I am a pro-abortion American woman who, more than five years after her abortion, still finds the courage to use the word “abortion.”
When strangers thought about the age difference between my son and daughter, I used the word “miscarriage” blatantly to describe how my second pregnancy ended. A loss is a statement of fact. The subject matter is jarring and sad and will put even the most nosy person off asking further questions. In my trusted circle of fellow physician friends, I choose the word “termination,” but rarely the word “abortion.” “End” is polite and clinical. Without saying it directly, it gives a quiet, sombre nod to what actually happened.
Eight days before my 2016 abortion, my husband and I were contemplating a baby name. I ran errands that morning and her 20-week anatomy scan was set for that afternoon. I remember her ultrasound technology going silent as she moved the probe and dragged cold gel down her swollen belly. Before I could see the grainy screen, a doctor burst into the room and broke the news that there was a major abnormality in the fetal brain.
I spent that Christmas week crying in the clinic’s waiting room and padded examination tables. An exact diagnosis was elusive, yet devastating for the baby we wanted. I wanted. After seeking advice from our medical team and friends and family, her husband and I made the difficult decision to end the pregnancy.
Twenty-two days after my abortion, I pushed a stroller with my infant son on a wet street alongside posters, billboards, and crowds of people in pink hats at a women’s march in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. Underneath the raincoat, she wore a sheer white shirt with Hillary Clinton’s prophetic words written in iridescent cursive. “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.”
Few people would say that having an abortion at 21 weeks of gestation would ruin your body. Bleeding for weeks, my chest hurting and swollen with breast milk from a baby I didn’t bring home. I am fortunate to have had my abortion in a state where I could recognize the fullness of a woman’s humanity so that I could focus on healing, even if it felt emotionally impossible at the time.
Before becoming a doctor, I majored in English at university. A few weeks after my abortion, I read and reread Gwendolyn Brooks’s poem, “The Mother,” and now have it by heart. The second line is burned into my memory. Almost every day I think about the child I got but didn’t get. no regrets.