This June marks my fifteenth year as a nurse. Fifteen years. Nuts. I’ve worked in emergency departments, inpatient psychiatry, outpatient psychiatry, as a COVID-19 vaccinator, and as a school nurse. Those I think were all of my “official” nurse positions. Unofficially I have nursed many people in many more settings including but not limited to my Dad, my kids, recently my dog, and many other friends and family members and strangers.
When I was 19 I took a bus to Washington D.C. on a whim with women I didn’t know, for the March for Women during the tenure of Bush. It was before I went into nursing school. It was when I didn’t even know why I supported being pro-choice. I was raised in a church that was pro-life. And my family didn’t really ever discuss it. But I felt in my gut that women should be able to choose for themselves at a very young and naive age.
I am still pro-choice but I can formulate coherent sentences around why now.
What I struggle with is that I know I personally, could never get an abortion. Well, I say that, but I have never been in the situations I have witnessed with friends and clients and patients. So I guess I will say, I do not think I could get an abortion- especially after my experience with IVF and pregnancy. Because I remember feeling the first flutter. And I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I could never get rid of this.’ But as I said, I worked hard for those boys. I wanted them with all my heart and soul. I have never had a pregnancy that I feared.
In my work as a nurse I’ve seen and been told some pretty horrible abortion stories. I have never counseled a patient to have or not have an abortion. It is a time of complete neutrality for me as a healthcare provider. I am essentially a wall for them to talk at. I have treated young teenagers who sought abortions, I have treated women in their 40’s homeless, addicted to substances, seeking later term abortions, I have treated women days, months, and years after obtaining abortions. It is always a part of their narrative. It is often a part of themselves that is sad, shamed, unresolved, and takes a great deal of courage to disclose.
I have treated women who had to walk through protestors, who couldn’t tell their families, who went to classes or work still bleeding, still in pain, and “powered through” because they didn’t want any one to know or ask or suspect.
Abortion is like mental illness- it doesn’t discriminate. Women have sex. Women get pregnant- often on birth control, using condoms, or some other method of birth control. It is often very unintentional. And the decision to have an abortion has never been made lightly. Literally. I have never met a woman who didn’t have feelings around having an abortion. Who hadn’t put significant thought and emotion into the decision.
I was pro-choice when I was 19 because I was a naive and passionate woman who believed completely in the liberal agenda. I am pro-choice at age 37 after 15 years of nursing because I have seen women make the choice. I have supported them, held their hands, given hugs, sat watching them cry and holding space for their pain, and I have been the only one in the world outside of the OB-GYN who they have told. I am pro-choice now because I have never known a woman who has made that choice without losing a part of herself. Abortion leaves a palpable scar and women seem to know going in that it will be there and they do it anyway because it’s right for them.
I am pro-choice at 37 because I have carried my own babies and I know the incredible journey of pregnancy and parenthood. I also know that for a woman to not be ready for either journey should be up to her.
I have never known a woman to take the advice of an outside party over their own intuition.
We trust women to raise our babies. Why do we not trust them to decide if they are not able to raise them?
Please note I have not stated any woman’s reason for obtaining an abortion- just that they did. Because it’s no one’s damn business why they do or do not obtain an abortion. Incest. Rape. Substance abuse. Homelessness. Fetal abnormalities. Teenage pregnancy. There are countless reasons a woman obtains an abortion. Literally none of them are your business or your right to know.
I was never surrounded by people who were pro-choice growing up. It was not something we discussed. I certainly was not surrounded by pro-choice people in my undergraduate in a conservative area in upstate New York. I just knew in my gut that women deserve autonomy, privacy, and respect. I saw a poster almost completely covered on a bulletin board at my college. It was a flyer for the Women’s March. I ripped a piece off the bottom with a phone number. I called the phone number. I was screened to ensure I was not a pro-lifer trying to infiltrate. Then I met a bus in a parking lot around 11 PM and got on board. I went alone. I do not even know if I told my parents. I was 19. I remember sitting on a full bus. We drove over night and made it to D.C. We disembarked, and made the plan to meet up at the bus later that day.
I do not even remember any one’s name that was there. We didn’t talk much. All these women and I. We had nothing in common except a belief so strong that we took a bus with strangers to march on a rather warm day on the Mall. I listened to Hillary Clinton speak. I remember the protestors barely made a sound because the numbers of women in the march was so overwhelming. I remember it was actually very quiet. There was the sound of footsteps and breathing, and our signs. I remember the looks on our faces. There was a quiet resolute determination. There were women in their 70’s, 60’s, 50’s, 40’s, and so on. I remember thinking never had I seen so many different women all in one place all for common belief in one right.
I can’t tell you the sadness I feel now knowing those marches will have to continue. That more than marches the Democratic party needs to be as well oiled, organized, and funded as the GOP. The Democratic party acts shocked and appalled with each move of the GOP, but it should not be a surprise. Their plan dating back to my 19 year old brain was very clear. Take away rights for women and the LGBTQ community and any and all minority that are not straight cis white men. They play the long game.
The difference now is I’m 37 and trying to survive as a single parent and business owner. I do not have the bandwidth and time and energy for marches. Political activism is a privilege. That unfortunately at this time I do not have. It’s a shit feeling. That powerlessness watching as our rights are stripped away.