A few weeks ago a friend contacted me because she discovered she was pregnant and wasn’t sure whether she could – physically, emotionally, or financially – afford another child. When we spoke that afternoon, COVID-19 was starting to spread and she was pretty sure she wanted an abortion. Fortunately, that seemed a pretty easy task; We live in California, which is known as a haven for access to abortion. But what turned out after our first conversation, the barriers from health insurance, work, misinformation and, yes, the coronavirus show that there are barriers to care even in such a place. Obviously, in a state like Texas, which is seizing the pandemic as an opportunity, it’s still harder to get an abortion most prohibit abortion careHowever, it is important to remember that the issue of access goes beyond draconian laws and the number of clinics in a particular state. That is her story, in her own words, edited slightly for length and clarity.
I told you the day after the home pregnancy test. I was like, holy shit; I didn’t expect it. I was three weeks late and something just didn’t feel to me. I was tired, had some mood swings and cramps too, so I always thought I was about to get my period. When the cramps stopped and still didn’t come, I took the test.
When I talked to my husband about it, I was very sure: I thought: I don’t think I can do that. I didn’t expect it, I’m not ready for it yet, there will be so much work, there will be so little support. When I had my first child, it was clear to me that it would be a disproportionate amount of work for the mother, even if you have a supportive husband. My parents live far away, so they can come and stay, but then they have to go. So there is no such thing as “Can you take care of the kids so I can do this work trip?” or “I have a deadline and have to work long hours, can you step in?” Only me and my husband have a demanding job.
My husband supported my insecurity, even though his personal wish was that I still have a child. My first pregnancy was really tough and painful, and I think he understood why I didn’t want to go through that again. I had a terrible accident that upset my back so I went to a chiropractor twice a week during my pregnancy and was afraid of exceeding my insurance limits. I was not in good physical shape during my pregnancy because of my back injury, and that made the whole process even more frightening. It’s been nine painful months, and I’ve had 48 hours of labor and four hours of active pushing. I didn’t know if I wanted to go through this again. At the end of the day, it’s up to me: I have to do the physical work of nourishing and growing the baby inside of me, pushing it out, and then breastfeeding. There is no way my husband can step in, and I think that has reached him.
I immediately went to my family doctor and had the official pregnancy test done. Then I called Planned Parenthood. It was all very efficient – they got me an appointment for two days. Then I found out that planned parenting for my insurance wasn’t on the network and a drug abortion would have cost me $ 2,000, so I canceled. I think I was probably six weeks old then.
The next week I went to an appointment at a large local hospital with a gynecologist who was on the network. At that point I was nearly seven and a half weeks old, which she said was the exclusion for a drug abortion there, so it would have to be surgical. [Editor’s note: The Planned Parenthood clinic offered medication abortion up to 10 weeks after the start of the last menstrual period; generally, this is the standard at most women’s health clinics.] I soon had to travel for work and didn’t want to risk not being in my best shape for the trip, so I decided to do it later. But when I got home I found someone at the conference was diagnosed with coronavirus, so I was quarantined for two weeks. When I mentioned this at my next appointment, the doctor literally left the room and came back in full protective clothing. They called the health department and I was sent home.
If I had another appointment for the abortion, I would be almost 11 weeks old. The doctor told me I had to make a decision because they weren’t sure whether they would even be able to offer it in the next few days. What if it turned into an electoral process because of the virus?
I finally withdrew from the process; it was later in the pregnancy when I felt comfortable and I was tied to what was going on inside of me.
I think if I had got the abortion medication at Planned Parenthood, I would have. It was quick, they had appointments, they didn’t want me to come by five times before I could do the abortion. The hospital treated it more like an operation and it freaked me out; The appointment to expand my cervix and then return to the actual procedure felt invasive and scary. For weeks I planned and rescheduled over and over and I got stuck. In a state like California, I thought it would be easier.
It was not treated like any other medical procedure or surgery. I think it makes a difference the easier it is to access medical care or how the doctors treat you. You can tell if someone is judging you. Some of this was non-verbal, but they said, “This is a well-placed pregnancy, why don’t you want to pull it off? Is it because you don’t have any support? What can you do to get Support? “These are questions I had answered myself before. What made it really difficult was that I didn’t feel like I had anyone to really talk to about all of this – I am an immigrant, a colored one Woman, this is not discussed among my family members or even my friends. It felt like new territory and I think the fear of the unknown played a role too. All the disinformation on the internet obviously didn’t help either.
I wouldn’t say I’m feeling fine or excited about having a baby. Once I made the decision not to quit, I regretted it. But I made my peace with my decision. I’ve never been against abortion, but I feel like this whole experience made me even more of a choice. It’s a simple process, but it also gets more complicated as you keep waiting longer.
I think I will look forward to pregnancy – it is a good time for my child to have a sibling and my parents and husband are excited about it. But right now I would be lying if I said it wasn’t complicated.