers. Especially in the "South"...ding-dong-dumb.

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