The Beginning Of The Beginning:
The topic of abortion has been at the forefront of a lot of news cycles lately. I’ve watched as things started to unfold in Alabama and felt horrified watching this new law be put in place. I feel even more sickeningly terrified that other states are looking at this as an encouragement to do the same thing. I thought about staying silent and continuing to hide my story but I decided that it’s time to speak up. If there has ever been a time to speak up, it’s now.
I’m more than a little afraid of what the end results will be after my story is shared online. I know how people feel about abortion. I’ve seen how hateful the responses can be to someone being open about their choice to terminate a pregnancy. I’m still going to tell you about my decision to have an abortion because I believe the more people who speak up, the more people will see how much these laws affect real humans.
I’m not a statistic. I’m not a “host” body. I’m a real person. I’m a mom. I’m a sexual assault survivor, and I’ve had an abortion. After being sexually assaulted I got pregnant, and I decided to end that pregnancy. I’ve been ashamed of my decision. I’ve cried for countless hours over my decision. I’ve never talked about my decision to anyone before right now. You, reading this right now, are seeing me tell my story for the first time ever.
How It Started:
I was sexually assaulted by a man I knew. We weren’t close friends, but it was someone that I knew more than just in passing. I wish there was some way for me to tell you why things happened the way they did, but I honestly don’t know. I can tell you that even after time has passed I still feel the need to justify things to people. Things that shouldn’t have to be stated still feel important to tell you.
I wasn’t dressed provocatively. I wasn’t drinking or using drugs. I wasn’t flirting with him. I wasn’t even on a date with him. I didn’t invite him back to my apartment or decide after kissing him that I wanted things to stop. None of these things should matter, but people still ask. These are still questions I’ve answered if I ever bring up being sexually assaulted.
Even if I had done any of those things, it wouldn’t mean what he did was not rape. Regardless of any answer to any of those questions, nothing besides enthusiastic consent matters. I did not consent, I was raped. That should be the only question we ask someone speaking out about their assault. If consent was not given (or if consent was revoked) nothing else matters.
About 18 hours after my assault, I sought treatment at the emergency room. I even filed a report with police because I felt that was the right thing to do for me, in my specific situation. I handed over clothing, had an invasive exam, answered questions about what happened, and took all of the medications that are given as part of a rape exam. I left the ER feeling like I’d been assaulted a second time and went home to cry.
The reason I think this part of my story is important is because people seem to think that rape kits and emergency contraceptives are some kind of magical solution. They are not. They exist to make sure anyone who wants to be examined is given any medical treatment they may need, and (if they choose to report it) to give evidence to law enforcement. Emergency contraception and a rape kit are not a guarantee a pregnancy will not happen as a result of being raped.
You are right in thinking emergency contraception is highly effective. If you take it within 24 hours of unprotected sex or an assault it’s up to 95% effective. That still leaves 5% of women who are not going to get the benefits of this medication. I was one of those women. 7 weeks after being sexually assaulted, I took a pregnancy test at home. It was positive. I felt my whole world stop and my heart beat faster than I ever knew it could as I stared at that pregnancy test.
I felt devastated that I was holding a piece of a man who had violated me; in my uterus. I couldn’t stand the thought that somehow, seven weeks later, my rapist was once again changing my world. I felt dirty and repulsive. I couldn’t even look at myself in a mirror because the shame I held in my heart was so powerful.
I hadn’t asked for this in any manner. I was pregnant because my choice to have sex or to not have sex was violently ripped away from me without warning. I didn’t know what to do right at that moment. I already had a child at that point and I didn’t have the emotional capability to make any kind of immediate decision. I took three days to decide to terminate the pregnancy, and it wasn’t an easy thing to do.
I considered several options including continuing the pregnancy and choosing a family to adopt the baby. Nothing I considered ever made me get past the hate I had for being in this situation. Nothing I thought about doing took away the disgust and anger that this was not a choice I’d made and I felt like my body was not my own because of a rapist, again.
When I realized that I needed to be able to make a decision about my body and my own mental health in order to heal, I knew I was doing the right thing for my situation. The choice was mine, and it’s the choice I felt was going to provide me the chance to rebuild my life.
I don’t think I need to describe the actual medical procedure because that information is easily available online for anyone wanting to know what actually happens. But I do think I need to tell you how it feels to make this decision and go through this process.
I think there’s a misconception (a HUGE misconception) that terminating a pregnancy is a quick, easy process. That it’s easily accessible and done without much care or thought. None of these things are true. In South Dakota, it’s required by law to attend a consultation and then wait 72 hours before being able to have the actual procedure done.
