Jessica Sanders: It’s 4 a.m. and I am grieving my future abortion

Outlawing abortion will not change what is right for me, my body and my family.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A rally in the Capitol Rotunda in Salt Lake City on Tuesday May 21, 2019 was part of a nationwide series of protests to bring attention as a number of conservative states pass laws aimed at getting abortion before the U.S. Supreme Court.

It is 4:10 a.m. on May 3 and I can’t sleep.

For the first time in a while, I am not being kept awake by a sick kid, a crying toddler, an old dog barking or a snoring husband. I’m staring at the ceiling, grieving the loss of control, confidence and dignity of my future abortion.

My first pregnancy and delivery went relatively well. After 36 hours of labor, I delivered a healthy baby girl and experienced heavy postpartum bleeding. I was grateful for the excellent medical care I received. Following my pregnancy, the healing process was long and hard. I was left with a weakened pelvic floor, so now when I sneeze or laugh, I pee a little. For me though, being her parent is well worth it!

In 2019, we wanted to grow our family again. Pregnancy symptoms, including debilitating pelvic bone pain and sciatica, started early in my pregnancy. I could barely walk, but I could bear it because I was excited to have another child. My delivery had some minor complications including a retained placenta and some significant tearing. I came home feeling like I had been hit by a bus and fully in love with our newest family member.

Like many new parents, I found that COVID-19 offered many significant challenges, exacerbating my postpartum depression. Our family survived and, in many ways, thrived, and I am feeling more like myself these days. I love being a mom and am so grateful for my two amazing children.

But here I am, lying awake.

I know our family is complete. We are actively avoiding pregnancy, but if I found myself pregnant again, I would do everything in my power to terminate that pregnancy in the safest possible way for my wellbeing and for the sake of my family. I’m resourceful and knowledgeable and resilient, and I’m grieving the loss of my ability to access my abortion from health care providers in my community. My future abortion looks different now, more complicated, more isolated, more expensive, less like health care and more like a logistical nightmare, and that is the best-case scenario.

Working in obstetrics and gynecology and public health, I have known the Supreme Court decision on abortion was looming, I am not surprised but am deeply saddened. I also know that outlawing abortion will not change what is right for me, my body and my family. Abortion is a decision made by hundreds of thousands of women, trans and gender expansive individuals every year, many of whom, like me, are already parents.

This legal change will disproportionately harm individuals who already experience racism and marginalization as well as people who do not have the resources to travel to an abortion clinic in a state where abortion is legal or know about local abortion funds or about safe self-managed medication abortions.

There will be individuals who will not be able to access the health care that is essential for their bodies and their lives, and there will be providers who are no longer trained in these life-saving procedures.

For now abortion is still legal. We have wonderful providers in our state that will support you in getting the care you need without shame.

This will not be the last night of sleep I lose over the Supreme Court’s impending and imposing decision. I will keep talking about ordinary abortions, complicated abortions and doing research on health outcomes and supporting abortion access.

Your decision might be different, your future abortion might look different. Whatever your story, it is unique and valid. But, for now, I am losing sleep while dreaming about having equal protections under the law, the right to bodily autonomy, and a country and state that honors the complex realities of the human experience.

Jessica Sanders

Jessica Sanders, Ph.D., Salt Lake City, is a public health and family planning researcher with the ASCENT center for Reproductive and Sexual Health Policy and Research at the University of Utah. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily those of the university.