About a month ago, I was catching up with an old pal when my phone rang. I silenced it, and it rang again. And rang again. Three more times. Well, it turned out to be important. A young friend of mine was calling for advice. After all was said and done, my friend agreed to write about that experience for us.
I’ve always felt strongly about the necessity of access to abortion care, but I recently knew someone, for the first time, who was having difficulty getting an abortion. I live in a place where it wouldn’t be uncommon for an 18-year-old girl to be thrown out of the house for seeking abortion, and although I’ve been aware of that reality, it didn’t really resonate with me until I met one who was facing this and needed to pay for and obtain an abortion without her parents’ knowledge.
A girl that I’ve been good friends with for a few years came to me for help. Her friend was trying to get an abortion, she told me, and they’d had an appointment at a clinic, but when they showed up, she had been turned down because the clinic could only provide abortions up to 16 weeks, and she was at 16 weeks and 4 days. She had already had to travel for this appointment, since she lived in a small town, and now not only would she have to travel again, she had to get an overnight dilation, so she would need a place to stay in addition to the procedure costing much more than she had originally expected.
The way this could suddenly become so much more complicated amazed me. All of a sudden she had a week to find a place to stay and a large sum of money and an excuse to tell her parents that she was driving to another town. I was impressed at how committed my good friend was to helping her friend with this, but I still felt so bad that she seemed helpless. I called my friend Placenta Sandwich to see if there was anything I could do to help.
The next day, the girl and I sat down and talked. We called several abortion funds, leaving messages. We found that the clinic that would be the easiest to get funding help for was the one she had already tried. We also talked about finding a place to stay, and my sister tried to find her a host for the night. Before she left, we hadn’t resolved any of these issues, and I had a moment of indecision. I had some money on me, not that significant a percentage of the abortion cost, maybe, but it could help. Maybe it could help with a place to stay or just a small part of the procedure. And I knew $40 was a lot of money to give to someone I barely knew, but I thought about what I would do with it otherwise, and nothing I could think of spending it on seemed to be as important as helping someone with such a small support system.
I gave her the money, she gave me a hug, and she left. Through the following week we kept calling the funds each day, kept working on where she could stay, but come the day of the appointment, we had nothing. She got half of the money from her ex-boyfriend and paid for a hotel with her friend. She thanked me later, saying just knowing she had my support was a great help, and she said she felt fine after the procedure and it all went well, but I couldn’t help but feel like I had failed.
I know that it wasn’t my responsibility, nor was there anything more I could have done, but it made me realize just how difficult obtaining abortion care is. Even if you find a clinic that can help you, you might need to travel for it, which means you need a place to stay, which often requires money, you need to pay for gas, you need to pay for the procedure itself, and sometimes, this is all compounded by having to keep it completely secret. I wanted so badly to be able to help.
I don’t know if I’m going to be an abortioneer. There are some other career paths I am considering, and I’m young. But this experience definitely made me feel like I might be called to do that. For now, I want to leave the area that I live in. But I want to come back and make it a better place for women. I want people to be able to get abortions without having to go to another city. I want girls not to be struggling to figure out how they’re going to pay AND keep it a secret. I want them to feel like they have people looking out for them, whether they live in a big city or the middle of nowhere. So maybe it doesn’t matter so much that I want to live in a city or that I might want a different job; maybe it’s worth some sacrifice.