It is several years ago and I am living in my first apartment, a tiny starter place with three rooms and worn carpet . I stare at the wallpaper – brown with white vines and blue roses – as I wait for the timer to go off. The test is on my kitchen counter.
I wait, knowing I’m pregnant. I can tell myself my period is late because of the stress of the rape and stalking; that I was never regular anyway. But a few mornings puking when I see my co-workers eating breakfast and I know I need one of those dollar store pregnancy kits. Will it be good news? Or send my life spiraling off into chaos?
And the answer is – two lines. Two lines that will change – possibly ruin – my life.
I sit up all night crying and hyperventilating in panic. I want to be done with thinking about the rape, not have a reminder in my uterus growing bigger by the day. There are only two options when it comes to pregnancy – abortion or giving birth. A person cannot “adopt” an unwanted embryo out of my uterus. For me, abortion is the only option.
In the small town where I grew up, people don’t talk about “those sorts of things.” There are girls in high school who are quietly spirited out of town for a few days; they return with strict instructions to pretend nothing happened. There are rumors, but nobody speaks out about having an abortion.
I live in a larger city now, and have known women who had abortions, but I hadn’t asked where they went. My OB/GYN has refused to discuss long-acting contraceptives with me because she’s sure I will want children, but I think she’s still my best choice. Surely she can refer me to a doctor who provides abortion care.
Wrong. I call at 8:00 AM. The receptionist, her high-pitched voice entirely too cheerful for that time of morning, asks how she can help. I don’t want to waste time explaining why I want an abortion – I don’t feel like I owe people explanations. I tell her I need a referral for abortion. I can hear her breathing on the other end of the phone. You would have thought I told her I wanted to build a rocket so I could go to the moon to fight the purple scorpions who had come from Uranus. After a long pause, in a decidedly less cheerful voice, she says, “WE don’t do that here, and we don’t refer patients for THAT.”
I just hang up.
I need to find one of those Planned Parenthood places I’ve heard about. We don’t have one in my city, but luckily, in the age of the internet, I can find contact information for the one in Big City, in another state over 70 miles away.
I call. Another too cheerful receptionist asks how she can help. Again, I skip the long story and tell her I want an abortion.
This time, there is no ominous silence. She chatters along, asking questions, explaining that I will have to talk to the scheduler to make an appointment. She asks me if I’m sure I’m pregnant. I want to say, “No, not at all. I just get abortions for shit and giggles every so often,” and throw the phone. But she’s just doing her job and being a jerk is not going to help me get an abortion.
She transfers me to the scheduler, who asks questions and explains the process. I need proof of blood type, or they can check before the procedure, so they can administer Rho-Gam if mine is negative. They’ll check my iron level that day too. I’ll watch a film and talk to a counsellor. Insurance does not cover abortion, she explains, and tells me the cost. Luckily, I have that amount without having to skip rent. At least the stress of scraping together money isn’t heaped on me as it is so many other women.
And I have my appointment.