I had always supported abortion rights in concept, but once I got pregnant the constant attacks on Roe vs. Wade went from annoying to enraging.
My husband and I struggled to get pregnant. When I became pregnant the first time, it wasn’t through hope and aspiration. It wasn’t even through sex. The only thing that could get me pregnant was a petri dish, $50,000 and a team of medical experts. Even though we started trying in our early 30s it took five years and two egg retrievals. When our daughter was born nine and a half months later, she was a very wanted baby. But despite my desires for a child, the experience of pregnancy solidified my support for abortion rights.
In my conversations with other pregnant women I have come to realize I am not alone. Again and again I have heard that their pregnancies in fact strengthened their pro choice beliefs. As more women come forward under #YouKnowMe to raise awareness that 1 in 4 will have an abortion during their lifetime, it seems increasingly important as a pregnant woman to speak out about my support for maintaining legal access to abortion.
Pregnancy is a period of extreme vulnerability. Nothing teaches you that pregnancy is a dangerous and unwieldy physical process more than having to navigate your oversized body around the many obstacles in life that previously lay undetected. Whereas before I could throw my body around and hip check doors to push my way through, as my belly grew beyond my pelvis and began to protrude noticeably into public life its girth became a liability. On the sidewalk, I wanted my husband to walk between me and the cars whizzing by on the street. I realized with some sense of ridiculousness that I could no longer count on my body to leap out of the way, roll under a table or escape. I could not outrun someone. Even as my brain explained how irrational these fears were I worried about how I would get away.
It also became increasingly apparent how difficult it would be to get her out. It was hard to know where my body ended and hers began. The apparatus for growing the baby was quickly taking over. My lungs were compacted, my daily bouts of heart burn were the result of there not being any room in my stomach for the acid to stay down. I found the animations showing how a pregnant woman’s organs shift both fascinating and horrifying.
Pregnancy is a period of tremendous uncertainty. Ten to twenty percent of known pregnancies will end in a miscarriage. There is plenty of time to worry between appointments, to second guess symptoms and every trimester seems to bring a round of new concerns. For those of us who have struggled to get pregnant, or end up pregnant at what is politely called advanced maternal age there are increased risks both of genetic issues but also complications like preeclampsia and stillbirth.
As women delay childbearing and more women have access to non-invasive genetic testing at earlier stages, an increasing number will be thinking about what they will do if the receive bad news. The week or two between taking the test and receiving the results, at the same time your belly is rapidly expanding, demands introspection. Adding additional concerns about what medical options would be available in the event something went wrong due to political considerations the majority of the country do not agree with is offensive.
In America, there is supposed to be a separation between Church and State, but it increasingly feels impossible to keep religion out of the medical exam room. It is there in the background to even my most intimate conversations with my Doctor. The idea that under HIPAA my private medical details are protected, but that when it came to making decisions about my health and what was best for me and the baby somehow the personal and political opinions of other people could be in the room enraged me. The idea that women who had learned they were carrying babies who would suffocate at birth or be born with catastrophic brain malformations had to navigate the additional emotional burdens placed on them by strangers while making difficult decisions with no good options during the most devastating moments of their life made me shake with rage.
If you don’t want an abortion, don’t have one. If you want to prevent them support free access to birth control so women can make decisions about their sexual health. But society needs to recognize that even if no baby is unwanted, nature can be cruel and pregnancy is never a certain thing. For that reason abortion is always going to be with us, and maintaining safe legal access is medically necessary.