On A Women’s Right to Choose

While I stand with the Unity Principles as set forth by the Women’s March on Washington, the abortion issue calls forth in me an answer that includes both sides.

In December of 2001, just days before Christmas, I had an abortion. Back from college for Christmas break with the push of finals behind me, I was able to relax, and when I did, I realized it had been a while since I had my last period.

I took a pregnancy test that came back positive. The ex-boyfriend who I lived with for the previous couple of years had come to visit the month prior.

At that time in my life, there was no question as to whether I would keep the baby or not, and as I write this, I notice the term, “keep the baby.”

I had learned that the right thing to do when a girl gets pregnant and is not married or ready to support a child is to get an abortion. An abortion was a big deal but not the end of the world. It was simply doing what must be done. So I did it.

I made an appointment at Planned Parenthood. I understood that the "fetus" growing inside me could not live on its own. I was under the required time frame now at 7-8 weeks.

I took a pill called RU486. A day later, I cramped until I felt nauseous and lost color in my face. Half a day later, a large clot passed when I went to the bathroom. I held it for a while and then not knowing what to do, I flushed it.

Even at that time of my life when I was generally disconnected to the still, small voice inside, I heard something whisper, “Maybe you can bury it.”

I didn’t feel the feelings associated with the abortion. Instead, I drank wine with friends and then had one more glass; smoked a cigarette or two. I sank deeper into the eating disorder that I already had, and I moved on, I thought.

10 years later, I was well into recovery that had led me to yoga, which opened my heart to God, who led me back to church.

While I did go to Catholic school until 8th grade, I was not religious; and since 8th grade, I was atheist.

But, I had hit a bottom that seemed inescapable on my own power. I had been held under long enough.

I read the Bible, participated in a weekly prayer group, served, and developed a relationship with Jesus Christ.

I attended classes on relationships and sexuality and a conference called “Freedom” during which the abortion experience came back to me. I sobbed in the arms of the pastor’s mother when she asked my daughter’s name, and I called her Heather.

The church I attended had a program that supported women who made the decision to keep their babies even though the state of their lives would say they shouldn’t. I had a lot of respect for this, and I wondered if knowing about something like this would have encouraged me to choose differently.

In June of 2015, now married, I learned that I was pregnant again. 5 weeks later, I miscarried. Again, I held a clot in my hand and wondered if he should be buried. I left for a solo trip to Bali days later and there mourned the loss.

Months later, in December, 3 days after Christmas, I learned I was pregnant again. I was nervous, but we went to see the OBGYN right away and saw our first ultrasound at 7 weeks.

The doctor let us know that everything looked healthy. She turned the monitor towards us, and we saw Lilyanna’s heart beat.

We learned she was a girl from the genetic blood tests we took at 17 weeks, but I had known that all along. Both my husband and I did. We were blessed with this healthy pregnancy.

When I filled out paperwork for a doctor, the hospital and our homebirth midwife, the question about how many pregnancies I had and how many children I had got to me. 3 pregnancies, 0 children.

Today, it’s 3 and 1.

All this to say that the issue of abortion is not an easy one. My stance was much clearer and simpler when I was a budding feminist at 20 and life had not taught me its own lessons yet.

To be clear, I am pro-choice. I believe that government should not tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her body or the life growing within it.

HOWEVER, we need a vastly different approach towards abortion and the education around it.

The most empowering answer would be to educate women about their worth and sexuality in the first place, long before they are in the position of having an unwanted pregnancy.

I wish I understood my worth and value much more along the lines I learned in Christian church before I got myself into what I did. I wish that I had known I should and could care for myself more like I did in my 30’s than I did in my teens and early 20’s.

If a woman does face an unwanted pregnancy, I want her to be fully educated about her choice. I am not sure what procedures are in place at Planned Parenthood today, but the education around abortion starts far before that.

None of us knows what we’ll do when put in life’s hardest situations until we’re there, but I am surprised that when put into that situation at 20, how easy my choice was. The guilt and sadness I am left with indicate that part of me knew the choice was much more complex than my impulse decision had room to process.

I wish that someone who had gone through what I did had spoken in a way that I could hear both before I took the RU486 (and long before that).

So, before I march, I make clear that I feel grief and guilt around my choice to end a pregnancy.

I march for choice and for life gone too soon. I march for all people who have faced the choice to terminate a pregnancy and the unique experience each of us has had around it.

I march because we live in a world that doesn’t address the real problems until this last and final choice that falls on us.

I march because we choose as best we can with what we know at the time.

And I march for the real stop to all of this. I march so that we know our value. When we are whole and worthy in our own right, we know when to say "no," and we are heard when we do.

When we know our worth, we value those around us, including the life that we are able to carry.

This post was written a few days prior to the Women's March. I had driven to DC from California with my infant daughter. Together with my husband and parents, we participated in the Women's March on Washington on January 21, 2017. 

10 Comments

  1. Gail Alberti on January 20, 2017 at 10:08 am

    This is profoundly moving, Stephanie. Thank you for having the courage and heart to share your story so that others may learn from it. You have a wisdom learned the hardest way, but it is deep and true and has enormous potential to help others avoid, or at least better navigate, the tough choices that brought you such angst and grief.

    • Stephanie on January 20, 2017 at 11:58 am

      Thank you for these loving words, Gail. Each of us has a story. I have come far enough with mine that it isn’t “mine” anymore. I hope that it can be a bridge for someone who can benefit.

  2. Toni on January 20, 2017 at 10:19 am

    Dearest Stephanie, I love you and your honest and beautiful heart. Thank you for sharing this writing. I am reaching out to you with love across the miles today. Can you feel it in your soul? Stop for a minute and listen as deep calls to deep.

    • Stephanie on January 20, 2017 at 12:00 pm

      I love you, too, Toni. Thank you for being such a powerful teacher and friend. And, yes, very much.

  3. Jessica McKimmie on January 20, 2017 at 11:50 am

    Thank you thank you thank you for sharing your story love.

    • Stephanie on January 20, 2017 at 12:01 pm

      Much love, Jess. You’re welcome.

  4. Liz Jenks on January 20, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    Wow, this is exactly how I feel about the unity principles around the subject of abortion, but have been unable to articulate. Thank you for sharing this very personal story Stephanie with such honesty and grace. You have given voice to a subject that is difficult to talk about and navigate. This piece will no doubt help so many be more thoughtful about their position on this subject, hopefully bringing them peace. I also wanted to share that through the option of adoption, my husband and I were able to start a family, even though we were unable to conceive on our own. I thank God every day that our birth Mom made the decision that she did, and she remains a special part of our families life. Sending hugs. xo

    • Stephanie on January 20, 2017 at 6:39 pm

      Hi, Liz!

      I am glad that sharing this helped put words to some of what you have felt. It is a complex issue. Thank you for sharing your experience. It brings forth an important aspect of this issue. What a beautiful way to start a family – a gift for all of those involved.

      With Love,
      Stephanie

  5. robinharrisimages on February 8, 2017 at 6:18 am

    You were on my mind this morning and it was those thoughts that led me to this post. Thank you for your willingness to share your story with the world. I truly believe when we open up our hearts it not only heals our own souls but touches others in a very profound and positive way. You are a beautiful example of love and generosity, I am blessed to know you.

    • Stephanie on March 27, 2017 at 12:26 pm

      Thank you for writing, Robin! Quite beautiful that you were “guided” here. I feel the same way as you do about what’s possible for others when we share what we’ve worked through. Much love <3

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