I don’t like writing about abortion. I don’t have much original content to share in that debate, but I figure you can never hear enough personal stories, which are far more effective in changing minds than ranting in the rabbit hole of Facebook comment threads.
To be clear, I’ve never had an abortion. Thanks to the pill, I’ve never had to even consider one. But I had an experience a few years ago that heavily swayed my thinking. I haven’t stopped calling myself pro-life, but I’m a different sort of pro-lifer now than I used to be.
What I mean is, I’ve stopped elevating the life of the fetus over that of the mother.
(Some squicky details about periods ahead, which probably isn’t necessary since women’s bodies aren’t squicky, but here’s a warning anyway).
In the winter of 2013, I started what seemed like a heavier period than usual. I wasn’t on the pill yet, and heavy periods were pretty normal for me. An irregular cycle was also not unusual, so it didn’t strike me as odd that this bleeding was happening six weeks after my previous period. What was unusual was the number of tampons used up in just under an hour: six, to be exact. Six of the Super Plus kind, which typically last anywhere from three to six hours depending on where I am in my cycle. And the cramps. My God, the cramps. I’m no stranger to those, either, but not the punched-in-the-gut kind.
I called my then-boyfriend (now husband), a physician assistant, who advised that I go to the ER. It was around ten o’clock at night, and I was able to be seen pretty quickly. I was given thick cotton pads to sit on while being examined. I’d never seen that much blood before.
The bleeding stopped shortly after I arrived at the hospital, and the pregnancy test came back negative – but given what I’d experienced until that point, the nurse told me it was likely that I wasn’t producing enough of the pregnancy hormone to show a positive test. I’d have been six weeks along, at most. It’s not uncommon for irregular women to suspect they are pregnant after missing at least two periods, whereas I had only missed one.
I share this story because it was the first thing I thought of when I read an article about how Texas will soon require the burial of aborted fetuses. Because most abortions occur within the first eight weeks of pregnancy, this means that the burial contents may well have included those cotton pads I bled on.
It also means that the contents of a miscarriage in a toilet bowl ‘count,’ as not all abortions occur in the operation room of a hospital or clinic. Which means there is no way to rule out the possibility that women who suffer legitimate miscarriages could be suspected of or charged with murder.
For years, I was the kind of pro-lifer who believed that the abortion issue could best be solved if it were treated like other kinds of murder: outlawed in all fifty states, the assailant(s) arrested and thrown in jail. Not until I became a ‘suspect’ (or so I might have been, had this happened in Texas in the not-so-distant future) did I realize the holes in my rhetoric; the vehemently anti-life effect it would have had on countless women, their children, and families. After all, it’s hard for a single mom to pick up her kids from school and feed them if she’s held in custody and can’t afford bail.
This experience may not ever happen to you, which is why it is so important to listen to those who have lived through it. I shut down every opportunity to hear such stories, though – most likely because I marketed myself as an unsafe person with whom to share such a personal thing. But with social media, these stories are all too easy to find, and they deserve to be heard. Women deserve better than this, and for the sake of all future pregnancies, the pro-life movement desperately needs a makeover.
The pro-life movement needs to re-establish itself as a body of people who care about preventing abortion from becoming an option in the first place, by supporting measures that have been proven to work, and ensuring adequate care of all moms and babies, once they leave the womb. A proposed law like this is not interested in the health and well-being of women. Instead, it focuses its energy into shaming women after the procedure has been carried out. The fetus is gone by then – so what is the point?
Shame is the point. Not ‘protecting life.’ Just shaming women.