The Scarlet Letter: A for Abortion

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I already knew it, but while I was in the grocery store on a Tuesday morning, I purchased a test to confirm. My period was a week late, a tell-tale sign because it usually arrived like clockwork despite not being on any birth control. I knew my body well, and something wasn’t right. My usual premenstrual signals never arrived. 

It is best to take the test in the morning, but I couldn’t wait another moment. I headed to the bathroom as soon as I got home from the grocery store, ripped the test open, glanced quickly over the directions, and urinated on the plastic applicator. With the test laying flat on the edge of the bathtub, I sat on the toilet for three minutes staring intensely at the stick awaiting my fate. The two pink lines were as clear as day, and confirmed I was pregnant for the first time at the age of 30.

He lied to me.

David* had been a casual sex partner for two years, and he said he could no longer have children. We used condoms despite his revelation up until recently. I wasn’t on birth control at the time because I had been having problems my prescription being consistently in stock for the past four months, but I wasn’t worried. I had developed an element of trust over the two years of knowing him, and he said he could no longer have children. Who would lie about that for two full years?

I was pissed.

Within an hour of confirming the positive test, I called an abortion clinic. There were no doubts in my mind about whether it was the right decision. A few months before then, I quit my job after suffering from burnout and was taking a break until I decided my next move. I was unemployed, uninsured, and living off a meager savings. I didn’t even want children. I never did. I didn’t know how to keep a child alive. I could barely take care of myself. David was a good casual sex partner, but I shuddered at the idea of him playing the role of father to my child. He had teenaged sons, and though I never asked him about them, context clues told me their relationship was strained.

Louisiana only had three places where they still allowed abortions: New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport. Unfortunately, I didn’t reside in any of those cities. Shreveport wasn’t an option for me at all. The Baton Rouge clinic was only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays and didn’t have an appointment available for two weeks. New Orleans was all I had left. I didn’t even consider Texas as an option because I assumed their abortion laws would be just as strict as Louisiana.

The woman who answered the phone at the New Orleans abortion clinic set my appointment for three days later on a Friday. It was the earliest appointment available. After I made the appointment, I called David and tried to tell him about the pregnancy, and he answered in his normal flirtatious and cheerful tone. He then sensed something was wrong and asked me about it, but I couldn’t find the words.

The next morning, I was ready to explode. I couldn’t call and speak to him directly because I was in a public place amongst several people, but I also couldn’t wait a moment longer to tell him. I sent the news via text. His response? A dick pic. His immature deflection further confirmed I was making the best decision, and I’d be on my own with the entire experience.


Like the way I do everything.

I arrived to my Friday appointment with reading material and a coloring book in anticipation for a long day. The clinic was an unassuming light brick building in a residential area, and I had to park on the street. I was aware of the possibility of protestors outside of the building, but there were none on that Friday. They did have volunteers who stood outside to guide patients and protect us from potential protestors. My appointment was scheduled for 8:30 am, and there were already a dozen women ahead of me in line despite arriving right on time. I was assigned number 13. They don’t address patients by name – only by number, and the number of women who arrived to the clinic that day for an abortion ballooned to over thirty. A disproportionate number of women were black, while there were also white, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern women. I noted two underage girls who were there along with a consenting parent, but the majority of women appeared to be late 20s to mid 30s.

At the check-in counter, I handed over my identification and $150 for blood work and an ultrasound. I took a urine test, completed paperwork, and sat reading Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage before I got the blood work and ultrasound. The nurse calculated my pregnancy date based on the start date of my last period and confirmed I was five weeks and three days. I sat again in a crowded room with a dozen other women before I met with the doctor to go over my options.

The doctor questioned how sure I was about obtaining an abortion. “We don’t want you to make a permanent decision based on a temporary situation,” she stated with a bit of compassion.

I told her I had no doubts about my choice to abort, and we discussed the methods of abortion available to me and the process for both. My abortion options were surgical or medical. Due to my schedule, the doctor’s schedule, and my eagerness to complete the process, the only option available to me was the medical abortion in the form of a pill. In the state of Louisiana, one has to wait 24 hours to have the procedure. Since it was Friday, I had to go through the whole weekend. The clinic didn’t reopen until Tuesday so that’s when I scheduled it. It would cost an additional $475 for that, plus about $20 for the actual prescription. I was uninsured, but Louisiana law prohibits health insurance companies – including Medicare/Medicaid – to from covering the cost of an abortion anyway. By the end of it all, I would spend nearly $1,000 for the abortion, including the cost of transportation, meals, and lodging since New Orleans was such a long way from my residing city.

I was sick a lot during that time – constantly nauseous and queasy with acid reflux like never before. I had to force myself to eat. I had no energy for the smallest tasks. I had to give myself pep talks in the morning in order to get out of the bed and get in the shower. Once I showered, I had to give myself pep talks and somehow find the energy to put on underwear, deodorant, and lotion.

