WARNING: It’s about to get personal.
When I was nineteen, I got pregnant. It was the summer before my sophomore year at JMU. Now I could tell you an elaborate story of how all this happened, claim my contraception failed, come up with some reason to excuse my lack of protection…or I could just admit that I was simply being unsafe and thought I was somehow immune to pregnancy. Even though my mother got pregnant for the first time at fifteen and two of my sisters had babies before they were twenty, I acted like it couldn’t happen to me. Well, it did. And it was terrifying.
At first I thought I was suffering from a never-ending hangover from hell. You know the ones. They last a couple days, feel like an onset of the flu, can only be cured by skipping class and eating greasy food. Well, this was different. It didn’t go away. It persisted. Food was nauseating, standing made my head spin, I gagged every few minutes. After my mother noticed and rightly deduced that I was pregnant, she bought me a pregnancy test. It came out positive and I remember sitting on the tub in the bathroom crying. My best friend took me to our local Planned Parenthood. I paid a ridiculous thirty dollars to pee in a cup and be told that I was definitely pregnant, and have my options discussed.
I chose to have an abortion. And the pregnancy was early enough for me to get the abortion pill. I left with a hefty stack of papers with a bright orange sticky note on top that spelled out: gestation- 5 weeks, 6 days. There were several follow-up appointments. The one that was the most traumatic for me was the ultrasound.
Here’s where this gets political–in the state of Virginia, pre-abortion ultrasounds are required. Before my ultrasound appointment, I had to listen to a pre-recorded message telling me the details of what I should expect for my next appointments prior to the actual abortion. One of those details included that I would be undergoing a transvaginal ultrasound. This procedure was invasive and I had to bite my fist to keep from gasping. It was uncomfortable and humiliating. So were the questions I had to answer immediately before it happened. The doctor asked me if I wanted to hear the heartbeat, see the ultrasound, or know if I was carrying twins. This was required.
As if it was not enough the first time, a follow-up ultrasound was required a week after my abortion. This was to ensure it had worked–or that’s what the doctors had to tell me. So I had this invasive, unnecessary, traumatic procedure before I had to make an already difficult decision and then a second time. What the hell was the point?
It was not medically necessary, it did not help me make a decision. It, for me and for many other women, was something to scare us into changing our minds.
Now, here’s the thing. Virginia voted to repeal this ultrasound bill last week. And it failed. It failed even though many people oppose it. It failed even though people like me have shared their stories to show how unnecessary and traumatic it is. It failed even though doctors deny that it is useful or beneficial in the case of abortion care.
It failed because we have anti-choice politicians more concerned with the unborn than with homeless and abused children or women dealing with unwanted pregnancies. And, frankly, the bullshit has got to stop.
So, what can you do? Well, if you’re eighteen and registered, you can vote. Vote for people who identify as pro-choice, who oppose anti-choice policies like mandatory ultrasounds. Write to your elected officials. Sign petitions. Have debates. Make videos. Support women.
Keep fighting. We’re bound for change.