When I was 31 years old, I had an abortion. This might make you uncomfortable and generate questions. Especially if you knew me. Because, I am a Christian, I am pro-life, I lean towards the conservative. Yet, I had an abortion. Am I a hypocrite?
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, abortion is “the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus.”1 The Oxford dictionary defines abortion as “The deliberate termination of a human pregnancy, most often performed during the first 28 weeks.”2
According to both dictionaries the word has been used for hundreds of years (since 1547) and it originates from aboriri, Latin for “to miscarry.” They list miscarriage as a synonym to abortion. Yet the Oxford dictionary adds the term deliberate, amending the connotation.
My abortion was not deliberate. My husband and I were ecstatic when two lines appeared on a home pregnancy test. We became anxious when I had some early spotting. The 6 week ultrasound reassured us the bleeding wasn’t anything bad. That same ultrasound showed us TWO strong heartbeats. My incredible OB immediately began discussing the implications of twin gestation. We monitored our babies with weekly ultrasounds and watched them grow. After our 10 week ultrasound we shared the news with our families. I was horribly nauseated and exhausted but also exhilarated about the new lives growing inside of me.
We returned for a 12 week ultrasound, blissfully unaware that things had changed. We watched as the ultrasound technician searched for the flicker of either fetal heartbeat. There were our 2 fetuses measuring 10 weeks 5 days and 11 weeks 2 days without any heartbeats. Our OB began discussing the management of a missed abortion. I opted to have a D&C the next day and we grieved the loss of the twins that we never had a chance to meet. We had to tell our loved ones we lost the babies. Despite the fact that I know abortion = miscarriage; I told everyone that we had a miscarriage. I didn’t tell them that we suffered a missed, spontaneous abortion. I knew how my presentation of the facts would impact the reaction. I wanted sympathy, free of judgement.
Every pregnancy is unique and has implications on a woman’s health. I have had the opportunity to have 4 subsequent pregnancies, each with it’s own set of challenges. My strong faith has guided me that outcomes of my pregnancies were beyond my control and that He would see me through whatever would happen, as He already had. I am married to a wonderful man, who is a great father. We can afford to support ourselves and our children. Personally, I would not choose to deliberately terminate a pregnancy under my circumstances.
But what if those circumstances were different? As we approached the delivery of our 4th daughter (my fifth pregnancy), we were told to plan for a c-section. Our baby was breech. I had calcified fibroids near my cervix and there was concern for the very real possibility of postpartum hemorrhage. Postpartum hemorrhage is a life-threatening condition for a woman in the perinatal period. It is a circumstance where the pregnancy could literally cost me my life. I had 3 other babies at home who were 2, 4 & 6 years old at the time who could potentially be left motherless. Thankfully my OB was prepared not only for the c-section but for an emergent hysterectomy and he was able to manage my postpartum hemorrhage swiftly and safely. I didn’t have to choose between my life and the life of my child. But that experience opened my eyes and my heart to the fact that not everyone is as lucky.
I know that any woman who has experience with pregnancy – trying to become pregnant, trying not to become pregnant, wanted pregnancy, unwanted pregnancy, healthy pregnancy or otherwise – is facing her own unique challenge. That same woman can have a subsequent pregnancy with completely different challenges. That woman should be able to have access to the information needed to make the best possible choice for herself, her body and her baby. I identify as “pro-life” but I am realistic about what that means.
There are circumstances where a termination of the pregnancy is the best choice for the safety of the mother. I am pro-life for her and not just her baby. Does that make me “pro-choice?” I do not think that “pro-life” and “pro-choice” are mutually exclusive. I feel very strongly that elective abortion as a first-line choice “solution” to an unwanted pregnancy is not OK. I also feel very strongly that for a woman who has come to the decision that terminating her pregnancy is the right one should be able to have that termination performed in the safest way possible. A woman’s life is just as valuable, maybe even more so, than a fetus. That’s what it means to me to be “pro-life.”
The recent political climate has polarized our country. I have found that people are either aggressively advancing their beliefs and agendas or are trying to disengage completely. I’m not trying to do either. I am only one person with one story but perhaps if we begin sharing our stories, we can find some common ground on which to open discussions and pursue conversations that will make our nation stronger, together.
1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary accessed 2/9/2017
2. Oxford Dictionary accessed 2/9/2017