Abortion on Demand Offered Me and My Family a Life
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Abortion on Demand Offered Me and My Family a Life
Online physicians and easy medication gave me the chance to stay healthy with little interruption.
I’m stunned, but not surprised, as I stare back at the “YES+” blinking at me on a tiny screen. I had hoped that my breasts, which were tender in a different, distinct way, and the inexplicable episodes of rage and sadness had combined to produce a bad bout of PMS. But my body always gives away pregnancy before a test confirms it.
Yes, what? I think, frozen in the bathroom, swaying slightly, staring down the test. Yes—you’ll have to go off all your bipolar medication. Yes—you’ll get preeclampsia again. Yes—you’ll have to deal with surprise medical bills when you’re barely getting by. Yes—you’ll have to write your under-contract book that’s due in between heaving up saltine crackers. Yes—you’ll have even less attention to direct toward your 4-year-old daughter. Yes—you’ll be responsible for yet another person.
I begin to panic. I just came out of a major depressive episode. Before, I was barely working, grading nothing, writing nothing and my new medication combination finally had me functioning. I won’t survive pregnancy, I think. Yes, I think, snapping out of it, beginning to catalog and rearrange the weeks to come in my head—you’ll have to get your second surgical abortion. I finally begin to cry.
Memories of My First Surgical Abortion
I was 20 the first time I got a surgical abortion because, to my surprise, it was cheaper than a medical abortion, one completed at home (perhaps because it requires fewer office visits). I arrived at the clinic early, so there were just a few scattered protestors, men standing outside with bloody fetuses plastered on signs. They watched as I pulled into the clinic, parked and stayed frozen in my car; eventually, they pulled out their megaphones and placed them to their lips. I gathered up the courage to walk toward the building as their words increased in speed and volume.
A security guard ushered me into the waiting room and sat me down opposite another girl from my college. We looked at each other, then looked away quickly—an unspoken understanding. There was almost an assembly line of women waiting in easy chairs. I remember wobbling up to the nurse after she called my name, doped up on Valium, struggling to get onto the table. When I felt the abrupt and violent pinch of the vacuum, I gasped and began to cry while she lazily held my hand. The male doctor never once looked me in the eye.
I made it home afterwards and fell asleep, bleeding lightly onto a supersized pad. I woke up to sunshine on my face, filtered through broken blinds characteristic of the undergraduate apartment complex I lived in. Relief unknotted my chest, flowed through my body, and I got out of bed and on with my life.
My Medication Abortion Cost Much Cheaper and Proved Much Quicker
Snapping out of these memories 14 years later, I appreciate in a way I hadn’t before that my abortion was the large reason I have my life now: my current partner, my daughter, my Ph.D., my job. I don’t want to go through it all again, but I know I must march towards that relief again.
So, while wishing desperately for another way, I open my computer and type “abortion near me.” My eyes scan the red dots marking clinic locations and, as I’m scrolling down, I see an advertisement for AbortionOnDemand.org. I’m curious. I press the link and read, “Physician-supported medication abortion care online. Appointments open Sunday-Friday for 20+ U.S. states. Overnight shipping and comfort treatment included.” My state is on the list.
Then, I see the price: $239. My last abortion cost well over $500.
It’s too good to be true, too convenient, too quick, I think. But I want to leave my body behind, and there’s no good reason to continue to feel this way for the weeks it’d take to schedule a surgical abortion, especially since I won’t change my mind. The circumstances necessitate that the abortion won’t magically dissipate.
I schedule an appointment on Wednesday for the following day, knowing I can cancel if necessary. I even cancel the classes I’m scheduled to teach on Friday because I can’t stand the feeling of my clothes against the heaviness of my breasts, the telltale pinpricks. I try to take a walk, answer some emails and give my daughter extra cuddles, but I’m too depressed by what’s happening in my body—and I’m not sure Abortion on Demand will work.
On Thursday afternoon, I start navigating the company’s easy online video call platform. “I’m ready when you are!” I type in the chatbox, and a slender woman in workout clothes comes into view. Her voice is calm and soothing, her medical degree displayed behind her. She’s in Seattle, she says—they have physicians all over the country. She walks me through all the steps I’ll take once I receive my package. “Some side effects include excessive bleeding, hemorrhaging, infection, but this is incredibly rare,” she says.
“Do you have any questions for me?” she asks.
“I suppose it’s too late for my package to go out today,” I say, only half-joking, as the clock ticks nearer to 5:30 p.m.
