You Asked It

Just Wondering

Advice about confidence, college and abortions.

I’m ending a pregnancy and could use some moral support about it. Is there such a thing as life after having an abortion? While I have very little doubt that I’m doing the right thing (for everyone), I still feel really confused. —M., 17, Chicago

I’m not going to talk to you about the medical risks or political/religious implications that come with getting an abortion, because that information is available to you on a website called Google that you may have heard of. Here, we’re not going to focus on what your abortion means for the world, because the answer to that would simply be, “Only what it means to you,” and so that’s what we’ll be thinking about today.

I can tell you with an ironclad certainty that there is a life after abortion, M. I know because I’m living one right now, and so are a ton of other people all around both of us: Every year, 1.3 million American women make the choice that we did. You are not alone, and making this choice doesn’t make you evil, selfish, or deviant. You have the right to decide what happens to your life and to make informed choices about your future (and how your actions might impact the futures of others), and I want you to keep remembering that as you go through this process.

Having an abortion is emotionally complicated, and often very difficult, for lots of reasons. It’s natural to feel sad and/or conflicted about it, even when your circumstances are such that choosing otherwise would disadvantage everyone affected (although I’m not saying you’re fucking yourself over if you decide to have a baby as a teenager—everyone’s choices and situations are their own). There are some people out there who believe that going through with an abortion is bad or immoral no matter why you’re doing it (and if you, the person reading this, are one of those people, that’s fine, too, just as long as you’re not hassling others for their actions or mindsets if they disagree with you). But you have to trust yourself to know what’s best for you, because you do.

Not only is there life after an abortion, but that life is usually the reason someone chooses to get one in the first place. When I got pregnant at 19, I tried to rationalize carrying a child to full term in many different ways. But when I was done agonizing, I knew that having a baby with nearly nonexistent financial security would mean that the life that would follow that decision would be incredibly hard for that potential kid—not to mention for my family, my boyfriend, his family, and me. I also thought about putting my non-baby up for adoption, then considered how I’ve always wanted to become a foster parent because there are already more than 400,000 children in need of permanent homes in the United States alone. I wasn’t acting heartlessly by making the choice to have an abortion. Had I carried that pregnancy to term, I would have been trying to make myself feel better in the short term, based on someone else’s idea of what would be the “right” thing to do, and meanwhile I’d be giving yet another kid a hugely disadvantaged start in life. Part of what makes it so hard to have an abortion is the fear that doing so makes you a terrible person. That’s obviously not true in any way, but even if it’s what some people believe, would you rather potentially look bad in the eyes of a bunch of people who would judge another person for making a painful and complex decision, or make an irreversible choice by having a baby you don’t want just to appease them? Seriously.

But that hypothetical child’s life isn’t the only, or even the main, reason you might choose to have an abortion. What I want you to be thinking about is your life. Although there are people in this world who don’t want you to believe this (see above in re: judgy judgers), it is completely OK to get an abortion to preserve your own happiness. You have the right to avoid permanently committing yourself to a future you don’t want. You do not have to pay the disproportionate penance of having an actual child for accidentally becoming pregnant (and if bringing life into the world feels like a punishment, you probably should not be having a baby anyway!).It’s not self-centered to make the choice you know will be right for you in the long run; it’s actually the most ethical thing you can do here. When I weighed this decision as a teenager, I knew I had to think about not only my figurative baby’s quality of life, but my own. The two are basically inextricable anyway, honestly.

So, I had an abortion. I sobbed for weeks, but I also stayed in college and avoided creating a lifelong bond with an unstable person whom I didn’t love (and who also wasn’t ready to care for a child) and/or destitution. Most of all, I remembered that I was giving myself the care I needed to be happy, instead of creating more unhappiness in the world by having a baby I was incapable of raising. I know that one day I’ll be in a position to raise a child, whether I choose to do that through pregnancy, fostering, or adoption—if I want to, and only if I’m ready to fully support that kid, emotionally and financially.

