Abortion Decision Life-or-Death for Some by Celia Rivenbark

We had been married a little over a year when I had an abortion.

Put down your rocks and torches. If I had not had the abortion, I might well have died.

Not so simple now, is it? If I had been your wife, your daughter, your sister, your friend.

I had an abortion because I had a molar pregnancy in which a tumor forms in place of a normal placenta. Your body, and your blood work, doesn’t know that yet. You have a positive pregnancy test; you celebrate; you even buy a couple of baby things you will later shove into a shoebox and store in the attic. Left untreated, the aggressive tumor can spread to your lungs and, yes, kill you.

What do you think of that Judge Alito? And you, Texas legislature? Should I have stayed technically pregnant so you could require reams of documentation from my doctor while the tumor spread all through my body? There was hair and tiny fingernails and remnants of a fertilized egg in my uterus. Was that a sign of life to you?

For twelve months after my abortion, I had blood drawn and tested to monitor human chorionic gonadotrophic levels. If the numbers went up, I would need chemotherapy. It was terrifying waiting for that phone call from the nurse every month.

Would someone notice my friend from work, Denise, who saw me through so much of the ordeal and brought me lunch every single day for a week after? In Texas, there would be a bounty on the head of this kind mother of two. Think about that. Ponder the particular and vile level of crazy.

I know what you’re thinking: “But that’s not what we’re talking about. That’s not Roe v. Wade stuff. You were a married woman who experienced a rare medical complication.”

Every woman has a story and a reason. And, here’s the thing: It’s not your business. Abortion is an essential component of women’s health care says the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Exactly.

Are you honestly OK with passing legislation that forces a doctor to tell a thirteen-year-old she must carry her own father’s baby to term? That’s monstrous.

One of the most infuriating aspects of the Supreme Court’s opinion to overturn Roe is the hypocrisy it exposes. Oh, the pearl-clutching when demonstrators are peacefully protesting outside Justice Kavanaugh’s home. The horror! His sacred space is being violated! It’s a bridge too far to go to a person’s home, stand across the street and hold a candle. His privacy has been breached? Really? That’s rich.

The overwrought handwringing about the draft being leaked is equally hollow. You want to force a woman to have a baby despite whatever physical, emotional, financial toll it takes? That’s the ultimate privacy breach. And how much Viagra do you take? Does it work? Tell us more. Beg for it.

I asked you to put your rocks and torches down earlier. I knew some of you were already formulating a hateful email after reading the first sentence. And then, as you read further, your face relaxed, your pulse slowed. I was just a terrified victim of a freakish medical event so you wouldn’t need to scold me or boycott my column.

But what I really want to ask is that you put down your rocks and torches for that thirteen-year-old girl. And the mother of two who is already struggling to feed and care for those children. And the college student who isn’t ready to be a mother but will be one day.

Let’s abort cruelty. Yes. Let’s start with that.

I’m supportive of women who make that very difficult choice for their own very private reasons. It is not my call. It’s not your call.

Photo of protest, sign says "March Like Your Future Depends on It"
Photo by Gayatri Malhotra on Unsplash

Celia Rivenbark, a native of Duplin County, N.C., is the New York Times best-selling author of seven Southern humor books, including You Can’t Drink All Day If You Don’t Start in the Morning, You Don’t Sweat Much for a Fat Girl, and the Southern Independent Booksellers’ nonfiction book of the year We’re Just Like You, Only Prettier. Her weekly humor column appears in Gannett newspapers across the country. Celia is an award-winning playwright whose work has been recognized by the James Thurber Society for excellence in the humor genre. Her work has appeared in national and regional publications, including The Bitter Southerner, and she is a frequent guest on comedy and writing podcasts and video series. Celia lives in Wilmington, N.C., with her husband, Scott Whisnant, a hospital executive and true-crime author. They have one daughter, Sophie , a writer in Charlotte. Celia’s obsessions include Tarheel basketball, perfectly cooked collard greens and binging on TV that’s so bad it’s good. Her weekly column is available at https://celiarivenbark.com/weekly-column/.

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