Tuesday, I drove back to New Orleans for my second appointment. Unlike the first appointment, there were protestors standing outside the building that day with signs that read “ABORTION IS MURDER.” There were no volunteers to assist in protecting us this time. As I stood outside the clinic doors pressing the buzzer to be allowed into the building, one protester gave me a whole speech.

“How are you going to stand before God after making such a decision?” she asked rhetorically in her southern drawl. “Do you know blacks are the number one race for abortions? It is a conspiracy and they are doing it to destroy your race!”

Nothing the protester said would have made me want to change my mind. If abortion would have been illegal in the United States, I would have taken the illegal route or gone to another country. That was how certain I was it was the right decision.

Rain began to fall as soon as I got into the building. Not a little drizzle, but a full-blown storm. I was concerned about getting home safely, but I also took the storm as a sign of a cleansing and fresh start.

The office was packed to standing room only. The nurses checked my vital signs, offered birth control if I was interested, and gave clear instructions about what to expect and what to do over the next few days. There would be clots, but there would not be a fully developed baby coming out of my body. The doctor performed a routine breast and vaginal exam, and gave me one mifepristone pill to prevent the pregnancy from continuing. I took it without a hesitation – without considering there would be no turning back once I swallowed that pill.

The doctor provided me with a prescription for 800 mg of ibuprofen and 8 misoprostol pills to be inserted vaginally at home. The misoprostol would start my period and pass the fetus. I had a followup appointment for two weeks later to ensure the pill worked and I was no longer pregnant.

I was supposed to stay at the office for two hours to make sure I didn’t throw up the pill, but they were moving slow and the pharmacy was about to close by the time I was finished with my exam, so they let me go. I rushed to one of the only two pharmacies in the city that would fill my prescription for the abortion pills because they were about to close in less than an hour. They filled the prescription quickly and sent me on my way.

I was so nauseous and scared about throwing up the pill. I kept drinking water hoping that would somehow keep it down. I wasn’t hungry but I needed to eat, so I stopped at a fast food joint. I also had little energy and didn’t want to drive home in the rain. But I couldn’t imagine being in a hotel room going through the abortion alone. In the event that something tragic happened, I’d at least be in the comforts of my own home in my city.

That night, I spread a beach towel across my bed so I wouldn’t get my sheets stained with blood, placed a trash can next to the bed in case I needed to vomit, placed two bottles of water on my nightstand, borrowed a heating pad to place on my stomach, put on a ultra heavy feminine pad, and took 800 mg of ibuprofen. An hour later, I inserted four of the misoprostol pills vaginally using the applicator the clinic provided.

I went to sleep. Or at least I tried. My acid reflux was out of control that night, and once the pills started working, the cramping was out of control, too. It was one of those pains that made you wonder if sex was really worth it. I remember thinking I would never have sex again. Part of me wished I wasn’t going through it alone. I was by myself at home, which I thought I preferred, but having someone with some compassion by my side may have eased the burden.

I was supposed to take the ibuprofen every six hours, but the cramping was so painful I popped the second one three hours later instead. I put the heating pad on the highest setting, and eventually fell asleep for about four hours. That was the most consistent amount of sleep I had in weeks.

Wednesday the next morning, I felt okay. My stomach was still cramping, but it was the level of pain I normally endured during my regular period, so I could handle it. The pad didn’t hold all of the blood from the night. It leaked through my underwear, pajama bottoms, the beach towel, my sheets, and onto my mattress protector. I had to remove the stains and wash everything.

Later in the morning, I felt like my old self and I was smiling brightly at the thought of returning to normalcy. My appetite was back! I was bleeding heavily, though. I was wearing Always Infinity pads and was changing them every 2-3 hours. I wasn’t allowed to wear tampons per doctor’s orders.

By Friday, the flow of blood had decreased and I felt like a normal woman with a normal period. The bleeding lasted for nearly two weeks, but the last few days were so light I only wore a thin liner. My normal period returned five weeks later, and has remained normal outside of the acid reflux that is now a part of my period symptoms.

I was supposed to return in two weeks for a followup appointment, but I missed it because I was out of the country. Instead, I crossed my fingers to ensure everything would be okay. Honestly, I didn’t follow the doctors orders at all. My instructions from her were no swimming and no drinking alcohol and no baths. I swam in the Caribbean daily and drank alcohol daily, and planned on dealing with any negative consequences later.

David and I met to have a conversation three months aftermath. He apologized for his actions, but I wasn’t ready to forgive. One doesn’t get to wreak havoc in my life, then move forward as if nothing happened. Not on my watch.

I have no regrets about the procedures. One thing I wish I would have done during the entire ordeal was subscribe to r/abortion on Reddit. It would have been comforting to read through other women’s posts as they went through the same thing as me. Every once in a while, I’ll be in the midst of life, and the experience will hit me all over again. I was walking the streets of Ljubljana, Slovenia, one evening and it hit me. I would have been miserable had I not had an abortion.

* – Names changed for privacy

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