Personal Essay: It’s not just an abortion; it’s an abortion in North Carolina

Personal Essay: Olivia Daniels ‘19

Art by Richard Farrell ’22

We are introducing a new Personal Essay feature in The Davidsonian and plan for this to appear every other week. Editor-in-chief Olivia Daniels ‘19 has written our first essay, and her piece reflects her personal views and experience. We welcome further submissions to davidsonian@davidson.edu. 

When my body expelled my IUD about three months after its painful insertion, I didn’t even feel it. Somewhere at some hour, minute, and second, I joined the few women whose IUDs, and with them trust, security, insurance, had vanished. 

Two months later, I went to the campus health center after about a week of nausea, convinced I needed sinus medication. The campus doctor asked if there was any chance that I could be pregnant. I laughed. I laughed. I shook my head effusively. She questioned my confidence in my answer. “I have an IUD,” I explained.

When my pregnancy test returned positive, I thought the announcement a mean joke to play on a college junior three days from spring Reading Day. As the news flailed in my mind before resting along the increasing beat of my heart, I broke down. What were the odds? Without hesitation and in one breath, I asked when I could get an abortion. Desperation forced me to the ground. Now it was my reality.

I understand that my decision is not every woman’s. I respect everyone’s rights to consider other options when faced with the same news. On May 7, 2018, however, I shook with fear until I called Morgan McGrath, desperate to secure an abortion; her reassurance calmed every sharp breath, heaving cry, and shaking muscle. An easy decision? For me, yes. I am fortunate. I was empowered by the support and love of my boyfriend, friends, and family members. I could pay for the procedure. I attend an institution that offers an invaluable oasis in the Health Education Office. 

That Tuesday, I sat in Health Educator Georgia Ringle’s office, anxious to make the appointment. Georgia explained my options;  I chose a surgical procedure over the pill, relieved that the ordeal would be quick and complete within a single visit. I made an appointment for that upcoming Friday, the earliest available; Georgia assured me that in the morning, there was little chance of protesters at my chosen clinic. For the first time in eighteen hours, I breathed deeply, becoming conscious of the exhale. The next few days would be between me, my boyfriend, and the state of North Carolina; I believe that any woman in the same situation should understand the state-based legislation which guides the process.

Along with Missouri, South Dakota, Utah, and Oklahoma, North Carolina mandates a 72-hour waiting period between state-mandated counseling and the abortion procedure. Of the 33 states that require a waiting period, most necessitate only 24 hours. My state-mandated counseling took place via phone, while I paced the health center’s porch. If I had missed the phone call and not gone through the counseling, I would not have been permitted to receive an abortion that Friday.

The Charlotte clinic was discreet, and the staff kind. My mother and boyfriend drove me and were told that the clinic would call them to drive me home when the procedure was complete; they could not stay. I paid the $347, which included my student discount. The nurse led me back to change into a surgical gown, and I went for my ultrasound.

North Carolina, once again, joins a cohort of fairly conservative states in mandating pre-abortion ultrasounds. NARAL Pro-Choice America describes this practice as “medically unnecessary” and “designed by anti-choice politicians solely to intimidate, shame, and harass women who seek abortion.” I now understand that an abortion in such states as New Jersey, New York, or California is a vastly different experience, likely one with focus on empowering women’s choices; instead, I faced a system designed to discourage my decision and inhibit my fundamental rights.

My abortion brought relief, insight, and frustration. I resent the IUD. I resent the fact that an abortion is accessible in some parts of this country in a way that it is not in others. I resent laws like that passed in May 2018 in Iowa outlawing abortions as early as six weeks; mine would have been illegal there. I resent the shaky foundation upon which Roe v. Wade rests as we all wait for the next, likely conservative, male Supreme Court Justice to decide the foreseeable future of reproductive rights.

Yet I write with hope, in awe of the women who have campaigned for these rights for centuries across the world. I am indebted to Davidson’s support in the forms of Georgia Ringle and Morgan McGrath. I am thankful for politicians, attorneys, and activists who fight daily for women to have access to safe abortions and resources. I appreciate every vote in favor of and donation toward organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL, which fill gaps in access to and education about reproductive health where our government fails us. The midterms are fast-approaching, and there are countless opportunities to educate yourself about pro-choice candidates and voting strategies. Policies shape concrete truths, and the dignity of human choice should never be discounted as an abstraction. 

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