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June 27, 2007

I Was Betrayed by a Pill

The abortion pill was supposed to make termination safe, easy, and discreet. One pro-choice advocate found it anything but.

pills and cup

Photo Credit: Ben Goldstein/Studio D

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From the moment it was approved in 2000, I believed in the abortion pill. I thought, Finally! Abortion would at last become what it always should have been: a private medical matter between a woman and her doctor. It held the promise of a swift, at-home termination. There would be no more gauntlets of protesters at clinics, because who would know which physicians were dispensing the pills? Even better, the pill would keep abortion accessible at a time when fewer gynecologists were willing to perform them out of fear of attacks.

Nonetheless, I never expected I'd need to consider using it myself. I had just been at my gyno discussing fertility options. Stewart and I were getting married, and we planned to try for a baby right after the wedding. At 38, I was supremely aware that my window of opportunity was closing. Little did I know, lying there with my feet in the stirrups, pondering whether I ought to freeze my eggs in case we had trouble conceiving later, that I was already pregnant; it was too early to detect with a pelvic exam. But four weeks later, as I stared at the double pink lines (I took three tests to be sure), the facts were undeniable.

I should have been elated. Instead, I was distraught. This was not how things were supposed to go. My concern was about more than tossing middle-class conventionality-wedding first, family second-out the window. At the time, Stewart and I were living in Las Vegas, land of the all-night-and-way-into-the-next-morning party. In order to work all day and party, party, party all night, I'd been relying on a cocktail of caffeine and Peruvian marching powder. When I backtracked through my calendar, I realized I'd gotten pregnant when I was, shall we say . . . marching almost daily.

Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! I cursed myself as I drove home from the Walgreens where I'd bought the third test, hoping against hope that there had been a mistake with the other two. I was so impatient for the results, I ripped open the package in the store bathroom and peed on the wand right there. Oh, I was pregnant all right. How could I have been so irresponsible? You start a pregnancy with a healthy diet and prenatal vitamins, not cocaine-I didn't have to consult a panel of experts to know that. No matter what I did from this point on, there would always be the chance that the baby would have problems-maybe physical ones, maybe psychological issues. I wasn't willing to roll the dice with another life. I could really see only one option. I broke the news to Stewart in one breath: I'm pregnant, and we need to abort.

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