I was against abortion — until I faced a dangerous pregnancy

Ten years ago, the birth of my first child took a heavy physical toll. The pregnancy was very difficult, culminating in an emergency C-section. A year later, despite taking birth control, I unexpectedly became pregnant a second time. I knew my body was not ready for the trauma of giving birth again so soon.   

Growing up in a religious household, I was taught to oppose abortion in most circumstances. When I became pregnant again, I couldn’t help but think about the danger of attempting to deliver a second child so soon. I was forced to re-examine my beliefs. I came to realize that abortion is a life-saving, life-preserving and essential service, and I was now among the many people faced with making this deeply personal choice.   

That experience motivated me — and enabled me — to get a college degree and become a registered nurse at a women’s health clinic in Detroit. I see hundreds of people every month who would experience all manner of severe hardship — including death — without access to safe abortion.    

The traction anti-abortion forces are gaining across America is terrifying. With what appears to be an anti-abortion majority sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court, abortion opponents have been emboldened in a way I’ve not seen in my lifetime.  

It’s an extremely misguided and dangerous attempt to take us back to the very dark times that existed before the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling legalized abortion throughout the United States.   

“Since January, there have been 561 abortion restrictions, including 165 abortion bans, introduced across 47 states. A whopping 83 of those restrictions have been enacted across 16 states, including 10 bans (as of June),” according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights.   

Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a case over a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Here in Michigan, about a dozen bills seeking to reduce access to abortion have been introduced, despite overwhelming public opposition to such restrictions. Pew Research Center polling found that 60% of American adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases.   Despite being in the minority, opponents of reproductive rights are determined to have their way. While a deadly pandemic continues to take its toll, we are also seeing a surge in the number of people who gather outside our clinic to harass the people coming in for care that they need and are legally entitled to. It is extremely disheartening, and deeply troubling. 

We all need to acknowledge this fundamental fact: Outlawing abortions will not stop them from occurring. Instead, people with means will be able to travel to places where abortions remain safe and legal. We are seeing that occur at the clinic where I work. People are flying in from Texas, where earlier this year, the state Legislature enacted a draconian anti-abortion law that, in essence, puts a bounty on abortion providers, and anyone else who provides needed support to someone in need of an abortion. It is a radical attempt to eliminate the essential support network so many need to access abortion. Without access, the promise of a constitutionally protected right to abortion is empty.  

Those who can’t afford the costs of taking time off work and travelling out of state will be forced into pregnancy, or put their lives at risk by obtaining abortions outside the safety of a medical setting. History provides us with irrefutable proof that people will always find a way to have an abortion, safe or not, legal or not, because their survival can depend on it.   

In the clinic where I work, we see people who abortions for so many different reasons. Some, like me, are doing so to protect their own health and lives. Others were raped, or are victims of domestic violence. Many people seek abortions because of devastating financial hardships. We also see people who simply don’t want to be parents. Any and all reasons to have an abortion are valid.    

Three years after my son was born, I gave birth to a girl. She is 7 years old now. 

I want her to have the same right I had to a safe, legal and affordable abortion, regardless of the reason. The prospect that kind of care might not be available for her fills me with dread.  My son, too, could be affected, if he has a partner who needs an abortion and won’t have access to a procedure that is safe.  

How do we assure that nightmare scenario doesn’t materialize?   

It starts with awareness. It is important that everyone who supports a person’s right to make their own decisions regarding their bodies follow closely what is happening in the Michigan Legislature, and to contact their legislators when they attempt to pull us backward.    

But that is just the start. I also urge people to support groups engaged in the battle to protect reproductive freedom. Make financial contributions to health clinics that provide abortions, or volunteer so that we can continue doing our work and providing the care so many need.   

The need to engage in this fight, however you chose to do so, has never been more urgent.   

Ashia George is a registered nurse. 

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