Let's Talk About Abortion

I am an English-to-Spanish medical interpreter. Having worked in two different cities, I have been to more hospitals and clinics in one week than you do in months. In fact, I have probably been to more hospitals and clinics than doctors and nurses themselves. I go wherever is accessible to me; sometimes that means five different medical facilities in one day. I have seen my share of joys and tragedies.


But one thing that always stands out to me is pregnancy. I have seen birth, witnessed twins being taken out of the belly through a c-section. I have seen numerous pregnant women, some who shine with joy, who caress their tummies and tell me about their other kids, who smile wide when the ultrasound machine plays her baby's heartbeat. Some who sit quietly, who warn me against having kids at a young age.


I have also seen abortion; some women appear sad and distraught. One woman wouldn't survive the pregnancy, and she said the guilt of choosing her own life instead of her child’s will always weigh her down, but she has other kids and a husband she cannot leave. Some women are calm, ready to get it over with, they really do not want the child, used all kinds of protection during sex and still got pregnant. She's not going to burden herself or a child, she says.


The creation of life is and always will be beautiful. However, the beauty of bearing children often overlooks the effect that a child will have on the world and the people around it. I'm here to talk about abortion. But before I do this, I want to disclaim that I am in no way an expert, and I am not pretending to know everything about bearing children, abortion or its consequences as I myself have not experienced it. This is also not a conversation about whether abortion is murder or not, or when abortion should take place. Although I believe those are important questions to answer, the first step is discussing the woman's right to choose.


I'll just start by quoting the title of a very informational article: “Abortion Is as Old as Pregnancy.” The title speaks for itself--abortion is not new. Some of the oldest human civilizations, such as the Egyptians, had their own ways to abort a pregnancy through herbs. Unsurprisingly, they often used herbs as forms of birth control, too. In the United States in the 1600s, enslaved African women would use cottonwood plant to abort when it was a pregnancy caused by rape. Additionally, as other options, they had different plants they could consume that would cause the abortion of a fetus. My point here is that abortion is not new, and women have been doing it for centuries.


I believe it is important to note that, because we argue abortion should be accepted given we live busy, modern lives where it is all about education and work. However, we fail to normalize that some women just do not want children, and that is okay. Abortion does not always happen because having a kid is expensive and hard, and we need to quit demonizing women who have no wish to be mothers. Females are not required to be mothers, and ending a pregnancy does not make them murderers. For anyone who believes it does, it should still be under the woman’s control to decide if she wants to “murder” her child or not.


It was not until 1921 that the first anti-abortion law was passed in the United States. With it, the already-existing gender roles got far more ingrained into cultural values. It did not take long for the rest of the country to follow. It's now been almost 100 years of anti-abortion laws, and because of it dozens of ways to abort illegally have also arisen. Unlike what is usually believed, the number of women who die due to illegal abortions has decreased globally. Why? Women have found safe but illegal ways to abort. Santa Clara University Law professor Michelle Oberman found that in El Salvador, a large amount of the female population aborted by combining two drugs: misoprostol and mifepristone. The two drugs make it so that the body ends the pregnancy with minimal complications. Despite the fact that abortion in El Salvador is illegal, one in every three pregnancies ends in abortion. This goes to show that making abortion illegal will not stop it.


Body autonomy is key here. Let’s quickly discuss organ donation to prove a point. If a healthy individual did not consent to donate organs before they died, no one is permitted to take their organs--even if it might save several people lives. The argument is, you can’t make a choice like that for anyone, even if others might benefit. So even if making abortion illegal will save the lives of countless babies, no one should choose what women should or should not do with their bodies.


With my experience around pregnant women, what do I think should we do about it? Should abortion be legal or illegal?


Frankly, it does not matter what I think. What I, or what anyone else thinks about abortion does not matter. Any female or AFAB(assigned female at birth) trans individual able to get pregnant has the right to choose what to do with their body. No matter if it is a man, woman, pro- or anti-abortion, what matters is what the pregnant person wants, and they should be able to choose without the fear of death. My patients with cancer always get asked if they want chemo, surgery, any other treatment, or nothing. Sometimes treatment or no treatment still means death, sooner rather than later, but still death. However, when the patient asks what the doctor recommends, the doctor will unquestionably always say, “it does not matter what I think. It. Is. YOUR. Body. It. Is. YOUR choice. You do what you think is best for you.”


Not to say cancer and pregnancy are the same thing, but fundamentally speaking, body autonomy is what I am defending here. I am also speaking up for individuals who just do not want to be parents, it does not strip away anyones “womanhood” or humanity. I also believe its important to remember that abortion has been practiced for centuries in many different ways and in hundreds of cultures. Years of women doing this demonstrates there are valuable reasons behind it.


Ultimately, being present in both birth and abortion, I can say they can both be just as sad, joyful, and empowering as the other. It all depends on the person, and I fully accept and respect both.