Abortion may not be my story. But it’s an important part of it.

Ed. note: This is a quest post by Ash Moore. It is part of “Still Wading: Forty years of resistance, resilience and reclamation in communities of color,” a series by Strong Families commemorating the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

It is the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. I’m in law school so you may think you’re about to be bombarded with legalese and a disconnected opinion. But I have a different and important perspective—a personal one.

When I was a teenager, I was raped. Gang raped. And as cliché and trite as it has become, I was ashamed and felt like it was my fault. So, despite my better judgment, the first thing I did was take a hot shower. I washed away all evidence of the crime even though I knew exactly what I was doing. After the shower, I went into denial. I tried to pretend like it didn’t happen. I didn’t get tested for STDs and I didn’t do anything about a potential pregnancy.

After a couple of months when I started throwing up and feeling like I was getting fatter, reality set in with a vengeance and brought sheer terror with it. I didn’t know anything about pregnancy except how it came about and I knew it was a possibility.

At that point, I was more determined not to tell anyone than I was before. What if they didn’t believe me? Or what if they did and they were furious I did everything I wasn’t supposed to do? Either way, what was I going to do if I was really pregnant? I knew abortion was an option, but I didn’t want to kill something growing inside me. 

I could give a baby up for adoption, but my life would be permanently changed and maybe ruined in the meantime. I didn’t know if adoption was selfish, but then again, I didn’t just make a mistake—this was forced on me. Couldn’t I put myself first for a second?

I could keep the baby. But I truly believed that wouldn’t be the best thing for the baby. I wouldn’t be able to give it the kind of life it deserved. I would struggle, not have money, and be a young parent (with or without help), which is hard on the people I knew who had young parents.

Whether you think it was right or wrong, abortion was a huge part of the decision process. And the longer I thought about it, the more it seemed like the most rational and right choice. I’m deeply religious and that caused a huge problem and huge internal struggle. Would God understand? Would He approve? Would I be condemned? I knew no matter what decision I made, I would never be the same again.

Most people agree that abortion should be available for rape victims. So I wasn’t in the same position as the women struggling with restricted rights today. But what was the same was the excruciating decision process and fear. What the pregnancy test result was and what I ultimately decided are irrelevant.

What is relevant was that I had a tough decision to make and no matter what I decided, more options made the tortuous experience a little easier. It made me feel like others had struggled and came to the same decision I did; no matter what I chose, I knew I would never blame or fault anyone for making a different one in that impossible situation.

No matter how someone gets to the point where they need to make a decision regarding a pregnancy (through rape, mistake, health issues, or money problems), I believe all the choices I had should be available to every other woman (and more if we can find them).

I think access to all the choices should be easy because the decision making process is hard enough. I think most women probably walk in to a doctor’s office or adoption agency after as much thought, pain, and tears as I went through. Any obstacles to make these personal decisions harder are cruel and unusual punishment.

If abortion is the ultimate decision, I believe no doctor or spectator has a better idea of the heartbeat about to stop than the woman who has to live with the decision. Abortion may not be my story. But it’s an important part of it. And it’s an important part of society. Just imagine, as I did, what you would do if what you would choose was not an option.  Then look me in the eye and tell me you want to do that to another living, breathing, caring, concerned person who is only trying to think about the best decision she can make for herself and her family. It should never be harder than it was for me. Or you. If you know the feeling.

Ash’s bio: After failing kindergarten twice, Ash knew she needed to pull her life  together. She kicked a caffeine habit and peaked in middle school when she won the prestigious “Right Stuff” award at Space Camp in Florida. But the road to recovery is never smooth and straight. Ash figured out she was transgender at the ripe young age of 14 and had no choice but to let her “alternative lifestyle” (she’s still not sure what it’s an “alternative” to) lead her to a life of theater. After a relapse and caffeine overdose, she somehow retained her idealism and went to law school with the goal of helping other people with troubled and “alternative” lifestyles.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

Read more about Maya

Join the Conversation