The girl that showed up at my door was one of my best friends. We’d been through so much together and had supported each other through the trials of Navy boot camp, multiple heartbreaks, and the typical drama that seems to follow teenagers into womanhood without proper guidance.
Tears streaming down her face, she asked: “Will you take me to get an abortion?”
We sat at my kitchen table and talked. My 5-month pregnant belly was the elephant in the room. She had missed her birth control pills. She didn’t want to give up her career. She wasn’t ready to be a mother. She didn’t want her body to change. Please, can you drive me? I don’t want to go alone.
I wish that I could tell you that I said yes. That I was supportive. That I treated her with the love and kindness she deserved. That I drove her to the clinic and held her hand and bought her ice cream afterward. But I can’t say that.
I was pro-choice. I called myself a feminist. Yet, I turned my back on a fellow woman who was asking me to walk the talk I was so proud of. I told her no. I couldn’t drive her. I couldn’t talk about this. I wouldn’t support her reasons for wanting an abortion—in my eyes, they were selfish. Really, I was the one being selfish.
At the time, I was five months pregnant and scared to death of being a mom. My body was changing before my eyes and I hated it. I struggled with the idea that I was giving up my identity to raise a child (it’s what my mother did, that was all I knew) with a man I no longer loved. And so I abandoned the beliefs I was so eager to share with anyone who listened and I left my friend to cope on her own.
That decision—and the following regret—has stayed with me for the last seven years. I’ve since apologized and she has so graciously offered me her forgiveness. But, in this highly politically and emotionally charged time in our country, I feel that it’s time to highlight some truths about abortion and the way in which we support it, regardless of our feelings.
You Don’t Need a Reason to Have an Abortion
Since that moment when I destroyed a deep friendship with my own selfishness, I’ve done a lot of reflection on what caused me to react the way I did. The reason that stood out to me the most was that, at the time, I didn’t agree with her reasons for having an abortion. She had legitimate concerns but all I could see was that she made good money, was in a healthy relationship, and was old enough to care for a child on her own.
Women have abortions for many different reasons and all are valid. A study by The Alan Guttmacher Institute found that only 1 percent of abortions are due to rape or incest and 3 percent because of health problems for the mother or fetus. On the other hand, 21 percent of women surveyed chose to have an abortion because they couldn’t afford a baby, 21 percent because they didn’t want the responsibility, and 16 percent due to fear of how having a child would change her life.
I’ve come to understand that no woman actually needs a reason—or for someone else to agree with her reason if she has one—to have an abortion. Insisting that they do is a direct violation of the constitutional protection of privacy granted in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case. While this may not seem applicable when it comes to your friends, judging a woman for her decision because you don’t agree with the why behind it is harmful. It’s not up to you, me, the government, or anyone but the woman who is making a choice to decide whether she should or not.
Part of giving women agency to govern their own bodies is keeping your mouth shut about your feelings (unless they are feelings of support). I learned this the hard way.
Women Need—and Deserve—Support During the Abortion Process
One of the biggest arguments against abortion, other than that terminating a pregnancy can be considered murder, is the psychological and emotional trauma a woman might experience because of it.
This argument, thanks to a recent longitudinal study, has been disproved. In this study, 667 American women were observed and questioned over a period of three years after they had abortions. Some of the findings highlighted important considerations and arguments for more social support for women who want to have an abortion:
- 99 percent of participants said that the decision to have an abortion was right for her
- Those who felt the most regret and anger post-abortion had less social support and a higher perceived community stigma
- 36 percent struggled due to the perceived stigmas of abortion
What these statistics highlight is that women—no matter their age, reason for abortion, socioeconomic status, or any other factors—need support during their abortion process. Having a community that stands behind them and their ability to make their own reproductive choices can ease the societal burden of facing the stigma of abortion on their own.
Feminism and activism
Still, the argument that abortion can cause psychological trauma appears to be invalid, at least for most women. The confidence in being able to make the choice for themselves can negate any emotional distress that pro-life advocates insist will occur.
While I made a poor choice in not supporting my friend, the situation has led me into a life of activism for women’s rights. My daughter is six years old now and it is my ultimate mission to educate her—and the women around me—on the importance of supporting other women. Whether or not you agree with the decisions someone else makes should be irrelevant in our pursuit for reproductive rights.
The big lesson here is that personal beliefs should have no dictation over others. The sooner we can relinquish our selfish desires to project our own fears onto others, the sooner we will move into a world where women have full autonomy over their bodies, and the support needed to make choices for themselves with confidence. As Lena Dunham said, “a huge part of being a feminist is giving other women the freedom to make choices you might not necessarily make yourself.”