Editor’s Note: the story below was submitted anonymously by someone who had an abortion in DC.
So, I had an abortion during a pandemic.
I’ll be honest. As someone who has fought for abortion access for most of my career, it still felt very surreal when I missed my period, felt like my body just felt “different,” and bought a pregnancy test. Let alone the anxiety feeling all of this during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I’ve never wanted to become a parent (except a parent of cute furry animals and plants), so I knew intimately what I would do if I ever was in this situation. I just never thought I would be.
I’ve always been safe. I have a loving, caring partner who has supported me being safe and is equally supportive of my decision not to have children. I have been lucky to have been educated by my parents, my school, and by the internet on how to avoid getting pregnant if you don’t want to be.
But still here I was, staring blankly at a positive pregnancy test. Not wanting it.
I was nervous to tell my partner. Not that I was afraid of what he’d think or say, but because it just felt so embarrassing. Even though I’d spent years telling people in this same position that they should not be ashamed or embarrassed at all. That it happens.
I took the positive test and threw it in the trash. And then I sat back on the couch to watch another few episodes of whatever mindless show we were watching. But my mind raced. I was on my iPhone, as always, except instead of stalking work email or Instagram stories, I was looking up local abortion centers with appointments available in the next few days, and if they were open during the pandemic.
I found one near me that was open and made an appointment for two days later.
I told my partner the day before my appointment, kind of in passing. “So, I’ve been late. I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. I made an appointment for tomorrow at an abortion center to take care of it.”
“Wait, how did that happen?” were his shocked words, followed by “and do you want me to come with you?”
“Nope. It’s a pandemic so you can’t… but also, this feels like my mistake. We’ve been safe. So I don’t know how it happened exactly.”
He corrected me: “Hey, it’s OUR mistake.”
A day later, I was in an Lyft to a DC abortion provider. Alone. Wearing a mask and feeling really awkward during the 20 minute ride. I didn’t tell too many people about what was happening, but most I told had offered rides. But this felt like my burden and I wanted to face it alone. Plus, the clinic said I couldn’t have anyone in the waiting room with me because of the pandemic.
I finally got to the clinic at long last, signed in, and waited. After what felt like 20 minutes but was more realistically 2, I met with a nurse and explained how I had been feeling. She asked a few questions and confirmed I was pregnant. Exactly 5 weeks pregnant, actually. She asked if I wanted to see it. “No way,” I said adamantly (though I snuck a glance after she left the room. It looked like a dot). She asked if I wanted to FaceTime my partner. “Nah, it’s ok,” I said, feeling like even if they could’ve joined me to this experience outside of COVID-19, it felt very much like my experience; not ours. It was my body, after all.
“You know, I do a lot of advocacy work for abortion and keeping clinics around the country open and accessible,” I said, feeling awkward. “Even so, I have to say that it feels weird when it happens to you.”
The nurse laughed through her mask. “Girl, it’s always different when it’s you. I know what you mean.”
About 30 minutes later, a few minutes into pill #1 and after learning that no, my “excellent” health insurance from the progressive organization I work for would not cover my abortion (which cost over $400), I was calling a car back to my apartment. I was armed with abortion pills I’d take 48 hours later and so grateful that I had more than $400 in my bank account to pay for this ordeal. I know that most Americans cannot afford an unexpected $400 expense. It’s one of the stats I rattle off all the time when people ask about abortion access.
Still wearing a mask in the car, I felt so much more free.
“How’s your day going, ma’am?” the driver asked.
“It’s not too bad, given everything,” I said dryly, pointing at our masks, the experience that bonded us all in 2020.
“I feel you, I feel you,” he laughed. We chatted through our masks for the next 20 minutes about the weather, Mayor Bowser’s response to COVID-19, and the Trump Administration’s ignorance with a lot of “sorry what?” “what was that?” punctuating our conversation through the muffling of fabric.
As we arrived at my apartment building, we exchanged a look.
“Good luck, ma’am!”
“You too! Thank you!” like I’d normally say to a Lyft driver. Like I was just coming home from work, or the movies, or a night out with friends. Things none of us have done in months because of the pandemic.
And then I took the elevator up to my apartment. I knew I was going to be just fine. But all I could think of was the many, many patients who would struggle to get the pills I just had gotten. Who would experience real hardship paying $400 out of pocket. Who might have kids already to feed and care for. Who might be in abusive relationships. Or who just might not have a clinic near them.
I felt more than grateful. And more determined than ever to fight for abortion to be accessible for everyone.