Get Real! I Might Be Pregnant, And Everyone Wants Me To Do Something Different

Heather Corinna

Let's make something clear from the get-go: Making a choice about a pregnancy is a big deal, it's something you -- far more than anyone else -- will live with the most. So the person your choice should be most okay with is you.

Gabi asks:

I used to
be on birth control, but when I found out I was taking it wrong I had to stop. I’m
supposed to start it again the Thursday after I get my period… that
is if my period comes. This is why I’m here. My boyfriend and I had
unprotected sex, and I asked my mom if my period could be late because
I’m no longer on birth control. She became suspicious and a few days later we
talked. I’m 17, by the way. She told me if I am pregnant that I’d have
to abort it because I don’t have the money or time to support a
newborn, not to mention I’m starting college in August. She told me if
I want to keep it then I can’t live in her house. If I want to keep it,
I have to PROVE to her that I am old enough to deal with it. So my
question is directed towards abortion. How is an abortion performed,
and does it hurt? I’m starting to get a little worried now because my
period is late… and I can not (emotionally) handle a Pregnancy Test.
I just can’t. I told my boyfriend, who is 20, the situation. He’s
Mexican, and I am white. He freaked out because they’re Catholic, and
don’t believe in abortion and they’re all family oriented. He kinda got
mad and was like, "you’re going to kill my f—— baby." My mom told
me he doesn’t have a say in this whole situation, so I guess I have
another question… how can I help him cope with this? Or is this
something he just has to cope with himself? Thanks for reading, hope
you can help! (I’m sure you can!!! :])

Heather replies:

Hey there, Gabi. Have a deep breath, and let it out good and slow: it is going to be okay.

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I want to make something clear from the get-go. YOU are the one who
gets the final say here. Not your boyfriend, but also not your Mom,
either. Making a choice about a pregnancy is a big deal, it’s something
you — far more than they — need to live with for the whole of your
life, and you are the one any choice you make impacts the most. So,
should you be pregnant, it’s really important that the person your
choice is most okay with is you. Your boyfriend needs to understand
that, but so does your mother.

She’s not obligated to pay for a child you have or help you out, but
she also doesn’t get to dictate what choice you make. That choice
belongs to you, okay? There are several ways to manage any of your
three options — pregnancy and parenting, pregnancy and adoption, or
abortion — so that they are workable, but what makes any of them the
most workable is that they’re the choice you want to make, for
yourself. No one — no one at all — should be TELLING you what you are
going to do here: everyone should be ASKING you.

First things first? You need to get that pregnancy test once it’s
been around two weeks since your risk, or when your period is late,
whichever comes first. If your period is already late, then now is the
time to take that test. This is one of those things you just can’t
waste time with, because the window for making reproductive choices is
so small, and the longer you wait to verify a pregnancy, the more
limited your choices can become.

I know it’s hard and nervewracking, most of us have been there
before, and hardly look back on those heart-stopping three-minute waits
on pregnancy test results fondly. But it really is a lot harder NOT to
know than it is TO know, and it’s something you’ve just got to do. You
CAN handle this. You can. If you need some extra support, call your
best friend and ask for some company while you take the test. But
you’ve just got to step it up and do this, gal, and there’s really no
sound way around it. It also just doesn’t make much sense to get in
tangles with your family and boyfriend about what you’ll do with a
pregnancy that may not even exist. For all you know right now, there’s
just no need for any of this strife or worry.

Once you take that test, if it’s negative, I want you to ask
everyone to leave you alone for a little while so that you can just
sink into that feeling of relief for a little bit and let go of all of
this stress. You can deal with talking more to all of them later, and
I’ll touch on that in a minute. But this stuff is crazy-stressful, so
you taking care of yourself takes priority.

If it’s positive, then before you tell anyone else (sparing your
friend, if you had one with you), again, I’d suggest you take a little
time alone to just breathe, let it sink in, and think about what YOU
want most, considering nobody else BUT you and any potential child. If
by any chance you can stop by a bookstore when you get that pregnancy
test, I have a pretty substantial chapter of my book
that deals expressly with helping women make choices about a pregnancy
you might find helpful. But I’ll give you some links and Cliff’s Notes
here, in case that’s not possible.