I’m not saying I don’t understand why this law exists. I’ve talked to women who have changed their mind within those 72 hours and are very happy with their decision to not have an abortion. I’m just saying those 72 hours are very very long hours. I spent those hours making up my mind and then changing my mind more times than I can really even count.
Even with my initial decision feeling like the right one for me I still waivered during the time between my consultation and going to my appointment. It felt like agonizing mental torture and I didn’t feel strong enough to make it through those three days at some points. Because I hadn’t told anyone about the pregnancy or my decision to terminate it, I just cut off communication with anyone during that time. I went through all of this alone.
I opted to take a taxi to and from the clinic on the day of my procedure instead of having someone there with me. I was ashamed of everything involved, and I hadn’t even told many people in my life that I had been raped at that point. I definitely didn’t want to explain to someone that I’d been raped and needed someone to take me to the clinic in town. (I was lucky in that regard. Some women in my state have to travel to my town because there isn’t an option closer to them)
I can say no one at the clinic ever underestimated what I was feeling or the gravity of the decision I made. Everyone I interacted with was kind and caring. Every step was explained to me and no one did anything without talking to me about what they were going to do first. No one at the clinic ever tried to explicitly change my mind but everyone made sure that I knew I had the power to stop things if I wanted to.
The staff checked to make sure that I understood the procedure, what the procedure meant, and that I was sure this was the right thing for my situation. I did understand, and I did tell them it was what I had decided was right for me even with tears in my eyes. I still believe it was the right decision for me, even if writing this brings tears back to my eyes.
The reality of terminating a pregnancy doesn’t go away the minute you leave the clinic. There are still things you have to work through. Sometimes women work through those things for a very long time. This is not a careless “easy way out” decision even if that’s what you really want to believe about it. The pregnancy ends, the feelings do not.
I cried in the taxi on the way back to my apartment. I felt ashamed because I knew the driver had to know what was going on. I wondered if he was judging me, and then assumed he was. He never said anything, but I had internalized the shame of my decision and my assault to the extent that I just assumed everyone would hate me for what I’d done.
I was offered counseling services and told about places where I could find support in my follow up visit. Honestly, I felt so ashamed about how I’d gotten pregnant, and that I’d ended the pregnancy that I couldn’t even bring myself to talk to other women who’d made the same decision. I didn’t choose to use any of the resources they told me about.
Why Am I Telling You My Story?
The new laws being put into place do not have exceptions for situations like mine. I would’ve been forced to have a baby I didn’t want, because of the illegal actions someone else took to violate my body. They make abortion something that is so illegal there’s no room for anyone to decide what’s going to happen to their body. No one has the right to take any decision away from a sexual assault survivor.
Anyone who has been raped should forever have the right to make every single decision about anything that happens to their body. Honestly, any woman out there should have that right. I’m just focusing on the lack of an exception for rape victims because that’s my personal relationship to this issue.
It’s easy to say that a pregnant woman can “just give the baby up for adoption” if she doesn’t want to have a child. The actual implications of that are never discussed. Pregnancy is hard on your body. You go through a lot emotionally and physically. It’s almost a year of your life that is not your own.
This isn’t just about deciding to raise a child. That’s not the decision at hand here. The real decision is about deciding if putting your body through everything a pregnancy entails is what is right for you. It’s about deciding if going through everything involved and then not having a baby to raise is what you want to do. Or if going through an entire pregnancy and choosing to raise a child you aren’t prepared for is the right thing for you.
It’s about deciding if labor and potential complications are going to be okay with you, even if you aren’t taking your child home with you after it’s all over. Adoption is not a cure-all for unwanted pregnancies, and no child should ever have to wonder if their mother was forced into parenthood because she had no other choice either. There is so much to consider before the baby is born. These are the things that get glossed over when people talk about abortion.
People want to talk about “the baby” but the mother, the person actually being put through everything leading up to that baby, doesn’t matter. There is no such thing as “just choose adoption” when you’re placed in the reality of making this choice. It doesn’t work that way. You don’t get to go from conception to baby without your life being drastically affected every day of that journey.
I am a mother. I was a mother when I decided to have an abortion. I am a sexual assault survivor who got pregnant because someone raped me. I oppose these new laws with every ounce of my being. I oppose them so much that I chose to ignore my shame and share my story with you. I don’t regret my decision, I regret that my decision was forced on me by someone raping me.
These laws are dangerous and terrifying. Being forced to have a baby that was a result of my assault would’ve damaged my mental health more than having to work through my feelings about terminating my pregnancy. I was raped. I didn’t get to consent to starting that pregnancy. I refuse to stand silent while other women are having the right to choose what happens to them after being raped away from them.