The main bit of advice I would give you is to allow yourself every single feeling you might be having right now, without judging yourself. When I went through this, what helped me most to keep my footing in the aftermath was to let myself feel heartbroken, and guilty, and not guilty, and angry, and all of it. These feelings don’t have to make sense or support some “position” about how you feel politically. They’re going to be intense, and you have to meet them head-on so you can work through them. Write in a diary. Talk to people you trust and who love you—or don’t, if you can’t handle it. I was very private about my abortion when it happened—I probably told three people, and that small circle of intimacy was right for me because I knew that some of the people in my life might not understand, and I didn’t want to open myself up to their scrutiny. If you’re feeling psychologically fragile, as I was, be discerning about whom you tell—but do confide, if you can, both in yourself by being honest about every single one of your feelings about this, and in people you trust and who love you. It helps immensely. And if you find that you’re still feeling shaken about this whole thing in a few months, find a therapist.

Eventually, time will pass, and you’ll stop thinking about it constantly, and you’ll come back to yourself and your life. Like every experience you have as a person, your abortion will be a part of you forever, but also like any other single thing you go through, it won’t define who you are on the whole. Consider what you think when another person ends a pregnancy: Do you think that women who make that call should feel shame or regret? My guess is that you don’t, so extend that courtesy to yourself, too. I absolutely believe you know what’s right for you, and I deeply respect that you are advocating for yourself and making an informed choice. I’m certain your life after abortion will be a fulfilling, successful, and happy one. Good luck, my love. —Amy Rose ♦

Have a question you know only our team of non-pros can solve for you? Email it to us at youaskedit@rookiemag.com. We like it when you include your NAME, nickname, or first initial, plus your AGE and CITY.

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27 Comments

  • maxmaxmax March 4th, 2014 11:19 PM

    In the description of the article it says there is advice on stand-up from a comedian, but that is nowhere to be found. I would really like to read that :(

    • Amy Rose March 5th, 2014 12:38 AM

      Sorry, love! It’s coming next month and will be worth the wait.

  • Violet March 4th, 2014 11:49 PM

    <3 <3 <3 Amy Rose

  • sadie lidji March 5th, 2014 12:01 AM

    AMY ROSE U ARE AMAZE-Y-ROSE

    • hollysh March 5th, 2014 7:52 AM

      So true. One thing I appreciate week after week is the extreme (XTREME?) honesty in this column. Y’all are lovely <3

  • kirsten March 5th, 2014 12:46 AM

    beautiful response from amy rose. i’m with you, m. <3

  • alylee March 5th, 2014 12:51 AM

    This was perfect timing, especially for the interview question. I can only second practicing! I also practice with my mom, I actually just did a practice interview tonight since I have one on Friday I am very nervous for.

  • Maddy March 5th, 2014 6:42 AM

    On the note of interviews, that’s pretty solid advice. I recently went through like 5 college interviews and they got easier and better. I found it helpful to write out answers to common questions before hand and practice saying them aloud so they don’t sound unnaturally memorized. My best interview was when I went in with no expectations and just tried to be relaxed. The guy was a good interviewer. Sometimes that can be a determining factor, but convey that you’re qualified and excited either way. Interviews may seem like they’re deceptively easy, after all, it’s just talking, but they can be difficult when you are starting out. With practice though, you’ll get the hang of it! Good luck!

  • hollysh March 5th, 2014 7:50 AM

    On college – there is nothing more terrifying than finishing college and coming into the full realisation that you have $20,000 (or $40,000, or $60,000 or $80,000 . . .) in debt from going to a school with a fancy reputation. I thought that was *the most important thing* when I started college and even transferred from from one fancy place to an EVEN FANCIER PLACE. But then I failed a bunch of classes, racked up a pile of debt – which would still be sizable even if I hadn’t failed those classes- and realised that I probably could have gotten an equally good, if not better, education somewhere else. My sister, on the other hand, opted to go to state school and is graduating debt free. While it took her longer to adjust to her less-than-first choice, she will have the freedom when she graduates to launch into whatever adventures and fun stuff she wants to do, while I have to make sure I’ve got at least an extra $4000 to cover my debts for the year. Think of the awesome trip you could take with $4000!!! Seriously, if you’re going to look into doing a career in the arts where you are probably going to have to live on a shoestring for awhile until you break into success, you don’t want to have that debt hanging over you. I really wish I didn’t.

