Curbing women's reproductive rights is threat to a safe option



By Nadia Holm

It’s difficult for most women to talk about their unwanted pregnancies and the role that abortion plays in this situation because of the stigma associated with it.


But I am speaking up to narrate my own experience because I believe that women's reproductive rights must be recognized. Women should be allowed to make their own decisions during their personal, private and vulnerable moments,

I was 23 when I had an unwanted pregnancy. I had just graduated from college and started a job in my field. It was an otherwise exciting time. It’s impossible to articulate the combination of fear, anxiety, shame and devastation that accompanied the news of my pregnancy.


Having a child would be an enormous setback. How would I pay for my medical care, daycare and all the other financial obligations that go along with raising a child? There was no way I was ready for this.


I spent a few days weighing my options and reluctantly, I decided to carry on with the pregnancy.


During the first ultrasound scan several weeks later, the technician couldn’t find a fetal pole and subsequent blood work showed my human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) levels dropping when they should have been increasing exponentially.


Turns out, I was having a miscarriage, a blighted ovum, a spontaneous abortion-, or whatever you want to call it. The pregnancy was not viable. Reconciling my feelings was somewhat complicated. On one hand, I felt an indescribably overwhelming sense of relief. On the other hand, it was the most devastating news I had ever heard.


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I went to a doctor to figure out what to do next. She explained that I could wait to see if my body could naturally expel the “contents of conception” but cautioned that this wasn't always a viable option and could result in a septic abortion.


My other options were chemical abortion using a drug called "Cytotec," or a physical abortion using a procedure called dilation and curettage (D and C for short). Serious health issues, and even death, could occur without proper medical intervention.


I sat there, broken, devastated and mourning the loss of my unwanted pregnancy, weighing several undesirable options. It didn't matter what I ultimately chose.


Abortions are used to treat various medical conditions such as miscarriages, which account for about 12.5 percent pregnancies, and ectopic pregnancies, which account for about 2.7 percent of pregnancy related deaths. Without this treatment, women can, and do, die.

Abortions are also used to treat unwanted pregnancies which account for nearly half of all pregnancies in the United States. Not all unwanted pregnancies end in abortion but one in four women will have an abortion in her lifetime. Because of the stigma that accompanies ending an unwanted pregnancy, most women don’t talk about it.


If you think you don’t know someone who has had an abortion, you’re almost certainly wrong. Most people know many and don’t even realize it.

Legal induced abortions are medical procedures that are safe and have few complications, but unsafe abortions account for up to 13 percent of maternal deaths in the United States, according to the World Health Organization.


While the cost of medical care may be a factor that leads a woman to seek an unsafe abortion, they are more widespread in places where abortions are illegal.

The Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization dedicated to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights in the United States, reported that 49 percent of women who have abortions are below the federal poverty level. Poverty not only limits a woman’s ability to get contraception to prevent an unwanted pregnancy, it limits her access to a safe abortion, and prevents her from receiving crucial prenatal care. At least 31.8 percent of deliveries are via cesarean section (c-section) and average about $22,646 in the United States.


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Running an obstacle course


For some women, the overwhelming cost of birthing a child is far more than she can manage.


I am truly concerned about women in the post-Roe era and its consequential fallouts.


Bill 291-36, the Guam Heartbeat Act of 2022, doesn’t attempt to solve any of the underling factors that lead a woman to seek an abortion. Preventing unwanted pregnancies by providing contraception and giving her access to medical care are some ways to help women.


Bill 291 threatens a woman’s ability to get medical treatment. It vilifies, criminalizes and humiliates her during such a vulnerable time.

I never had children. I am certain that my decision to remain childless stems from my inability to recover from having an unwanted pregnancy which was just too overwhelming and emotionally taxing to ever consider revisiting it.


During that time, I was thankful that I had several viable options and that I was able to make the right decision for myself. This would no longer be the reality if Bill 291 passes and the number of women who will be impacted is alarming. Their lives should matter too. I love my life and I’m so thankful that it didn’t involve children. I don’t feel bad about that.



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