When I was 22, I was living in Chicago. I didn’t have a real job. I was in an unstable relationship with a guy who stood by while I struggled to figure out my sexual orientation and my sanity. And I still hadn’t bothered to get a GED, even though I’d dropped out of high school just before my 16th birthday.
One faulty condom later, I got pregnant. Oops.
About half of pregnancies in the United States are unintended, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Becoming pregnant meant, to me, that I immediately needed to get a few hundred bucks together for an abortion procedure. I don’t remember having any deep moral struggles, questioning of my future or even considering whether I should carry a fetus to term and give birth.
That was a completely insane concept that I could not even bear to consider. There’s no way I was prepared to raise a child. I didn’t have the resources—and more importantly, I just didn’t want to be pregnant. It’s not that I would never want kids, or that I didn’t love the partner I was with at the time. But being pregnant at 22 felt like a mistake, akin to a minor parasitical infection that could easily be cured with a trip to the doctor.
And so I, like millions of women throughout the world and throughout time, ended the pregnancy. My then-boyfriend came with me to Chicago’s American Women’s Medical Center, we paid about $300, and it was done within a couple of hours. I felt a little woozy for a couple days, had some cramps, and that was that.
I have never even remotely regretted having an abortion. Whereas I’m generally terrified of surgery and can’t imagine undergoing something as horrifying as a nose job or a facelift, my abortion felt so right. I wanted to live my life, to have the time to grow up and learn how to take care of myself, not to be strapped into the kind of poverty and chaos my own single mom had to endure. My childhood kind of sucked; I didn’t want to give that to someone else.
On Sunday, I noticed the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion was beginning to trend on Twitter. I hadn’t thought much about my own abortion in 17 years, but I’d been watching as abortion rights dwindled across the country and witnessed the summer’s Planned Parenthood debacle. I jumped right in, tweeting my own experience to the world.
Had an abortion procedure done at age 22 because I was WAY too young to parent. Have never, ever regretted it. #ShoutYourAbortion— Mary Emily O'Hara (@MaryEmilyOHara) September 20, 2015
I’ve never felt any shame about my procedure. After all, nearly three in 10 women will have an abortion before age 45, according to the Guttmacher Institute. I never felt like an outlier for my choice; in fact, I’d always kind of assumed that every person with a uterus has an abortion at some point. But right away, somebody tweeted back that they would “pray for me.”
@MaryEmilyOHara I wonder what your baby could have achieved. I pray for you.— Terry Miller (@mrmiller1972) September 21, 2015
This kind of thinking is bizarre to me. I didn’t have a baby—I had an abortion. I mean, if you want to really get into the nitty-gritty, let’s talk about the massive chunks of uterine lining that fall out of my body every month in goopy masses. I doubt the goopy mass that was vacuumed out of my body during my very early abortion looked much different than my menstrual globs. Does anyone pray for those? I mean, anyone besides me during my monthly scream/cry fits that accompany the splitting cramps and nausea of menstrual times? Besides, I’ve been out as a lesbian now for many years. If worried conservative Christian tweeters are looking for someone to pray for, I think I might have more chips than they can handle in the game of ‘how many sins can you commit in a lifetime?’
Personal experience aside, #ShoutYourAbortion is an important project. On Monday, the House Oversight Committee announced that it would call the largest women’s health organization in the U.S., Planned Parenthood, to testify in a September 29 hearing about the anti-abortion videos published by activist David Daleiden earlier this year. Democrats on the committee insisted that Daleiden be called to testify, too, but it remained unclear Monday whether that would happen. Instead, it seemed that the Planned Parenthood hearing was aimed at Planned Parenthood, as if the organization had committed wrongdoing rather than been the target of a smear campaign using faked footage and manipulative editing.
On Friday, the House passed a bill that will remove funding for Planned Parenthood for the next year. Though President Obama did promise to veto such a bill if it comes to his desk, it has become clear that legal abortion is at risk. Abortion access is as tenuous now as it was in the 1970s, with clinics being stripped of funding by state governments and shut down altogether due to labyrinthine laws that demand bizarre adherence to all kinds of minor building codes.
Abortion rights are under attack like never before. And so before those rights are lost completely, it’s vital that women speak openly about the good that abortion has brought into their lives. #ShoutYourAbortion is one way to destigmatize the procedure, and to show that abortion has been part of the lives, histories, and yes, growth—of many women.
At the time, I was homeless (rotating between couches) and jobless. So thankful I had a choice #ShoutYourAbortion— Amber Treadway (@dervogelfamber) September 20, 2015
I had an abortion. My body, my life, my choice. End of story. #shoutyourabortion— FemSense (@fem_cents) September 21, 2015
Without my abortion, I'd be forever tied to the man who would go on to rape me 5 years into our relationship.#ShoutYourAbortion— MeanMeanNormaJean (@MeanNormaJean) September 20, 2015
Of course, the hashtag has also been filled with countless anti-abortion statements from people who seem horrified by the concept of women talking openly about their healthcare choices. Some of those tweets are highly shaming. The mythology around abortion says that it’s a highly personal, weighted decision—one that haunts you forever. But even though I’m now nearing my 40th birthday, with the fertility window suddenly slamming shut and the realization that I may never have kids dawning, I still don’t regret terminating a pregnancy.
I’ve never felt an ounce of shame about my decision. I’ve felt shame about binge-eating junk food, about posting indulgent selfies and then deleting them later, and about acting like a total psycho during a breakup. As an Irish Catholic girl, I know from shame. But abortion? As shocking as it may be to some, I’ve always patted myself on the back for doing the right thing for myself and for my future. I was a smart young woman who made a good choice. There’s no shame in that, and there’s definitely no shame in #ShoutYourAbortion.
Timothy Krause/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Jason Reed