What I'd Like To Tell The Doctor Who Performed My Abortion
Although we may be in 2018, the fight for women to have full autonomy and access to abortion continues. It's been 45 years since the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade, but still Right Wing politicians, think they should have a say in whether a woman should have a right to terminate their own pregnancy. What this means is that the battle continues on for those of us who will not rest until we know access to safe abortion is available for all women everywhere.
March 5 through March 9 is National Abortion Provider Appreciation Week. In 1992, Physicians for Reproductive Health was founded in New York City. The group included physicians who not only worked tirelessly to protect the reproductive rights of women everywhere, but to make sure women always had access to safe abortions. These people, these women and men, are heroes. This is also how National Abortion Provider Appreciation Week was born.
In March 2005, I had an abortion. I was in a casual relationship with someone, was on the Pill (although, honestly, I probably wasn't taking it exactly as I should have been), and, interestingly enough, was still getting my period. The only sign that something wasn't right was the fact that my breasts hurt in a way I had never experienced and a self-proclaimed psychic in Bermuda asked me when I was due. It wouldn't be until I returned from Bermuda and went for my annual gynecological exam that I was informed I always about 11 weeks along. Basically, I had a choice to make and I had to make it fast.
When I came to after my abortion, out of the anesthesia that day in 2005, I was confused and groggy. I never got a chance to thank the man who performed my abortion or the supportive nurses who calmed my fears before the procedure and sat with me as the anesthesia made its way out of my system. But, 13 years later, if I could sit them down and talk to all of them, here's what I'd like to say.
1. Thank You For Not Judging Me
I walked into the abortion clinic in downtown Manhattan terrified. I had always — and will always — be an advocate for women's reproductive rights, but to undergo the procedure myself was a whole new territory for me. I knew how abortions were performed and I knew I had the option of using the abortion pill, Mifepristone, also known as RU-486, but wanted the procedure. I wanted to be in a doctors's presence and not have to endure any possible complications on my own.
The nurses who took my blood and prepared me for the procedure that day were very kind. Although I didn't have any doubt in my mind that this was the best choice for me, I couldn't help but ask the nurse if she was judging me. (I talk a lot when I'm nervous.) "Of course not," I remember her saying. "This is your right, your decision, and I'm not in the position to judge what a woman decides to do with her body." I will remember those words for as long as I live.
2. Thank You For Putting My Mind At Ease
When I finally made it into the room where the procedure was going to be performed, the doctor explained, in detail, exactly what he was going to do and what I could expect to experience after: cramping and bleeding, possibly enough bleeding that I'd need need a pad, as tampons are strictly off the limits for a few weeks afterward. I explained I didn't need to see whatever instruments he'd be using — I have a hard enough time seeing the vaginal speculum during my annual gynecological visits — so I politely passed. The nurse held my hand as she put the anesthesia in my veins and said, "Count to backward from 10, baby girl." I got to eight.
3. Thank You For Your Patience
In the days that followed, I called the clinic a lot. I attribute this to the fact that I'm sort of a hypochondriac. So any cramp, any gush of blood, although my bleeding was very minimal, had me calling the clinic. Each time I called, even though it was never the same person to pick up the phone, I spoke to someone who patiently answered my questions. Even when I prefaced my questions with, "This is probably a dumb question, but..." I was assured that there were no dumb questions.
4. Thank You For Your Respect
From the moment I made my decision, booked my appointment, walked into the office, and had interactions with everyone from the woman behind the desk, the nurses, and the doctor, I felt nothing but respect from them. I was never once made to feel shamed, guilty for my choice, or anything along those lines.
5. Thank You For My Career
At the time of my abortion, I had been living in New York for about a year. I was working as an office manager for a jewelry company and making barely enough to live. I had moved to New York City to pursue my dream of making it as a writer. Had I decided not to terminate, there's no way in hell my career would have ever come to fruition. I would have had to move back to my parents' house, gotten a job there, and kissed my dreams goodbye. Granted, I could have pursued them later on, but I'm not 100 percent sure that would have been in the cards. I owe my career not just to my abortion provider, but to New York City, too.
6. Thank You For My Life
Since my abortion, I've seen my career as a writer take off. I'm not only fortunate to write for Bustle, but I've seen my work in other publications and on other sites, too. I've been married. I've loved, I've lost. I've traveled to 33 countries. I've seen Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia at dawn. (Which I highly recommend.) I've swam with sharks in Cape Town, South Africa. I've been to Tokyo during cherry blossom season. My life is beautiful. Even on days when I'm not feeling so great — as the grey days of winter tend to do that — I'm grateful for who I am, where I've been, and the experiences that have enriched my life. None of this would have been possible had I not terminated my pregnancy.
7. Thank You For My Future
I have a lot of plans in my future. I just finished a book that I hope to see published within the next year or so. I have so many articles and essays I still have yet to write. I have at least 50 more countries I want to see, and later this month I'll be adding four more countries to that list. I'll also be volunteering at an elephant sanctuary in northern Thailand for a few days. If I didn't get my abortion, who's to say what would have become of my future? But something tells me it would not be the future I have laid out before me.
So during this National Abortion Appreciation Week, I want to thank not just my abortion provider, but all abortion providers. While you may not have saved my life literally that day, as my life wasn't in danger, you saved my life in so many other ways. I have the life I have today because of my abortion. And, of all the choices I've made in my life, my abortion is definitely one of the best. I do not regret it; I'll never regret it. I'll always be thankful that I live in a city and state where access to abortion doesn't involve jumping through hoops. I'll also always be grateful to the women and men who realize the importance of autonomy and fight fearlessly for it every day.