I was 19 years old when I went to Femcare for an in-clinic surgical procedure known as aspiration. The Asheville center is the only one in the state that meets the surgical-ambulatory restrictions proposed in House Bill 695, or the Family, Faith and Freedom Protection Act, and Senate Bill 353, or the Health and Safety Law Changes. These bills, different in name, but alike in provision, developed concurrently in the North Carolina General Assembly. However, SB 353 has an additional section mandating doctors remain present for the use of “medication” abortion, a three-day treatment that uses mifepristone.
As of July 11, both of these aggressive anti-abortion bills passed the House and Senate and now await Gov. Pat McCrory’s signature. If put into effect, the unmanageable hike in costs resulting from the laws will not make abortion clinics safer — it will make abortion clinics nonexistent.
The difference between an abortion clinic and a surgical ambulatory center, or a hospital-style surgical center, is estimated to be $1 million in facility additions. According to Raleigh news outlet WRAL, the renovations included in this budget are: adjusted sink proportions, heavy construction for wider hallway dimensions sufficient for two gurneys and larger parking-lot spaces. And though it is not explicitly stated in the bill text that a doctor will have to remain available for all three days of mifepristone treatment, the adjustments to medical staff for the initial dose of treatment will further strain clinics.
This is not to say that the state’s other 15 clinics currently serving the women of North Carolina compromise the health of their patients. These clinics are routinely inspected and can be suspended for failure to meet regulations. Furthermore, Planned Parenthood states that an in-clinic abortion, in non-ambulatory centers, is a procedure 11 times less likely to end in fatality than childbirth. The burden of HB 695’s and SB 353’s strict and costly regulations are indeed more of a strategic move against women’s rights than a response to safety concerns.
Most of the chief national media outlets, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC and USA Today, have headlined some of this year’s most aggressive restrictions coming from states like Texas, Ohio, Wisconsin and North Dakota, where the state assembly just lost its battle to prohibit abortion after six weeks.
Six weeks into my pregnancy, my period was not exactly late, and the tests I administered consistently yielded negative responses. It was not until nine weeks, after no indications of menstruation, that I visited my college’s infirmary where, through a blood test, I learned I was pregnant.
I carefully deliberated my options, turning to my supportive mother to discuss adoption and other alternatives. It was in these moments of fear, when I was reeling from impending uncertainty, that my mother revealed she too once had to make this choice. My mother’s story of her decision to have an abortion gave this demonized term a tangible face, my own mother’s face.
And like my mother, I also became a face of abortion.
Seven years ago, had I not had the ability to make that choice in North Carolina, because a state legislation with an unjust agenda usurped my reproductive freedoms, it is possible I could have had to carry an unwanted child to term. Unwanted childbirth, a phenomenon that is the subject of a study directed by Diana Greene Foster at The University of San Francisco, can undermine the health and well-being of a child. Such negative consequences are just now gaining attention through Dr. Foster’s groundbreaking analysis.
When HB 695 and SB 353 reach Gov. McCory’s desk, despite the skepticism he shared about the blindsided tactics used to pass some of the legislation, I expect at least one of them will be met with his signature. But, what he and the numerous party officials controlling all of North Carolina’s state politics fail to admit is that they too have seen a face of abortion, as have you. According to Planned Parenthood, 1 out of 3 women in the U.S. have an abortion by the time they are 45 years old.
This face might pass you on your way to work, in the hallway at your office, or even sit across from you at your own breakfast table.
I was 19 years old when I chose to have an abortion — a decision I have never once regretted. My partner and I had the unconditional support of my family. And thankfully, my home state, North Carolina, recognized my right to make the best choice, my own choice, without legislative obstructions. I deserved the right to make that choice then, just as the women in your lives do now.