One week after my 21st birthday in 2012, I found out I was pregnant. It was unplanned and unexpected—and I was absolutely terrified.
Uninsured, I was desperate for resources and support. I called countless hotlines, and was eventually referred to a “pregnancy crisis center” that claims to help women “explore their options”—which is code for “pressure you into keeping the pregnancy and guilt you into becoming a mom prematurely even though you’re scared, alone and poor.” These centers are disguised as supportive for women, and advertise “abortion options,” but in reality, they are religiously-based, run and funded and have the intention give young women anything but options. They lied to me and said I was too far along to receive a medical abortion, and instead handed me a certificate of congratulations on becoming a mother.
They sent me on my way with a pamphlet on how to deliver in a Catholic hospital. I was vulnerable and impressionable. I believed them. It worked. Over the following weeks, I called every single insurance company statewide, talked in circles, broke into tears with agents more than once. Before Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could deny women insurance—and trust me, they did—because pregnancy was considered a pre-existing condition.
I was denied insurance, over and over. I pleaded and begged. No one had a solution for me. Exhausted and hopeless, I went to the DES office to apply for Medicaid. I was denied there because I had no current dependents; the fetus I was reluctantly carrying, ironically, didn’t count as a dependent child to the state of Arizona.
I was 11 weeks pregnant and still hadn’t been seen by a proper physician. It took me three paychecks to save up the $250 it would cost me to see an OB/GYN. When I finally made the appointment, they were shocked that, at 21, I didn’t have insurance. I was embarrassed to answer their pressing questions.
How come I wasn’t still on my parents’ policy? What about Medicaid? Their policy didn’t allow me to make payments on office visits. I was told they don’t routinely do an ultrasound until about 20 weeks so I had “time to save up for that too.” I remember thinking: How on earth have so many humans been born when it seems to be damn near impossible to even go through the routine safety measures of growing and delivering one?
I would never make it to that appointment. The night before, I was rushed to the hospital with severe abdominal pain and internal bleeding. I was experiencing a very dangerous ectopic pregnancy: the fetus was attached to my internal organs, and I needed to be rushed into surgery.
I was literally dying.
I’ll always remember the nurse, who never left my bedside—I saw in her eyes how worried she was. I was indifferent to the idea of dying; however, I did ask the the morally righteous question of “is the baby okay?” (Though honestly, through the severe pain and agony, the only thing I could really think of was: how the fuck am I gonna pay for this?)
Two days, thousands of dollars worth of morphine, a $50,000 dollar surgery and a $25,000 hospital stay later, I was alive. I was recovering, no longer pregnant and extremely emotionally damaged—not because of the loss of a pregnancy I never wanted, but from the negligence and isolation I experienced at the hands of the healthcare system in the so-called greatest country on Earth.
They handed me discharge papers and painkillers and asked more questions about “what kind insurance I had” and “how would you be paying today.” I was mortified. I was bleeding, I was sick, in extreme amounts of pain, and I felt more empty and alone than I ever had.
I had to miss two weeks of work—no pay—and I was evicted out of my apartment—no rent. That system doesn’t fucking work.
In 2013, a short three months after this ordeal, the ACA took effect in Arizona. Now, no one can be denied insurance for any pre-existing condition—not pregnant women, not HIV-positive patients, not diabetics, not the Americans who need health care most. In Arizona, Medicaid can now cover low-income applicants whether they have dependents or not. Today, OB/GYNs will offer ultrasounds to patients prior to 20 weeks to make sure the fetus inside of them is viable, and isn’t trying to kill them.
I took solace in the thought that at least this wouldn’t ever have to happen to another young woman, and that hopefully I was the last of an invisible many that didn’t seem to matter to society, or specifically to the health care industry. Nearly six years later, I’m financially stable and my employer provides exceptional healthcare benefits. I’m dependent-free, healing from my past trauma and wounds.
But I’m incredibly anxious.
If the ACA is repealed or further watered-down by political attacks, these are the kind of horrific circumstances women will face. My story will once again become incredibly common. If Planned Parenthood is defunded, women will have to go to these disgustingly misleading pregnancy crisis centers to be ridiculed and deceived into premature parenthood. If contraceptives and reproductive education cease to exist in this country, women will face unplanned, unwanted pregnancies that can result in damaging their mind, body, spirits, careers and overall well being.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, women will be humiliated by having to carry unwanted or unviable pregnancies to term. They will die by the thousands by having dangerous at home abortions. Those who experience life threatening pregnancies like I did could be turned away to suffer and die.
This is the reality we are currently facing.
I would die a thousand deaths before I let my sisters, friends or any girl in this country be subjected to any of that dark age bullshit. We’ve come too far to be set back to 2012—or 1973, for that matter. We must stand and fight for women’s rights to autonomy for their body and health. We must make sure an anti-woman Kustice is not appointed to our Supreme Court.
We are not free if we are denied our choice to live.