on the 24th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, I stood at my bathroom sink and regarded the items in front of me. An eyedropper, an egg timer, a disposable cup and a flat, 1-by-2-inch plastic cartridge with three neatly-labeled windows.
Carefully and precisely, I squeezed six drops of urine into the smallest window. I set the timer for five minutes and placed the cartridge on the lid of the toilet where I couldn't see it. Then I sat on the edge of the bathtub and waited.
I didn't really think I was pregnant, but I'd been feeling slightly funny for the last few days. Not exactly ill, but just ... not right. I wondered how much of it was projection and guilt from not being as careful as I should have been with birth control; my period was due in a week, but this time I didn't feel like playing the wait-and-see game with my body. So that morning, after waking from a dream about a cat being submerged in a vase of water, I ran down to Walgreen's and, after scouring the aisles for 15 minutes, breathlessly asked the pharmacist where the pregnancy tests could be found. (Pregnancy tests, like all items even remotely having to do with sex or reproduction, are hidden away in dark side aisles.) "Look on 6B," she said, cracking her gum. "Right next to the diapers."
"Subtle," I said. "Thanks a lot."
Sitting on the edge of my tub, listening to the ticking of the egg timer, I remembered sitting on my bed seven years earlier, holding hands with my boyfriend. "Don't worry," he said. "Whatever you want to do, I'll support you." I nodded, and looked at the timer. One minute to go.
"I want you to know it's your choice," he continued, but his words were like a Band-Aid: comforting, a little protective, but not entirely necessary. If the test was positive, I was not going to keep it. The reasons were the same reasons that every woman has, in varying degrees: no money, no time, no willingness to give over my life at the age of, in my case, 24. The timer pinged and he got up to look at the test that we'd set on the edge of the kitchen table. We gazed at the two horizontal pink lines, and our eyes filled with tears.
We broke up soon after I had the abortion. At the time, I had many reasons: I was going to graduate school, I didn't want to be involved seriously anymore, he was too immature and I was too flighty. He listened to me silently as I recited my litany: we'd been fighting heartily for several weeks and this discussion was hardly unexpected. Finally he turned his gray-green eyes on me and said "I think you blame me for the abortion."
I protested, and the discussion escalated, until we were again both in tears (there was a lot of crying in this relationship) and exhausted. But I knew he was right. Babies, abortion, birth control, love ... all of it was so complex that how could anyone take a moral high ground and actually assign blame? But there it was: After all was said and done, it was I, as the female, who had to be the responsible one about taking my pill or putting in my diaphragm, not him. It was I who had gotten pregnant, not him, and it was I who had to go to the doctor appointments, who had to suffer through the insensitive nurse practitioner who asked, "Will you be keeping the baby or getting rid of it?" It was I who had the morning nausea, and most of all, it was I who went through the physical and emotional trauma of the abortion. Not him.
It's a slippery slope, this kind of thinking, and it should probably be avoided if at all possible. Because what we're talking about here is the sheer physical injustice of being female, which for all its up sides has some tremendous inequities that will never, ever be reconciled. "There's no possible way you can ever understand what I went through," I said to him. He nodded sadly.
The timer pinged in my bathroom. I stood up, looked in the mirror for support, and took a deep breath. One pink horizontal line beamed brightly up at me. Negative. "Whew," I breathed. I'd escaped.