When I was 22, one of my best friends told me she got pregnant while on the pill and then had an abortion once she realized she didn’t have the money, support or desire for a child. Even though it was the right decision for her, it was deeply difficult for her to deal with. I hugged her tight, not able to fully grasp the enormity of her loss.
When I was 24, a woman I had not known long but still considered a friend told me she had an abortion while her children’s father sat in jail for beating her. She looked down with shame as she admitted she wouldn’t have another one of his children. Empathy swelled in my chest as I told her she had no reason to feel ashamed.
And even after numerous tales like these, it was different when, a year later, another best friend told me she was pregnant but simply did not want to have anymore children. It was different because I knew I may not be able to have children of my own, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous of her.
You see, I have polycystic ovarian syndrome, which can cause a multitude of health issues, including infertility. But if there is one thing infertility has taught me, it’s that too often we shame our bodies for what they do or will not do for us. We shame our bodies for something that has happened to us or something we were born with. That makes it even more important for us to protect the right that allows a woman to choose what happens next.
While I was ashamed and hurt and angry with my body for what it could not do, this made me feel even more steadfast that women who find themselves pregnant when they don’t want to be should have a choice. We can’t shame people for choices that aren’t our own. Just because I desperately want children but am unsure if I will ever be able to have them doesn’t mean those who find themselves unexpectedly pregnant shouldn’t have the right to a medically safe abortion procedure. My jealousy and personal feelings regarding my own fertility are just that — mine — and should not legislate what other women are able to do for themselves.
I wouldn’t choose an abortion, but I’ll gladly let a friend lean on me after making that very difficult decision for herself and as she battles the sadness afterward. Giving women the freedom to make that choice is necessary if we want to call ourselves the land of the free.