You asked about abortion procedures, so here is an in-depth rundown on how those go: All About Abortion.
You ask if it hurts, and the straight answer to that is that for most
women, early abortion is not greatly physically painful. Early surgical
abortion is a very short procedure. In general, getting the anesthetic
causes a short, sharp pain, and for the rest of the procedure — where
you will at least have a local anesthetic, and at some clinics, you can
also have conscious sedation or be put to sleep — a woman may feel
some things that feel uncomfortable or weird (just because you may not
be used to feeling something within your cervix, for instance), but
nothing horrendously painful. Right at the very end of an abortion, you
may feel a bit of cramping, but at that point, it’s pretty much over.
In terms of emotional pain, that primarily depends on the woman and if
abortion is truly what she wanted: for obvious reasons, women who abort
when they don’t really want to, or don’t want to at all, tend to find
abortion far more emotionally painful than those who terminated because
it’s what they wanted to do. This is another reason why it’s so
important that if you choose abortion, it’s really your choice,
not anyone else’s. Some women feel very sad and depressed, others feel
very relieved and elated, and it’s safe to say that the majority feel
somewhere in between.

Your other option is to remain pregnant and either parent or arrange
an adoption. If you want some sound counseling on all of these options,
the counselor at any abortion clinic will provide this for you, making
sure you have all the information you need to consider your choices to
do their best to help you be sure you’re making the one that is right
for you.

If you’d like some general information on those other two options,
your best bet is to get in touch with a reproductive options counselor,
either via an abortion clinic, and Planned Parenthood branches
(1-800-230-PLAN) offer this as well. Because laws, resources and
policies tend to differ from state to state and country to country when
it comes to teen pregnancy, it’s best to get in touch with someone who
can connect you to local resources so that you know what may be
available for you per parenting or adoption. For instance, if you want
to parent, your city or state may have good programs to give you
financial assistance… or they may not, and either of these things may
obviously influence your choice.

I’d also like to direct you to a really fantastic resource for pregnant teens: Another very good one, which offers an interactive workbook for making sound reproductive choices is:

I can also direct you to an excellent hotline which can provide pro-choice, all-option pregnancy counseling: Backline – 1-888-493-0092.
That hotline is toll-free, and their lines are open evenings Monday –
Thursday from 5 – 10 PM PST, and Friday – Sunday from 10 AM – 3 PM PST.
If you need someone, even right now, to talk you through any of this,
that’s a great place to call.

I know this is a lot of information to digest right now, but let’s be sure all your questions are answered.

Once you feel certain about what choice you’re going to make, that’s
the time to tell the people close to you. I use the word tell, because
it is tell, NOT ask. This isn’t about them: it’s about you. They may or
may not support whatever choice you make, and may or may not be in
agreement, but they need to accept it, and that’s on them, not you.
You’re not responsible for their processing, just like they’re not
responsible for yours. If you suspect that in telling either your
parent or your boyfriend that they’re not going to deal with it well,
I’d suggest that again, you have a friend you can trust to support you
be with you when you tell them. (And if you don’t have any close
friends, think a bit, and pick someone who isn’t close yet, but could
be. You’d be amazed at how incredibly people who aren’t that close can
be when it comes to stepping up with a pregnant friend in need.)

In terms of your boyfriend, you know, he made his reproductive
choice already: he chose to have sex, and unprotected sex, at that. I
don’t feel it is fair or sound for men to presume that they can have
the choices they want when it’s about someone else’s body and a
pregnancy which they are not carrying themselves. If he wanted a say in
a pregnancy, or wanted to arrange to be a parent, that’s a discussion
he and you would have needed to have together, in advance of any sex.
Really, for future reference, that’s something you will generally
always want to do with a male partner. Even when you’re using reliable
birth control, it does still sometimes fail, so when it comes to
heterocourse, pregnancy is always a risk. It’s ideal to be able to talk
about what you’d each want to do in advance, so that you can make the
best choices when it comes to having sex with someone. For instance, if
you find out before sex that you and a potential partner are in great
disagreement about how you think you’d want to manage a pregnancy, that
probably isn’t a great person to have sex with. If you were to find out
a partner would not understand and respect that this is YOUR choice if
it happens, again, that’s someone likely better to stay out of the
sheets with.

But for right now, this is largely something he needs to cope with
himself, and to understand that he had a choice, and one without any
real risk: choosing simply not to have sex was an option for him, and
one with no heavy consequences at all. That’s not what he chose, and now, the choices are yours, not his.

When you tell him what choice you want to make, I’d be clear that
while you understand he has his own feelings about this, he is not the
one pregnant, nor is he the one who will be ultimately responsible, no
matter your choice. If he is upset with a choice you are going to make,
I’d acknowledge his upset, and acknowledge your difference of opinion,
but make clear that however hard that is, it’s most important that the
choice made feels best to the person who is actually pregnant, and I’d
ask for his support.

