When I was 22 and in my last semester of college in New Orleans, over 1,500 miles away from my home in New Hampshire, I found out I was pregnant. I had always been pro-choice and had always thought that when it came down to it, I would have an abortion if I felt that I wasn’t ready or wasn’t able to care for a child yet. To this day I don’t know if children are in my future, but in that moment I realized I had a seriously difficult decision to make, and it was the hardest decision I have ever made.
I did my research and I knew that a surgical abortion was the right decision for me. The idea of taking a pill and then going home and taking another the next day, all while likely being alone and having to go through that pain, was just not for me. I made an appointment at a clinic in New Orleans and was informed I would not only have one appointment, but two with a mandatory 72-hour waiting period in between.
At my first appointment I was required to go in alone. I took a blood test to confirm I was pregnant and check my blood type, then the nurse took me to another room where I would have an ultrasound and be made to listen to the heartbeat and see the 7-week fetus on the ultrasound screen. They also offered to print out the picture of the ultrasound. I took the printed version because even though this was a decision I was positive of, I am an emotional and sentimental person and it was too hard to say no.
After the ultrasound, I went into a room with about 10-12 other women and watched a video about the procedure and was given a pamphlet that showed what the embryo and eventual fetus looks like in each stage of pregnancy. This whole process took 4 to 5 hours with a lot of waiting time in between each of those experiences.
I went home from that appointment on a Tuesday and would not return until Saturday morning to have my abortion. I got there early that Saturday, so I would be one of the first women in and then out. My ex-boyfriend brought me, and we walked past 8-10 religious protestors outside who were praying for us and telling me that I would “be a good mommy.”
Again, I wasn’t able to have anyone with me, so my ex-boyfriend stayed in the car while I went to talk with a doctor who looked at me in my Tulane sweatshirt and said, “Oh, you’re smart. I went to Tulane Medical School.” I didn’t know if this was a condescending remark, as though smart women don’t experience unintended pregnancies, but I left feeling strange about it.
I was given valium and then brought into the procedure room. I felt loopy when the nurse and doctor came in to start. I lied back with a nurse holding my hand; I squeezed her hand pretty hard throughout. First I was numbed, which felt like little bee stings in my uterus, and then the abortion started with a loud vacuuming noise. The whole procedure took about 10 minutes, and I was brought into the recovery room afterward still loopy and crying from a mix of relief and unexplainable emotions.
I wish I had been in New Hampshire at the time, instead of a state that put up multiple barriers to my care, include a long waiting period, because I had already made my decision. My decision took a long time to make, even though I had always said I would have an abortion in this situation. The waiting period in between unnecessarily made for the longest days I’ve ever experienced.