by Emily Everetts
My voice was trembling when I spoke the words “I decided to choose abortion.” I was telling my personal story and expressing my opposition of House Bill 695, a bill that would shut down all but one abortion clinic in the state of North Carolina. It started to hit me that I was in front of lawmakers, anti-choicers, supporters and television cameras. My legs started to go numb and my hands started to shake. I had to remind myself to look every lawmaker that has voted against women in the eye. Before I knew it, I was thanking them for their time and walking to my seat.
Every woman’s situation is unique, but my story is this: I was eighteen years old, a senior in high school, and I was in a relationship with a man slightly older than me. I didn’t know much about sex education or about protecting myself against pregnancy. I was on birth control, but birth control isn’t 100% effective. A couple months in, the man I was in a relationship with started showing his real colors. He was emotionally abusive. He called me terrible names and even though I knew that this wasn’t a healthy relationship, I stuck around. Soon after I found out I was pregnant. I was terrified. I was afraid to tell him, but I was even more afraid to tell my family. We’ve never talked openly about sex.
I didn’t tell anyone for a month. I knew in my mind that I couldn’t raise a child with a man who couldn’t go a sentence without belittling me. I also knew I did not want to walk across the stage to receive my diploma while pregnant. The best choice for me was to have an abortion. Thankfully, I had a regular job and had enough money saved to pay for my own abortion without my family knowing. The man I was in a relationship with knew my decision and surprisingly supported it. I had to go to the next city over to undergo my procedure. It was physically quick and painless, but I won’t lie, emotionally it was hard. Going through anything like this alone is very difficult, but I knew this was the best decision that I could make for myself at the time.
A couple months after I had my abortion, I met Philip, who’s now my husband, and we fell in love. We were young when we got married–I was still only 18. People gave me hell for this decision, but 4 years of marriage later, I still feel like it was the best choice I’ve ever made. We decided we were ready to start a family, and after a few months of trying, we were elated to find out that we were expecting. Our daughter, Caroline, was born in April 2010. I was 19 years old and my husband was 20.
Being young parents was something that we were judged for, but we were financially stable and mentally ready. A lot of young parents are judged harshly, and we felt that—the anti-choice people who would have condemned me for my abortion would also condemn me for not being abstinent, and some pro-choice people believed that we were making a mistake to have a child so young. In this way, being pregnant young is something of a lose-lose situation, but everyone deserves the right to choose for themselves when to have a family.
I’ve been asked why I would publicly speak about something as personal as my abortion. My answer is simple: why not? The thing is, this is my story. I’m tired of my decision being shamed. Abortion is not and should not be shameful. It also should not be controversial. Society has shamed women from openly speaking about their personal medial decisions, whether it be to terminate a pregnancy or carry it to term. When access to safe and legal abortion is at risk, we can remind lawmakers that their policies affect real people and real lives by sharing our own experiences. We need to show them that we are successful, happy, and brave, and that and we deserve better from them. We deserve not to be judged and talked about as if we are some kind of subspecies. We have to start speaking for ourselves.
I truly believe the more that we open up and have educational conversations about abortions, the fewer frightened, pregnant teenagers there will be. Teenagers will be more comfortable talking about sexual matters with their parents or other trusted adults, and will be more knowledgeable about preventing pregnancy, as well as their options if they do become pregnant. Young people need and deserve to have honest conversations with their parents and other adults, but shaming and stigmatizing certain medical procedures won’t make that happen.
My decision allowed me to follow my dreams and become a mother on my own time. My decision allowed me to leave my abuser and marry a man who loves me unconditionally. If I didn’t decide to have an abortion then, I wouldn’t be the parent I am today. We must stand up to these radical lawmakers and let them know that we are real people, not just make believe characters that they can silence. I know many women, myself included, who have had abortions and gone on to have happy endings as a direct result of their right to choose. Let’s let others have those happy endings as well.
Emily Everetts is a 22 year old wife, mother and women’s health activist living in North Carolina. She is currently working toward her Bachelor’s in Social Work. She can be found at twitter.com/becomethebullx, and you can see her full testimony in front of the NC General Assembly here, around 1:17:30.