If you want to help him out, you could pass on that same hotline I
gave to you: he could call them to talk and get support, too. You might
also find that reading or passing on this article is helpful: Hey, Boyfriend! Male Reproductive Choices. (I also have a section in my book for the "Dads" when it comes to dealing with and accepting women’s reproductive choices.)

Too, I’d have a think about if continuing a sexual relationship
with your boyfriend is really the best thing for you from here on out,
particularly if he can’t be supportive of your choices and you two have
a major difference of opinion when it comes to what to do with an
unplanned pregnancy. I don’t know what the situation was with the
unprotected sex you had, but in the event that he exerted any pressure
on you to have sex when you didn’t want to, or have unprotected sex
when you didn’t want to, that’d be one more reason to step away from a
sexual relationship with him from here on out. lastly, once you’re
through this crisis, you should arrange for a full STI screening, as
unprotected sex put you at those risks, too.

And really, similar stuff goes for your Mom. Again, she certainly
gets a say when it comes to paying for a child if you decide on
pregnancy, but she can’t lawfully kick you out of the house as a minor
if that’s what you choose. She also cannot arrange an abortion for you
if that isn’t what you want. If you decide to remain pregnant, having
talked to someone at one of those hotlines, you can let her in on what
resources are available to you and how you are thinking you’re going to
manage it. I’d also advise that if you choose abortion, even given it’s
what SHE wants, that if you feel any tension with her, that you find
someone else to go with you for your abortion. You will need the most
therapeutic environment you can have, and feeling like you’ve been
marched to the clinic by someone angry isn’t going to provide that. If
you need help in working it out with her, this is another arena where
you can ask the support staff at the clinic — on the phone, in advance
— for help.

That’s about the whole of it at this point. Start with that test. I
know it’s tough, but you’ve just got to do it, and you CAN handle it.
Take it from there, and know that ANY choice that feels like the
rightest choice for you is a right choice. If you need extra support,
call on friends, call those hotlines, or you can come to the message boards here,
anytime, and we can talk you through this, too. Beyond just making your
choice, or dealing with the choice you’ve made, you might also need
some support if (as things often do) this whole situation alters your
relationship with your boyfriend or with your Mom, changes how you
think about your life, the works. We’re here if you need more help.

Hang in there.

News Politics

Anti-Choice Democrats: ‘Open The Big Tent’ for Us

Christine Grimaldi & Ally Boguhn

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America gathered Wednesday in Philadelphia during the party’s convention to honor Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for his anti-choice viewpoints, and to strategize ways to incorporate their policies into the party.

The group attributed Democratic losses at the state and federal level to the party’s increasing embrace of pro-choice politics. The best way for Democrats to reclaim seats in state houses, governors’ offices, and the U.S. Congress, they charged, is to “open the big tent” to candidates who oppose legal abortion care.

“Make room for pro-life Democrats and invite pro-life, progressive independents back to the party to focus on the right to parent and ways to help women in crisis or unplanned pregnancies have more choices than abortion,” the group said in a report unveiled to allies at the event, including Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegates and the press.

Democrats for Life of America members repeatedly attempted to distance themselves from Republicans, reiterating their support for policies such as Medicaid expansion and paid maternity leave, which they believe could convince people to carry their pregnancies to term.

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Their strategy, however, could have been lifted directly from conservatives’ anti-choice playbook.

The group relies, in part, on data from Marist, a group associated with anti-choice polling, to suggest that many in the party side with them on abortion rights. Executive Director Kristen Day could not explain to Rewire why the group supports a 20-week abortion ban, while Janet Robert, president of the group’s board of directors, trotted out scientifically false claims about fetal pain

Day told Rewire that she is working with pro-choice Democrats, including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, both from New York, on paid maternity leave. Day said she met with DeLauro the day before the group’s event.

Day identifies with Democrats despite a platform that for the first time embraces the repeal of restrictions for federal funding of abortion care. 

“Those are my people,” she said.

Day claimed to have been “kicked out of the pro-life movement” for supporting the Affordable Care Act. She said Democrats for Life of America is “not opposed to contraception,” though the group filed an amicus brief in U.S. Supreme Court cases on contraception. 

Democrats for Life of America says it has important allies in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Sens. Joe Donnelly (IN), Joe Manchin (WV), and Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL), along with former Rep. Bart Stupak (MI), serve on the group’s board of advisors, according to literature distributed at the convention.

Another alleged ally, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), came up during Edwards’ speech. Edwards said he had discussed the award, named for Casey’s father, former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, the defendant in the landmark Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which opened up a flood of state-level abortions restrictions as long as those anti-choice policies did not represent an “undue burden.”

