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PARENTING UNFILTERED

On abortion, listen to women

‘My pregnancy could have killed me had I not chosen to end it’

Kristin O'Connor (left) and Rebecca Phillips became emotional as they attended a press conference in front of the Massachusetts State House on May 3.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe Staff

With Roe v. Wade under threat, I want to use this space to amplify women’s voices. This week, I asked readers two questions: How are you thinking about your own bodies and birth control in light of this news? And, if you have children old enough, how are you talking to them about their own reproductive choices?

The responses were profuse, emotional, enraged, and resoundingly in support of upholding the law. Here’s a sampling.

-- My daughter is only 5, but I’ve already made clear that she is the ‘decider of her body.” At such a young age, this relates to simple things like whether she wants to be hugged or tickled (or not) or how she learns to sense when she’s eaten enough.

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I’m gutted and enraged. … The level of inhumanity being engaged — the hatred of women — it’s unconscionable. – Rebecca, Boston

-- My 17-year-old son has been so angry about it. He came home from school and wrote an essay on it that was very good, about when a being is sentient and on control of women’s bodies. He wants to be an engineer; he’s a logical and fact-based thinker, and his brain literally can’t understand it. We’ve been talking about it a lot as a family to help us process. – Alanna, Belmont

-- I am 40 years old, was on birth control for 17 years, and my husband and I are expecting our first child in July. We waited until we were more stable in our careers and in our lives before we decided to bring another life into this world.

I am grateful that birth control afforded us the luxury of waiting until we were ready, but it shouldn’t be a luxury. Pregnancy has been rough: I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, my emotions are in constant flux, my body is constantly changing, I am unable to work. It’s quite humbling how dependent I have become on my husband in this last trimester, and yet, all this was my choice. I can’t fathom being forced to put my body through this or completely upheave my life without my consent or without the full support of a caring and loving partner and our families. It is cruel to both the mother and child to force a life to be born into a situation where its presence is resented. – Allison, Beverly

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-- I was lucky enough to get pregnant right away this past February.

But, two weeks ago, I started bleeding. It continued for a week. Nothing crazy, just a steady drip, drip. Blood test said everything was OK. Finally a week later, an ultrasound. No heartbeat. “Your body doesn’t know it’s not pregnant anymore,” said my wonderful OB at Newton-Wellesley.

I was given three options: surgical D&C, medical termination, or wait.

I selected what they call “medical management.” It’s an abortion. It terminates the pregnancy.

I am frozen in shock and trauma at the idea that, if I was in another state, I wouldn’t have been allowed this choice. Because there, they don’t differentiate, [and] the doctors don’t risk breaking the law. I would have had to wait and endure so much more physical and emotional trauma than the already traumatic event of losing a much-wanted pregnancy. – Natalie, Arlington

-- My husband and I tried for almost three years to have our son. My first pregnancy (six months in) ended up being ectopic. My husband rushed me to the ER in excruciating pain. My right tube was bleeding into my stomach.

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There in the tube, on the scan, was a mass with a flickering heartbeat. I was rushed into surgery and the fetus and my tube were removed. I was seven weeks along. My next two pregnancies ended in miscarriages before I finally conceived again. At five weeks, the week I was supposed to have a placement ultrasound, I ended up in excruciating pain again and went to the ER. The scans were inconclusive. There was a potential mass near my ovary but it could be a cyst so I was referred to my OB and did more blood work.

At the doctor the next morning, my OB had me do another scan and gave me a choice. We could immediately do methotrexate shots, a chemo drug meant to absorb the pregnancy, and potentially save my last tube, or wait and be sure it was ectopic but risk losing my last tube and my last chance at conceiving without IVF. We chose the shots, and my pregnancy dissolved.

Many states currently are writing laws that do not have exceptions for ectopic pregnancies, despite the fact that they are nonviable and almost always kill the mother. Despite my internal bleeding during my first surgery, the fetus had a “heartbeat,” which could have superseded my needs. It could have meant no doctor would have been willing to help me as I bled to death, especially as states push to criminalize providers.

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Also, as a person who was adopted as an infant, I have a lot of strong feelings about the wording and narrative of ending abortion to provide adoptable babies. Babies aren’t a commodity. There is a lot of lasting trauma for adoptees, and people shouldn’t be forced to give birth just because other people want babies. – Ilona, Charlton

-- I have endometriosis. The first doctor I saw at 22 told me I could get pregnant to cure it.

I had just started my first full-time job and a baby had not crossed my mind. Other women with endometriosis in similar situations and pain have begged for hysterectomies but are not given them because doctors tell them maybe they’ll change their minds and want kids someday. Women’s health issues will never be separate from our perceived role as baby-makers. My health and pain management should not be secondary to the potential I have for birthing children.

I want my daughter to have the choice about how to address her pain and her health. I don’t want her to be a victim to “potential.” The overturning of Roe means that my daughter’s fertility will be treated in a similar way: as “potential.” I don’t want her to be the victim of what others see her as—a potential mother — instead of who she chooses to be: a woman seeking health care or a woman who doesn’t want to have a child. – Julia, Woburn

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-- I got a tubal ligation after my third child primarily because I worried this was coming. I’m not going to be forced into another pregnancy. I also have a daughter, though my approach when she’s older won’t change: take care of yourself because men won’t protect you. She will be given birth control as soon as she is ready for it and requests it. For my boys, they will be told to always make sure they have consent and always use a condom, which I will provide. – Rebeccah, Acton

-- I was talking with my 14-year-old daughter last week about all of this, and we reflected on having a period every month, and all the uncomfortable body and emotional things that come with that, and how it’s nobody’s right to govern something so sacred to one’s self. We are paying the rent every month. It’s nobody else’s right to make those decisions. – Midge, Salem

-- In October 2020, I got pregnant and made the choice to terminate because the embryo had implanted too low in the uterus and was high-risk. The choice to terminate was the hardest, most life-changing decision I’ve ever had and would never wish on anyone. But never once did I think it wasn’t an option or that my health didn’t come first. My whole life, I’ve always had access to birth control and a choice.

Lately, I’ve been thinking back on my options and my choices and what my life would be if I didn’t have Roe to support me and to know that the choice was always my own, not left in the hands of people who not only don’t have the same body parts but don’t know me or are even medically trained.

My pregnancy could have killed me had I not chosen to end [it]. I had placenta accreta. My OB confirmed … that the embryo had broken through my uterine wall. I would’ve hemorrhaged and could have died. If that is ultimately what the anti-pro-choice folks are about, then I’m not only enraged but also grateful that I had the choice to stay alive and take care of the family I have versus any family that may or may not have been. – Jane, West Roxbury


Kara Baskin can be reached at kara.baskin@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @kcbaskin.