Health

I Got An Abortion At 17. Here's My Story

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner··  7 min read
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I Got An Abortion At 17. Here's My Story

For over a year I begged my mother to get me on birth control. I’d already escaped an abusive first love and a circle of friends determined to destroy themselves with pills, alcohol, and each other. Then I survived a suicide attempt and was forced to live with my father, a man who had a bad temper and sometimes made it worse by binge drinking.

I lived in his finished basement after my suicide attempt. My mother had given up trying to raise me. That left Uncle Dad ─ a term my sister and I coined because he was more like an uncle than a dad. 

The lower level of his house held three furnished bedrooms, a full bathroom, and a living room of its own. Even though we were still teenagers, we lived like adults. We had our own jobs and often bought our own food, cared for ourselves, and went days without even bumping into our dad. 

I’d gotten my worker’s permit at age 15. My parents’ inability to balance their budgets made me determined to fend for myself. Just before my senior year of high school I was working more than ever, and I knew my dad wouldn’t keep me in his house much longer. This made it harder not to rely on my boyfriend for the affection I craved, and one stupid night changed everything. 

A Teenage Pregnancy

It was only time we didn’t use protection, but I felt the conception shortly after. My insides swam. Something grew. I would be a mom, a teenage mom. All the questions I never wanted to ask swarmed me. How can I finish school? How will I afford childcare? Will I get enough hours at work? Where will I live?

I knew I didn’t have it in me to put a child up for adoption, and I had already heard a couple of girls at school talk about their abortions. Pro-abortion talk was everywhere. In movies, sophomore health class, women everywhere – all were screaming that it was a health right. When confessing the positive result to my boyfriend, he saw it as our only solution. 

Pro-abortion talk was everywhere.

We discussed the situation openly because I believed it was his decision too, but in the end, I was the one who felt the outcome. I didn’t want to force him to become a father against his will. So despite the fact that I didn’t want to abort my baby, I agreed to it.

My friends all supported me. Everyone said it seemed to be my only option. The workers at Planned Parenthood didn’t seem concerned at all. Contrary to popular belief, not all of their clinics do abortions, but plenty of them pander in favor of it. There was no concern for my health, well-being, or the need for counseling. They scheduled it for me and told me which location to go to. End of story. 

I Struggled Alone

I cried in private. Everyone acted like abortion was normal, so I hid my true feelings. I rubbed my womb and talked to the little thing growing in me and apologized countless times beforehand. 

My dad had no idea, but I called my mom and she agreed to drive me to the clinic and bring me home afterward. It was the beginning of August. I had just turned 18 and was starting my senior year of high school soon. 

Everyone acted like abortion was normal, so I hid my true feelings.

“I feel like this is partly my fault.” She stared ahead. “The only other time I dealt with something like this was after I was raped, and your grandmother told me she would get me an abortion if I was pregnant.” 

Her words struck me. I knew she had been raped, but she didn’t often talk about it. She spent more time lecturing my sister and me on how to avoid meeting the same fate.

It comforted me somehow, but I felt guilty, guilty for getting pregnant and guilty for allowing the father of my child to convince me to walk into a clinic that stunk of antiseptic and disinfectant. My stomach twisted, but somehow I checked in and was called forward. 

The Abortion Procedure 

I was taken back to an ultrasound room. The state law required ultrasounds before every abortion. I clenched my teeth and held my breath as the technician squeezed jelly on the device and rolled it onto my abdomen. The technician showed me what I was giving up. It made everything more real.

I knew what I was doing before I got there, but I gaped at the image. “It’s so small.” I hesitated, ready to change my mind. 

Before I could escape, the technician rushed me to the procedure room. “We’re almost there,” she said. 

The coldness in her voice made things worse. The image remained with me, a tiny peanut of a potential person, so small and helpless. I couldn’t forget it. I never will. 

The sensation of a life being ripped away is an indescribable horror.

This was back when they still used a suction device for abortions even in the earlier pregnancy stages. It wasn’t as simple as taking a few pills. I was brought into the procedure room and told to get onto a cold table, put my feet in the stirrups, and lay back. My legs shook. 

The doctor rolled a device over. It was a hideous tube meant to pass into my body. Tears filled my eyes. I didn’t want to stay there another second, but I felt that I had no other choice. I let the doctor vacuum an eight-week-old fetus from my body. 

I tensed the moment it detached. I felt the loss the second it was done. The sensation of a life being ripped away is an indescribable horror. Emptiness washed over me.

Living with the Aftermath

I often imagined the little baby I could have had. When asked, “Would you change it if you could go back?” I usually answer, “If I could go back, I would have prevented getting pregnant altogether.” 

Afterward, I spent weeks crying, lying around mourning. When I went back to school and work, the cramps and the after bleeding made the mental and spiritual pain so much worse. But I was a well-indoctrinated girl. I told myself my heart wasn’t broken by the procedure and that I did what I needed to. 

I punished myself. I told myself I gave up my chance at motherhood and shouldn’t be allowed to have children.

For years I parroted those propagandist lines. And I punished myself. I told myself I gave up my chance at motherhood and shouldn’t be allowed to have children. It took years before I finally forgave myself and looked for redemption in life.

This is not uncommon. According to a recent study, at least a third of women experience some kind of psychological side-effects from abortion procedures. And there are organizations working to help us. They may be considered small, or unpopular, but they do exist for a reason.  

Closing Thoughts

The birth of my first daughter not only offered me a sense of peace, but it was also an awakening. Abortion may be liberating for some women, but it wasn’t for me and I needed to admit that my maternal rights were more important than everything I had been taught. 

My abortion will have been 20 years ago this August, and I am now the mother of four children: two girls and two boys. I have a fulfilling writing career and my family always comes first. My children’s love and our bond existed from the second they were created. When I think of the baby that could have been, I always ask for forgiveness. Because I loved that little being with everything that I am, and still I severed our bond, something I can never take away no matter how much I wish I could. 

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