This was an anonymous submission that we received on 5/28 (photos were taken by the Agenda). First, here is the quick background:
From BuzzFeed on potential NC gay marriage legislation: “Rebuking his fellow Republicans, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory vowed Thursday to veto legislation passed hours before by the state legislature that would let court officials recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on their religious beliefs.”
From the Charlotte Observer on potential NC abortion legislation: “After a long and passionate debate, the N.C. Senate Thursday tentatively passed a bill that would make North Carolina the fourth state to require women to wait 72 hours before getting an abortion.”
In light of the North Carolina Senate tentatively passing HB 465, I felt it was time to tell my story – even if it is anonymously.
In debate around the bill, Senator Erica Smith Ingram said, “We have a brain, we have bodies. You have no ability to understand this decision made by women about their bodies. It is a very difficult decision… It is insulting to say that I cannot make up my mind and I need 72 hours to consider my options.”
Only three of the five Mecklenburg County senators agreed with Sen. Ingram. Only three out of five of my elected representatives feel that I’m capable of making decisions for myself in a timely manner. Two of my elected officials feel that I need to be put in timeout so I can really think about what I’ve done – or in this case, what I’m about to do.
In Charlotte, there are two options for women seeking abortions. One sits on the corner of E. Hebron St. and South Blvd. The single-story brick building is surrounded by barbed wire, with a string of protestors standing on the sidewalk yelling into a microphone attached to a portable amp. Sometimes, they yell their own stories and regrets; sometimes, they sling personalized insults over the fence, through the glass windows and right into the hearts of women making the hardest decision of their lives.
Its walls are lined with mismatched chairs, the paint is dirty and a color faintly reminiscent of dried vomit. The air is heavy with the stench of sweat, stale cigarette smoke and fear. That place is full of fear.
I’m not sure what lawmakers think about abortion clinics, but no one in that place is smiling. No one is eagerly and proudly chatting about their decision. Everyone stares at their phone or their hands or the floor. It’s almost as if an invisible weight hangs from all their necks making eye contact impossible.
When it’s finally time to go to the back, most women have already been waiting in a packed room for hours – even with an appointment. Hours of listening to the condemning chants of the protestors, Googling protestor claims about the doctor and questioning every single decision they’ve ever made.
No one is allowed to go back with you when you have an abortion. It takes two people to create a life, but only one person carries the unbearable weight of choosing to end it.
Just when the wait seems over, the women are led into yet another room… to wait. Here, all the lights are dimmed and a comedy plays on a television in the corner. Knockoff poster paintings of fertile women cover the walls. Are those posters a cruel joke or a promise that one day you can be fertile again – when you’re not so scared, when it’s not so hard, when it’s right?
If a woman is past her eighth week, the abortion pill is no longer a legal option. The women waiting for medical abortions are given Valium and left on the couches to let it kick in. These women sit draped in cheap, thin blankets with their heads bobbing and eyes glazed over as the drug kicks in with calming and numbing effects. They’re like zombies compared to the nervous energy of the women waiting for a pill.
Even if a woman gets the pill, the doctor must give an examination before providing both doses. His voice is jarringly loud and inappropriately jovial in the exam room that doubles as the operation room. The machine sits dripping ominously on the floor next to him as he slaps on a pair gloves. This room is the only one where the protestors’ voices aren’t audible.
The second option for Charlotte women seeking abortions sits tucked in the back of a quiet medical park near the intersection of Wendover and Randolph. There are no barbed wire fences or protestors waiting on the sidewalk. Instead of chanting, there’s the gentle soundtrack of a fountain as you walk through a quiet atrium to the office door.
Here, the carpet is clean and the waiting room is empty. Instead of waiting hours to be seen, the process moves quickly. Before long, it’s time to go back to the final waiting room. This is still a walk made alone.
Maybe it’s the large window filling the back waiting room with sunshine or the fact that the chairs are in a circle, but here women talk. Tentatively, at first, they start to share their stories with one another. Looking for reassurance, looking for forgiveness, looking for understanding – the women express their fears, their reasons, their shame. At least, the group I was with did.
You see, I went to the first clinic – the one with a fence to keep out anger, full of zombies and a dirty floor. I went and I couldn’t do it. Two days later, I went to the second location. The second time, I stayed.
In total, I thought about my abortion for more than 72 hours before finally swallowing the pill. I waited for 72 hours and didn’t change my mind.
Judge me for my decision, but hear me.
Women are going to get abortions whether you make them wait 24 hours or 72. They’re going to get abortions whether it’s legal or not. By creating hurdles, we’re not changing women’s decisions; we’re making it harder for them to get an abortion safely and legally.
I thank the three Mecklenburg district representatives who stood up for me, the women I met that day and all the women to follow.
In a statement announcing he would veto the state bill allowing court officials to recuse themselves from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on religious beliefs, our former mayor and now governor acknowledged strong opinions are based in religion, but called us a nation and state of laws. He promised to support and defend the Constitution.
Based on this statement, I urge him to also veto HB 465. There are great parts in this piece of legislation, but the section about delaying abortions isn’t one of them.