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Amy Brown, a freelance writer in the San Francisco Bay area, is due to give birth to her first child in December.
Brown has always been pretty pro-choice. Hearing her mom’s horror stories about the lengths women would go to to obtain abortions before they were legal gave her a firm understanding of what was on the line each time a state tried to chip away at Roe v. Wade.
Still, she thought that the experience of being pregnant herself might soften her views, especially since conceiving with her partner took two and a half years and required fertility treatment.
“I thought maybe pregnancy would make me less pro-choice, like maybe I’d start to feel sentimental about a seven-week-old embryo once I’d carried one,” Brown told HuffPost.
Instead, because of her pregnancy experience, Brown said she’s more pro-choice than ever. With each month of her pregnancy, she and her partner could easily learn of a new development that’s catastrophic for her health or the health of their baby. Brown hasn’t had any life-threatening complications, but it’s still been overwhelming.
“I’m six months in and every day has been a struggle on some level,” she said. “It’s something I can’t imagine doing if my whole heart wasn’t in it. I feel more strongly that pregnancy and childbirth are things that absolutely must be entered into willingly.”
Right now, the writer is experiencing some intense prenatal depression. She has the support of both a therapist and a partner, but she can’t imagine how she’d feel if she’d gotten pregnant under different circumstances ― with a different, less supportive partner, for instance, before she was ready, or against her will.
These thoughts were top of mind for Brown and scores of others on Wednesday as the United States Supreme Court allowed a restrictive Texas law to go into effect that prohibits abortion after six weeks and deputizes Texas citizens to enforce the ban.
S.B. 8 effectively bans abortion at six weeks, when many people don’t yet realize they’re pregnant. The bill is more extreme than laws in states such as Alabama and Ohio because it includes a clause that financially incentivizes private citizens to sue anyone “aiding or abetting” abortion-seeking patients in Texas.
Brown was one of many women who tweeted about the news out of Texas and ruminated about how their various experiences with pregnancy, infertility, miscarriages, childbirth and even parenthood radically shaped their views on abortion rights. Having a baby or being pregnant made them more pro-choice than ever.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that so many people who’ve given birth are so vocally against the Texas bill. Parents know intimately how precarious, nuanced and hard any decision related to childbirth and family planning can be.
Women who’ve given birth actually account for the majority of abortions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, of those who terminated a pregnancy in 2014, 59% had already had “at least one birth.” They cited myriad complex reasons for doing so, from unstable relationship situations to personal finance problems to reluctance to add another child to their family.
Women HuffPost spoke to for this story say that even without those challenges, pregnancy, abortion and birth are all too complicated to judge from the outside ― and certainly too complicated to legislate.
Linda, a photographer in Austin, Texas, and a mom of two, had a fairly easy go of pregnancy: She had two healthy pregnancies that resulted in two healthy children. Both were unmedicated births, the last one at home with very attentive midwives just two weeks ago.
She has a loving community of fellow moms who check in on her, in-laws who are always willing to travel long distances to be by the family’s side, and a stay-at-home husband who changes every dirty diaper and would probably breastfeed the kids if he could, Linda jokes.
“I couldn’t help but imagine being thrown into this situation without being prepared or without the desire to get through it.”
Work-wise, Linda had it comparatively easy, too: She said her employers were joyful when she told them she was pregnant, and more importantly, she gets three months’ paid maternity leave. (Among wealthy nations, the U.S. is the only country that offers no national paid parental leave program.)
And yet, even with all that support, pregnancy and having a newborn has proved to be one of the most difficult, chaotic things Linda has ever faced.
“When I was pregnant, I had this aching body that kept me from doing my job efficiently and caused me to think I might end up unemployed,” she said. “I had to put on a smiley face for my 7-year-old who I constantly worry about getting COVID, all while pretending like everything is OK in the world.”
Post-pregnancy, the “utter pain of labor” still echoes in the back of her head, and she’s dealing with some considerable postpartum anxiety.
But at least once a day, she thinks about how lucky she is that she wanted her children and that she chose to do this willingly.
“I cannot fathom what it would be like to go through all of this because I couldn’t get an abortion,” she said. “Last week my baby was screaming five hours straight and I thought I was going to lose it and I couldn’t help but imagine being thrown into this situation without being prepared or without the desire to get through it.”