By Kelsey Williams
I’m tired of having to defend myself, my decision, my situation, and that of other women.
I’m tired of those who have never met me nor took time to hear my story saying they know what’s best for me, of those who aren’t doctors proclaiming to know more than those who are.
I’m tired of being told that I didn’t know what was best for my baby and my family.
But no matter my exhaustion, I will follow through on the promise I made to myself and to my son: to raise my voice and share our story each and every time anti-choice bills are introduced, particularly one as restrictive as the one introduced last week.
That legislation, sponsored by Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Adams, and Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, R-Clinton, would ban abortion when a physician is able to detect a fetal heartbeat. That can happen at as early as six weeks, which is before most women even know they’re pregnant.
But I’ll raise my voice again, so that I can elevate one example of the truth above their rhetoric.
I had an abortion at 22 weeks into a very wanted pregnancy.
I had baby names on a short list. I had a Pinterest board full of ideas on how my two children – my 3-year-old and future baby – could share a room in our cozy, century-old house. I felt the joy that Mastriano and Borowicz described on Monday’s press conference at hearing my baby’s heartbeat for the first time.
But when I saw him on ultrasound for the first time at 20 weeks, 6 days, what I saw was not compatible with joy, or life as I define it – healthy, quality, free of suffering.
He wasn’t moving. His limbs and neck were deformed. His umbilical cord had a structural anomaly. If my pregnancy continued, he likely wouldn’t have the ability to swallow.
So I did what I knew was right for my son, my family, and myself; I chose to end the pregnancy. I could not carry my son for four more months to give birth to him knowing that his life would only be filled with pain and suffering.
The legislation that Mastriano and Borowicz want to force on Pennsylvania would have stripped me of my choice, my privacy, in my darkest, most grief-filled moments. It would have deprived me of my ability to act as a parent – a mother – and to make the best choice I could for me and my son.
If this proposal was the law when I was pregnant with my son, I would have been forced to carry him to term, only to watch him needlessly suffer.
Some might read this and think: “I would have made a different choice.” That reaction is precisely why I share my story: because each woman deserves to choose for herself, and privacy in which to decide.
Indeed, this is the only approach to this issue that encompasses love, kindness, mercy, and the pursuit of freedom.
When families are making the heart-wrenching decision of whether or not to continue life support for a severely ill loved one, we blanket them in love, sympathy and support. We do not legislatively interfere. We do not picket. We do not boldly tell them “I know what is best for you and your family.”
So why do anti-choice activists insist on doing this to women considering an abortion?
Mastriano said that he and others who are supporting this bill are approaching the issue “without fire and brimstone. We’re going to come with love and kindness, speaking the truth with love.”
I beg to differ. As a woman who has had an abortion, I don’t feel love or kindness from this bill or its advocates, and I certainly don’t hear the truth.
Restrictive bills such as this one, and the individuals advocating for it, carry a tone of judgement, righteousness, and shame.
So I say to Mastriano, Borowicz, and the other co-sponsors of this bill: You can correct your approach and come to this issue with love and kindness by listening to women like me who have walked this difficult path. Realize that the certainties you hold about abortion are yours and yours alone.
My fellow Pennsylvanians and I are well aware of the preciousness of pregnancy and having a family; it is for exactly that reason that we know this decision is such a personal one, one ask that we be left alone to make.
Kelsey Williams writes from Pittsburgh.