  • Eileen March 5th, 2014 9:40 AM

    I have sweated over every last educational opportunity NOT available to me. I even opted out of high school, (something I really would like to do), because my mom thinks homeschooling is the only way I am going to be successful, given our 1 and a half star rated high school in our 1 and a half star rated town. It’s nice to know I MIGHT NOT become a loser first semester. Do you think its too late for me?? I’d be going in a senior. D;

  • -alexandra- March 5th, 2014 10:55 AM

    Hi Julianne, I am a high school senior seriously considering not attending college to pursue a career in the arts and would really love to send you an email about this to learn more about your experiences/any advice you may have! Is there an email address I can reach you at? I would appreciate it so, so much.

    Alex

    • Julianne March 5th, 2014 6:17 PM

      Sure, Alex. Jawnita at gmail dot com!

  • nerual March 5th, 2014 12:17 PM

    Sorry to be annoying, but Northwestern U is a private school. I go to University of Maryland, and it was the last place I wanted to go when I was a senior in high school. Now I’m a sophomore and I am really starting to love it. Nothin’ wrong with state schools!

  • puffling March 5th, 2014 1:35 PM

    Excellent response to the abortion question, Amy Rose.

    Life after abortion for me… it was hard for a little while. But mainly for the same reasons that there was no way I could have a child – I was mentally ill with no home, no income, no relationship and no self esteem. So, of course, after being told my whole life that abortion was wrong and would ruin me, I occasionally blamed my misery on my abortion.

    But now, because I was able to terminate my pregnancy, I’ve been able to turn my life around. I have a home, a job, a loving partner and I’m applying to go back to university.

    The only feelings I have about my abortion now are gratitude and relief that I was able to do what was right for me – and such sorrow for the women across the world who can’t access those vital services. And such anger to those who would deny us our rights to our own bodies and our own lives.

    Some of the most amazing, wise and inspirational women I know are my abortion sisters and I think that says something – it takes real courage and strength to do something about a situation you’re unhappy with.

    Love yourself. One in three women will terminate a pregnancy in her lifetime, and we all love you too.

  • Flossy Mae March 5th, 2014 2:55 PM

    I love this column. I’ve been waiting for something to be written about abortion on Rookie, as a little while ago I found out my mum had an abortion a little bit before I was born, and I didn’t really know what to think about it, so I came on Rookie to see if anyone had even written about abortion and I came back empty-handed. (PS if you do have any articles on dealing with/making up your mind about abortion please can someone send me the link??). x

    Oh, on a lighter note, I just wanted to let someone know that the category links aren’t working for me and haven’t been for a few days…this might be my browser but I thought I’d let you know in case there was some kind of other problem! xx

  • Erin. March 5th, 2014 3:33 PM

    Is forming interpersonal relationships really so super important when it comes to post-secondary school? ‘Cause, I didn’t do that. I commuted to my school for all four years, and only made a few friends, most of whom I had never seen outside of class. And now, a couple years later, I’m only in contact with one person from my uni. (She is really great, though, and we’re both writers, so it works.) But is this, like, a super terrible situation to be in? I’ve never been good at making friends, and I’ve always been all right with this, but the way other people sometimes talk about stuff like this makes me feel like a major loser.

    • Laurataur March 9th, 2014 12:53 AM

      My sister had a similar experience to yours and she’s awesome and totally fine. College is whatever you want it to be :)

  • whiskeytangofoxtrot March 5th, 2014 4:34 PM

    emma – Have you ever considered trying schools in Canada. There are many top-notch Canadian universities whose international student tuition and fees are lower than fancy Ivy League schools in the States. Also, I think no matter what school you go to, you will get out of it what you put into it.

    Lizzie – I TOTALLY FREEZE DURING INTERVIEWS!!! It’s the worst! I have found what helps, along with doing mock interviews to practice, is to ask for/or accept a drink of water. Taking a sip of water gives you a few seconds to re-organize your thoughts before answering, plus gives you something to do with your hands! I have also found, for most places I’ve interviewed, it really breaks the ice to actually just honestly say “I get exam-like anxiety and nerves during the interview process, please be patient, how I interview does not reflect how I work!” Most places will understand, and if they don’t, would you want to work there, anyway?

