When I knew I was pregnant, I also knew I was going to have an abortion. So I booked an appointment at the closest clinic and had to wait until the following week, because there was no space. The date finally arrived, and I had to take two buses and the subway during rush hours to get to the clinic. I was very anxious and concerned that the doctors would not see me if I showed up late.
During the consultation, I was asked if I was sure about my decision. I had no doubts about it; I wanted an abortion. I was approximately four weeks pregnant, so the doctor offered me two options: waiting for another two weeks and having a surgical abortion, or taking pills that would stop the pregnancy and create a reaction in my body, very similar to a miscarriage.
I could not wait anymore. I chose the medical abortion. Not only would it mean having an abortion earlier; it also was not invasive and was much more private. I knew I did not want to wait fifteen more days, spend more time at the clinic and have to travel for more than an hour after the procedure to get home. So an abortion with pills was what I had.
Later that day, I took the first pill (mifepristone), after eating a hamburger in a mall. At that moment, I allowed myself to think of the possibility of parenting. I did not have to think about it for a long time. I knew, once again, that I was making the best decision for me, and that I was doing the right thing.
The next day, I took the rest of the package (4 pills of misoprostol) at home. Between one and two hours later, I started bleeding. I was scared of seeing a river of blood and experiencing unbearable pain. But for me, it was nothing like that. It felt like a very heavy period with cramps for the first couple of hours, and then it slowed down. When night came, the bleeding was more like a normal period, and I had no cramping at all. During the next few days, the blood lessened, until it disappeared.
I did not have any discomfort beyond the cramps, but I remember being very scared. I knew abortion was legal in Mexico City and I understood what the doctor had told me. Yet still, somehow, the most vivid images of what an abortion looked like were those of unsafe abortions, which were widely used by anti-women’s rights groups.
I had enough information, yet I was haunted with fear during the entire process. Despite having a smooth medical abortion, I was terrified that something could go wrong because of the common pro-life representation of an abortion as horror and gore was still in my mind.
I had an abortion with pills, and yes, there was blood and clots, but only a little more than what I see every month when I have my period. I did not realize, at that time, that an abortion could be so easy. I wish I had known that a medical abortion could be a very safe procedure when done with the right pills and information.
The idea of an abortion as a dangerous process has fed the misconception that it is a procedure only health care providers can supervise and perform. However, abortion pills have been used by women for many years, and with few complications, because we are capable of taking care of ourselves and having home-based abortions.
I knew abortion was the right decision for me, and I know now that a medical abortion was also the best procedure for me. I could complete the process at home, be with only the people I wanted to be with, have the comfort of my own bed, and do it on my own terms. It also gave me a sense of autonomy as I decided when, where and how I was going to have a procedure so personal and private.
I was fortunate enough to live in a place near Mexico City, and to have the time and money to travel to get the abortion pills. Most women in Mexico and other countries do not have the same privilege, but some still can rely on secure sources to get pills and have safe procedures. They need to know abortion pills can be a very safe method when they cannot access medical treatment in their own areas.
Medical abortions have become one of the safest options in places where abortion is illegal, but stigma and criminalization have stopped many women from sharing their stories and spreading the word about abortion with pills. I know every woman is different, and our abortions are different as well, but I want to be a voice for all the women who have been unable to say that medical abortion is a safe, private, and easier than expected procedure that has helped many women – including me – have the life they want for themselves.
Bárbara Hernández, counselor for the international organization safe2choose, had a medical abortion in 2010. She helps women to access information and safe medical abortion everyday. She wanted to share her story with us, so women in different parts of the world can trust in their ability to make decisions about their own bodies with minimal medical guidance.
For more information, visit www.safe2choose.org or send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org