“Yes, our pharmacies close soon,” she responds, “but you’ll be able to start the process by Saturday. Do you need me to call in a birth control prescription as well?”
I start to launch into my prepared speech: “I know you aren’t judging me,” I begin, “but I have a lot of medications that interfere with hormonal birth control.”
“You’re right,” she interrupts, “I’m not judging you.”
I stare at her face, the myriad pixels transmitted through the screen, and am surprised to feel my eyes water, not realizing how much I needed to hear someone say that. After we sign off, I get through the next two days in a stupor, wanting so badly not to be pregnant any longer. I take hits off a THC cartridge and try to sleep the pregnancy away. I can’t, don’t, eat—eventually losing five pounds over the course of the whole process.
The Medication Abortion Gave Me a Flood of Relief
I waited weeks to get surgery, I remind myself, all but grabbing the innocuous FedEx box when it arrives on my doorstep Saturday morning. I pull the tag and pry it open to see prescription bottles, a shiny green and white pamphlet and an orange box containing the abortion pill, Mifeprex, which blocks the hormone necessary for pregnancy to continue. I swallow it with a swig of water and wait anxiously until I can take misoprostol—pills that cause the pregnancy to pass from the uterus—24 hours later.
The next day, as my daughter watches her iPad in the bed beside me, I finally put two misoprostol into both cheeks and lay my head back down on the pillow. I doze in and out as the medicine dissolves. As directed, I take the ibuprofen and anti-nausea medicine at the same time and, about an hour later, get up to go to the bathroom. It feels like my insides fall out as I sit down; my forehead touches my knees in an involuntary gesture of gratitude.
I flush quickly, not looking in the toilet. “I’m not pregnant anymore,” I tell my partner. I wobble back to the bed and lie down again beside my daughter, who is still enrapt with kids’ YouTube. I am flooded with relief as my head sinks into the pillow and I doze back off.
I’m Grateful for an On-Demand Program When I Needed it the Most
Our constitutional right to this relief—to a safe and swift abortion—is under threat. The U.S. Supreme Court allowed a radical abortion bill in Texas to stand, one that bans abortion at around six weeks. Although I caught both of my pregnancies before they hit six weeks, any parent with a toddler, or any other version of a busy life, will tell you that two weeks past a missed period is like the beat of a butterfly’s wings. It took me close to two weeks just to schedule and attend my appointment for a surgical abortion.
With Abortion on Demand, I found out I was pregnant Wednesday afternoon, had my appointment Thursday evening and took the first pill Saturday morning. I was bleeding by Sunday early afternoon. With all the complexity that comes with abortion legislation, lawmakers and the general population seem to be in agreement that the earlier the better when it comes to abortion. Abortion on Demand offered just that.
In the days that follow my abortion, I bleed for much longer than a regular period; the discharge is thicker. My uterus cramps in ways it doesn’t usually; there’s an aching, dull feeling in my midsection. I think it’s over for a day or two, and then I feel that emptying out, the gush of fluids, over and over. I fall into a mild depression that week, mad at having to wear pads to work, mad at myself, that I allowed the pregnancy to happen, that I wasn’t more careful.
During this time, however, I also find myself in awe of my daughter and that I managed to bring her into this world. I stroke her smooth cheeks, run my fingers through her hair, press my lips into the side of her neck. I look at her and feel infinite gratitude. At four weeks, a pregnancy is simply potential, potential that—yes—means the world to some parents-to-be. But the hormones that made my breasts sore, screaming at any touch, are not a child. They are the body's response, its preparation, to house this future. It’s a future that’s never guaranteed. And it’s a future that comes at great cost—to the pregnant person’s health, body, potential and to families like mine.
I recently listened to Gloria Naylor’s novel Mama Day. As it approaches its climactic scene, the titular character tells another, “There are two ways anybody can go when they come to certain roads in life—ain’t about a right way or a wrong way—just two ways.” As I struggle to manage all that being a neurodivergent mother in this world means, I realize I must privilege myself as well. It’s hard to admit I did what was best for me, that I made the selfish choice. There’s no way I could’ve made that intimate journey—a fertilized egg slowly growing into a baby, connected to me through fluids and flesh. There was no way I could’ve given that of myself now.
Abortion on Demand allowed me to choose the path that was best for my family, the family already here, without needs beyond the fleshy buildup of my body. And I’m so grateful for the ease it offered during a time when very little else was easy.