    M. – I really empathize. This is a huge decision, and everything Amy Rose said rings so true. I made the decision to terminate a pregnancy, and while it was very emotional, I haven’t looked back with even an iota of regret. Not because I am cold and unfeeling about the situation, but because I recognize all the important opportunities afforded to me that I would have otherwise had to pass on, and that feeling grateful for being able to take those opportunities is okay. So, yes, the process does involve some self – forgiveness and making peace, but it is also YOUR process that no one else can criticize you for or tell you how you go through it.

  • bedroomeyes March 5th, 2014 6:04 PM

    Spot on advice rookie! I dropped out of a state school simply because it was boring. Although I nearly aced all my courses i felt really unhappy and like I was missing out on a lot. Now I’m going to community college in my hometown and feel waaay happier even though community colleges are supposed to be “worse” than state schools. Regardless what you do after high school whether it be going to the Ivy league school of your dreams, or taking a gap year, just remember it’s not where you start but it’s where you end up!

    • Laurataur March 9th, 2014 12:58 AM

      Thanks so much for the destigmatization of state schools in this article! I used to go to Bryn Mawr but it was seriously expensive and I was truly unhappy there, so I went to community college in my hometown too, and I’m transferring to a state school this fall and cannot be more excited!

      Also I just wanna give a shout out to Kathleen Hanna, one of the coolest people ever, who also had an abortion when she was young but continued to be amazing and trailblazing.

  • Puppies March 5th, 2014 6:40 PM

    Just a note that, depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy, your body will take 1-3 weeks after your abortion to re-adjust your hormone levels. This means that you may feel more moody and emotional than usual during this period, and I thought it might be helpful for your to know to expect this so you can ride it out with some more calmness.

  • Ozma March 5th, 2014 8:45 PM

    My mom had an abortion when she was 19 and all I can say is thanks goodness she did! Because if my mother HADN’T had that abortion I wouldn’t be alive!I mean, if she had that baby she never would have met my father. Moreover, she never would have gotten to do all sorts of amazing things like bicycling all the way across America, living abroad, fighting for migrant workers rights, and helping to provide people with HIV/AIDS and drug addictions with access to health care. Just think of all the wonderful things that can happen because of your decision to have an abortion!

  • blueolivia March 5th, 2014 8:58 PM

    sending love your way, m ♥

  • Caroline Hanna March 6th, 2014 12:10 PM

    Hello, rookie. I am a seveteen year old high school senior sobbing in the school library because i was not expecting this to hit so close to home. When I was a freshman, fourteen year old me went through the struggles of deciding whether or not to have an abortion. I go to a large school, but news still travels fast. My then-boyfriend told his friends I was pregnant and asked if they could loan him money because neither of us had $300-$400. I became a charity case and a freak. The Christian Club approached me in the hallway and tried to talk me into doing the “right thing” (having the baby, giving it up for adoption.) I was too afraid to tell my parents, but the news eventually got back to my mother. She was extremely supportive and helped keep the situation quiet, at least within the family. I decided an abortion was the only way I felt comfortable dealing with my pregnancy, and, even then, I still felt as uncomfortable as ever. Three years later, after mean tweets, people talking behind my back, and people avoiding forming any type of relationship with me because they know, I am still learning to cope. I’ve been waiting for something, anything, dealing with this subject. Amy provided really excellent input. Life goes on. There are days when I don’t even think about it and there are days when I couldn’t avoid it if I tried. Things are getting easier. It’s always nice to feel like you have support. Thank youxxx

    • Amy Rose March 6th, 2014 3:37 PM

      Hey, Caroline. That sounds really hard, and I think you are incredible for handling it the way you have thus far. People are jerks, and you should be proud of yourself for being so strong and self-assured. Mad love to you.

  • Jamia March 7th, 2014 12:07 AM

    Humbled by your abortion stories. Honored to witness your truth and your experiences. Sending love and best wishes to you on your journey. Amy Rose, your advice was so beautiful–the dignity, the strength, the courage, and the compassion–all of it moved me.

    Thank you!

    Here’s some info I wanted to share about supportive organizations working to shift the conversation + culture around abortion stigma and to offer support and care :

    Sea Change Program- seachangeprogram.org
    Exhale Provoice: https://exhaleprovoice.org

  • julalondon March 23rd, 2014 6:40 AM

    Amy Rose. <3 I love you more every time I read something you write!!