“Last night I happened to have the opportunity to speak to Sen. Bob Casey, and I told him … I was in Philadelphia, receiving this award today named after his father,” Edwards said.

The Louisiana governor added that though it may not seem it, there are many more anti-choice Democrats like the two of them who aren’t comfortable coming forward about their views.

“I’m telling you there are many more people out there like us than you might imagine,” Edwards said. “But sometimes it’s easier for those folks who feel like we do on these issues to remain silent because they’re not going to  be questioned, and they’re not going to be receiving any criticism.”

During his speech, Edwards touted the way he has put his views as an anti-choice Democrat into practice in his home state. “I am a proud Democrat, and I am also very proudly pro-life,” Edwards told the small gathering.

Citing his support for Medicaid expansion in Louisiana—which went into effect July 1—Edwards claimed he had run on an otherwise “progressive” platform except for when it came to abortion rights, adding that his policies demonstrate that “there is a difference between being anti-abortion and being pro-life.”

Edwards later made clear that he was disappointed with news that Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock, whose organization works to elect pro-choice women to office, was being considered to fill the position of party chair in light of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s resignation.

“It wouldn’t” help elect anti-choice politicians to office, said Edwards when asked about it by a reporter. “I don’t want to be overly critical, I don’t know the person, I just know that the signal that would send to the country—and to Democrats such as myself—would just be another step in the opposite direction of being a big tent party [on abortion].” 

Edwards made no secret of his anti-choice viewpoints during his run for governor in 2015. While on the campaign trail, he released a 30-second ad highlighting his wife’s decision not to terminate her pregnancy after a doctor told the couple their daughter would have spina bifida.

He received a 100 percent rating from anti-choice organization Louisiana Right to Life while running for governor, based off a scorecard asking him questions such as, “Do you support the reversal of Roe v. Wade?”

Though the Democratic Party platform and nominee have voiced the party’s support for abortion rights, Edwards has forged ahead with signing numerous pieces of anti-choice legislation into law, including a ban on the commonly used dilation and evacuation (D and E) procedure, and an extension of the state’s abortion care waiting period from 24 hours to 72 hours.

News Politics

NARAL President Tells Her Abortion Story at the Democratic National Convention

Ally Boguhn

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates.

Read more of our coverage of the Democratic National Convention here.

Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told the story of her abortion on the stage of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Wednesday evening in Philadelphia.

“Texas women are tough. We approach challenges with clear eyes and full hearts. To succeed in life, all we need are the tools, the trust, and the chance to chart our own path,” Hogue told the crowd on the third night of the party’s convention. “I was fortunate enough to have these things when I found out I was pregnant years ago. I wanted a family, but it was the wrong time.”

“I made the decision that was best for me — to have an abortion — and to get compassionate care at a clinic in my own community,” she continued. “Now, years later, my husband and I are parents to two incredible children.”

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Hogue noted that her experience is similar to those of women nationwide.

“About one in three American women have abortions by the age of 45, and the majority are mothers just trying to take care of the families they already have,” she said. “You see, it’s not as simple as bad girls get abortions and good girls have families. We are the same women at different times in our lives — each making decisions that are the best for us.”

As reported by Yahoo News, “Asked if she was the first to have spoken at a Democratic National Convention about having had an abortion for reasons other than a medical crisis, Hogue replied, ‘As far as I know.'”

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards on Tuesday night was the first speaker at the DNC in Philadelphia to say the word “abortion” on stage, according to Vox’s Emily Crockett. 

Richards’ use of the word abortion was deliberate, and saying the word helps address the stigma that surrounds it, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s Vice President of Communication Mary Alice Carter said in an interview with ThinkProgress. 

“When we talk about reproductive health, we talk about the full range of reproductive health, and that includes access to abortion. So we’re very deliberate in saying we stand up for a woman’s right to access an abortion,” Carter said.

“There is so much stigma around abortion and so many people that sit in shame and don’t talk about their abortion, and so it’s very important to have the head of Planned Parenthood say ‘abortion,’ it’s very important for any woman who’s had an abortion to say ‘abortion,’ and it’s important for us to start sharing those stories and start bringing it out of the shadows and recognizing that it’s a normal experience,” she added.

Though reproductive rights and health have been discussed by both Democratic Party presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) while on the campaign trail, Democrats have come under fire for failing to ask about abortion care during the party’s debates. In April, Clinton called out moderators for failing to ask “about a woman’s right to make her own decisions about reproductive health care” over the course of eight debates—though she did not use the term abortion in her condemnation.