What abortion rights meant to me

Congressional Republicans went on the attacked against Planned Parenthood in late September, using doctored videos recently released by anti-choice forces to try to discredit the women's health care provider and ban it from receiving federal funds. The threat to close down Planned Parenthood was also a threat to women across the country who rely on their clinics for necessary health care, including abortion services.

In response, women across the country spoke out about their own abortion stories online, using the hashtag #shoutyourabortion--to break the silence about reproductive choice and to demonstrate why access to safe and affordable abortion is necessary to all women. Tens of thousands of women took part, but anti-abortion voices made themselves heard, revealing their anti-women message by threatening the women who initiated the campaign.

Here, we reprint anonymously one of the many abortion stories that appeared online, with permission from the author.

Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz helped lead the attack on Planned Parenthood during Congressional hearingsRepublican Rep. Jason Chaffetz helped lead the attack on Planned Parenthood during Congressional hearings

THE RECENT round of attacks on Planned Parenthood has felt really personal to me. On the same day that the House passed a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, I found out I needed an abortion.

For a graduate employee like myself, the news came at the worst possible time. I was in a coverage gap between academic years that leaves me without insurance for a few weeks at the end of the summer. In addition, I only get paid four times a year and in late September was at the end of the summer pay cycle, when my income is reduced by 40 percent because there is no teaching available.

Uninsured and broke, I was struggling to come up with the $390 that a basic surgical abortion would cost. A few days after I had initially called about getting an appointment, only to realize I couldn't afford the procedure, a worker at the clinic called and told me I qualified for financial assistance. I would only have to pay $100 for the procedure. This was still difficult, but thankfully, I was able to scrape my money together and schedule the appointment for later that week.

I was doubly relieved because having the abortion that week meant I wouldn't have to deal with it while classes were in session and potentially miss work. As a graduate employee at a private university, I lack basic workplace rights and could be fired from my job for missing work--even for a medical procedure.

My reasons were simple: I have never wanted children; I am too poor to care for a child; and having to take care of a child would require me to abandon a job I love.

Each of these reasons are as valid and necessary as the reason I ultimately had to terminate my pregnancy whether I wanted to or not.

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DURING THE initial ultrasound, they discovered that not only was I pregnant, but the pregnancy was ectopic, meaning the pregnancy was located not in the uterus, but up in my right fallopian tube. This meant that a typical in-clinic procedure was out of the question, and that I had to get some tests done in order to be medically cleared to receive a shot that would end the pregnancy.

These tests would cost thousands of dollars. I asked if I could wait a bit until my insurance kicked in, but the doctors told me that was very risky: continuing the pregnancy even just for a few more days could cause my fallopian tube to rupture, and I would have to be rushed into an emergency surgery.

My doctors told me that while the thousands of dollars of medical debt from the blood tests and second ultrasound on a better machine in a more well-funded clinic was a stressful situation they wished I didn't have to deal with, it was nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands of dollars that surgery and aftercare would incur.

I went in for a basic procedure, and had been quickly swept into the nightmare of the American health care system. I cried in the exam room, not because I doubted my choice or was upset about having to end the pregnancy, but because doing so meant racking up about half of my annual salary in medical debt.

And yet, if there hadn't been a clinic that did everything they could to make abortion as accessible as possible to low-income women like me, I would have had to wait for an initial abortion appointment, and my tube might have ruptured in the meantime--a potentially deadly complication.

I am also lucky to live in a major city where a clinic was accessible by public transit. On the day of my appointment, I was more than two weeks away from my next paycheck and had $106 to my name. I barely had enough to cover the subsidized procedure, and for bus fare to get to the clinic. I could never have made it states or even a county away.

The people attacking Planned Parenthood want to prevent women from accessing basic and vital health care. In the process, they also insure that women will become more ensnared in a health care industry that is another barrier to a higher standard of living, and keeps us and our families indebted.

Abortion is the basic right to bodily autonomy, and it must be free on demand for anyone who wants it for any reason. And we also need nationalized health care for everyone, because no one should have to do what I did last week: sit in my exam room and debate if I should risk my life trying to avoid being drowned in medical debt.