I Used to be Pro-Choice. My Infertility Changed my Mind
I was 29 the first time a close friend confided in me that she had an abortion. We were sitting in a yuppie Seattle neighborhood, eating expensive salads and drinking strawberry lemonades on an unusually sunny spring day. She is older than I am, though I’ve known her for almost a decade. We’ve both been through divorces, boyfriends, and exchanged screenshots of Tinder profiles of guys we didn’t yet know but would eventually sleep with.
Two years later, in the summer of 2016, I found out I couldn’t have kids due to premature ovarian failure. Somehow, my reproductive system was about 20 years ahead of my age. My doctor at an elite fertility clinic in the Pacific Northwest explained my condition was genetic, though after several rounds of blood testing we couldn’t figure out what that genetic condition was. I was no longer ovulating and, in the rare chance I might ovulate once or twice in the next few years until I hit menopause (again, at an incredibly early age), it would be extremely unlikely that my eggs would become both fertilized and an embryo. The sad truth is, even if it happened, it would likely end in miscarriage. I hold a much stronger chance at winning the lottery than carrying a healthy pregnancy to term.
I’m not devastated that I can’t have kids—I’m sad, but until a strange conversation with my then-husband led me to get bloodwork to test my fertility, I didn’t even want kids. I thought I might, maybe, down the road—when I was 35. Maybe.
The nuance of choice
I always thought I had that choice. Instead, the choice to have children was torn from me, not by any one thing except maybe genetics (though I’d never blame my parents, since I have three awesome, healthy, sassy, and smart sisters). When you no longer have the choice to do something—especially something as monumental as having children—choice becomes a more nuanced topic.
A choice that is often granted to those who, like my friend and I, can sit and graze over expensive salads on a weekday afternoon. Lucky girls like us can have an abortion one day and gossip about it the next.
I grew up with girls like me, in a wealthy, predominantly white suburb with parents who had money and gave us access to world-class healthcare. I’ve been a serial monogamist with men, and in my twenties, I fought against my privilege with my absolute resolution not to have kids. I wasn’t ready. But with that privilege came the choice to have an abortion if I became pregnant and still wasn’t ready.
At 32, I’m ready now, going so far as talking with my boyfriend about what happens if I end up getting more lucky than winning the lottery. (But really, can I do both? Will those stats work out?)
You never really know what a choice is until you can actually control it, which is entirely what Roe v. Wade is about and what women are still fighting for; the choice to terminate a pregnancy, regardless of reason. It would—and I can’t overstate this enough—be a disgrace to take that away.
A mind-changing conversation
I strongly believe that women should have legal access to abortions, for any reason, at any time. Another woman’s choice is not mine.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t cringe, sipping on my lemonade, as my friend passively mentioned she terminated a pregnancy. For the third time. She explained how the Pill had failed, which can happen quite easily if it’s not timed right, every day, or if it’s combined with other medications. I don’t want to peg her as irresponsible but as a fellow white woman with access to resources and family, the reason for her abortion was that she simply did not want a child—not that she wasn’t capable of raising one.
Growing up in that rich, predominately white suburb where my classmates were mostly latchkey kids with access to alcohol cabinets and prescription medicine cupboards, it wasn’t a secret that most of the teens were having drunk and/or high sex without protection. I never knew of one pregnant girl in my school but abortion rumors always circulated.
Ready for a child
In high school and into my early twenties, I believed I would be relieving society of a burden if I got an abortion if I became pregnant. I was already leaning hard into the system with my student loans, my consumer debt, and, as the years went on, my occasional need for government aid. It’s downright terrifying to think about feeding someone else when you can’t feed yourself. But women, even single mothers, do it all the time. When I had a scare a few years ago after I didn’t think Plan B worked, a friend reminded me of both my privilege and strength. It was the first time I strongly believed I was capable of being pregnant, breaking through the mindset I had in high school.
It was also the first time, as an adult, I wanted a child.
But I wasn’t pregnant. Only a few months later, I found out I had premature ovarian failure. This sent me into a spiral thinking about losing my choice and how a decade earlier, women were forced to have children when they didn’t want them. The so-called “movements” around pro-choice and pro-life are political forces that ignore the one thing we each want—to decide for ourselves what we want, with the freedom to change our minds whenever we want.
As for me, I’ll support my friends in the choices they decide are best for them and, if I prove science wrong, I’ll choose to celebrate the miracle—and then I might just choose to buy a lottery ticket, too.
Featured image by Anete Lusina
Author Bio Kelly Clay is a freelance writer based in Seattle. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, cooking, and weekend road trips around the Pacific Northwest. You can find her on Twitter or read more of her thoughts on Medium.