I found out that I was pregnant on the same night that the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. The euphoria of my hometown’s victory was accompanied by a devastating plus-sign on a pee stick. I was 17-years-old. The morning after, I called Planned Parenthood and set up an appointment for an abortion the next week. Carrying the clump of cells growing inside of me to term was never an option. While I have always been pro-choice, it’s one I never thought I’d have to make. It was by no means a tortured decision.
Actually getting the abortion was rather simple. In the United States, abortion rights are decided state-by-state, and I was lucky to have been living in New York when I had mine. In Quebec, abortion is legal, free, and available at any time. However, despite its supposed inclusive and liberal campus environment, McGill offers few resources for those seeking an abortion and only recently formed a support group for those who ‘chose.’ My abortion was accessible, but what I didn’t account for was how lonely I’d feel afterwards.
So, three days after Donald Trump’s election, I went to the Planned Parenthood Centre in the Bronx borough of New York City and took a mifepristone pill to kill the fetus, followed by four misoprostol pills to evacuate my uterus. I had never felt more relieved.
The next month involved heavy bleeding, searing cramps, and violent nausea. While my doctor prescribed three weeks of rest and limited activity, I carried on with my life. I went to school, attended track practice and play rehearsals, and picked up more shifts at my movie theatre job. Hearing back from universities, once a monumental phenomenon, seemed minimal compared to my new mental and physical state. With the exception of a few close friends, I never spoke about the abortion to anyone. I was stunned into silence—I felt as though I had made an incredibly mature decision that I was banned from discussing.
I spent a lot of time reading articles and excerpts written by extraordinarily successful women with booming careers and blossoming families. They all said something like “Hey, so, I did a thing when I was 20…” They all seemed to give the same statistic: One in four women will have an abortion by age 45. They all expressed love and empathy for any woman in a position of reproductive vulnerability, especially young women. I noticed that rarely did anyone my own age talk about the choices they’ve made: Abortion seemed to be a topic reserved for middle-aged women already too successful to be hurt by such a confession. There was no space for talking about the process of abortion, its lasting effects, or the simple fact that my body, which I had not yet grown into, was somehow capable of creating another one.
The space to talk about this minor medical procedure is swallowed by politics. Abortion, and the public’s willingness to address it, should not be a partisan issue. Moreover, public acceptance of abortion needs to continue past the procedure itself; one can hold liberal and accepting views regarding abortion, but those views don’t necessarily translate to a willingness to discuss the topic. At 17, I was not remorseful. I did not mourn the loss of my ‘child,’ and, if faced with the same situation today, I would make the same decision immediately. If I could change anything, however, I would seek help ahead of the abortion.
Until this space is created, you can be someone’s support system. Hold their hair back when they’re suffering from morning sickness. Accompany them to their clinic appointment. Let them squeeze your hand when they’re experiencing contractions. Listen to what they have to say—just be there.
Nov. 11, 2016 will always hold meaning for me, but its significance has changed. I am not ashamed of what I did, nor do I feel I did anything extraordinary by choosing to terminate the pregnancy. For me, this date is one of empowerment, of speaking up, and, now, one of telling my story in the hope that someone will feel less alone. On that day, my personal victory felt much more remarkable than the Chicago Cubs’ win.