Autumn Gafforio is entering her senior year this week at Santa Cruz High School, has a serious boyfriend, uses contraceptives and in June worried she might be pregnant. She missed her period just as the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The timing and the way her life suddenly mirrored a national issue stunned her and made her realize the strong feelings she has about abortion. She feels compelled to tell her story.
In May, my boyfriend and I were having sex. I was not on any birth control, but we were using a condom. When he pulled out (later than we should have), the condom slipped off, leaving it inside me still full of semen. We pulled it out, but were concerned it might have leaked.
The next day, a friend helped me get a Plan B and I took it — just in case.
The following day, May 3, Santa Cruz women’s rights activists organized a protest after a draft of the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade leaked.
The timing of the protest and how national news “matched” my life struck me.
But I didn’t think abortion would become illegal. Even if it did, I figured since I live in California, I would continue to have access.
I didn’t attend the protest and repressed my feelings about the news.
After I took Plan B, I had worse cramps than usual. Five days later, I had a period that was slightly heavier than normal.
On June 20, four days before the Supreme Court overturned Roe, I was again worried my period was late. I wasn’t sure when to expect it that month since I had taken Plan B. So I didn’t know when to worry about being pregnant.
My family had COVID-19, so I was staying at my boyfriend’s family’s house and I told him I was slightly worried about my period being late. The next few days, I had cramps and I began to feel nauseous, but I assumed it was from anxiety. I already had a Zoom appointment with my OB-GYN scheduled for June 28 to discuss getting an IUD. My boyfriend and I decided that if by June 27, I still hadn’t gotten my period, we would speak with his mom and take a pregnancy test. That way, we’d know the result by the appointment.
My boyfriend was dealing with the possible pregnancy a lot worse than I was.
He was having panic attacks almost daily out of concern for me and the situation. The idea of having to have an abortion scared me, too, but I wasn’t feeling immediate anxiety.
I was 100% sure that if I was pregnant, I would want an abortion.
I’m going to be a senior in high school. I’m applying to colleges to pursue a bachelor’s in playwriting, followed by a master’s in biomedical data science.
I am not at a point in my life where I want to have a child.
But I was also terrified of having an abortion. It sounds so invasive, and I know it would affect me emotionally as well. Regardless, I would do it.
On Friday, June 24, I noticed my breasts were swelling, and I still did not have my period. After some deliberation, my boyfriend and I decided to talk to his mom the next day.
How Roe changed everything
Then Roe was overturned.
The Supreme Court took away a person’s right to choose on a federal level. Even before the decision, abortion access wasn’t equal. Race, class, and location played huge factors in accessibility.
The decision didn’t affect my access to abortion; this and my initial shock kept me from immediately processing how awful this was.
Then at dinner that night, my boyfriend’s mom – I’ll call her M – brought up the ruling. M spoke about having an abortion as a teenager. She said she doesn’t regret it and never has because she was not ready for a child at that time. She also said it was a really hard thing to go through, and she still thinks about it.
I really appreciated her points and felt like much of it has been missing from the conversations I’ve seen people who are against the ruling have online. I think people have difficulty accepting that both things can be true at the same time, but I think they are both important and should be recognized.
A lot of the points I’ve seen people post and say in their outrage at the ruling has felt like it was minimizing abortion and making it seem like a “no big deal” procedure.
“It’s just a clump of cells, it’s not alive.” “It’s just a medical procedure.” Etc., etc. This hasn’t sat right with me.
I believe you are killing something when you have an abortion. It’s not a baby, and it might feel like less of a big deal earlier in pregnancy. But to me, you’re still extinguishing something that could have been: a living something.
The difference between me and those against abortion is I think that’s OK. I think it is killing, and I think that is OK.
I believe we need to prioritize people who are already living in the world with conscious brains and souls over those who are not yet here and are not wanted.
So I believe abortion should be accessible to all.
We shouldn’t minimize this as a procedure that means nothing and is just like any other medical visit. Obviously everyone’s experience is different, and it’s OK for some people who get abortions to feel like it’s not a big deal, but that doesn’t mean that will be the case for everyone.
Stop shaming others for making different choices
I appreciated what M said at dinner because she is a mother of two saying she was grateful she had the option to have an abortion and that it was the right choice at the time. To me, this perfectly showed how having children and having an abortion are not mutually exclusive and are also common — because choosing to have an abortion is so truly about timing and circumstance and the person.
Another thing I’ve disliked about some of the conversations I’ve been seeing and hearing is that pregnancy and childbirth are being put in this awful light, like it’s a punishment or the worst thing that could happen to you. I’m seeing this from both sides. People who are pro-abortion rights say it’s their right to have an abortion so they don’t have to go through the horrendous experience of pregnancy; and people who oppose abortion paint pregnancy as the “consequence” women have to face if they aren’t “smart.”
The truth is that pregnancy and childbirth and motherhood can be beautiful experiences — as long as you get to choose that you want them.
My wish for the way to talk about these issues is that we can recognize the nuances without making anyone feel they’re wrong for having different emotions than us. We shouldn’t shame one another for making different choices.
It’s OK for an abortion to be really scary for some, and feel like no big deal to another, or anything in between. It’s OK to have an abortion or know you never will want to have one. It’s OK to want or not want children.
Just don’t shame or make fun of people for wanting and/or choosing different things than you.
The next day, June 25, my boyfriend and I talked to BM about how I might be pregnant. It went well, and she was compassionate.
Two days later, I had a negative pregnancy test first thing in the morning (when results are most accurate). My period came the following day.
BM thinks my hormones were haywire from taking Plan B and it messed up my cycle.
I’m relieved I didn’t have to have an abortion.
But I also know I would have had one. It would have been hard, but it would have been the right choice. I’m grateful I would have been able to make that decision for myself.
I’ve never been pregnant. I’ve never had an abortion. I’ve never had a miscarriage. I’ve never had a child.
However, any of those things could happen to me in the future. If I get pregnant, I want to be able to choose based on the timing and my circumstance and my feelings whether or not I want to have that child. If I get pregnant and have a miscarriage, but I need an abortion to complete the miscarriage so I don’t die, I should be able to get that abortion.
I feel incredibly lucky I have access to abortion, and I pray that it stays that way. I pray that everyone gets the right to choose what happens to their bodies restored. I pray that abortions and physical and emotional support around abortions becomes easily accessible to everyone. I pray that as we enter this fight to achieve these goals, we can be respectful of one another’s decisions and desires.
I don’t want a child right now, but I might one day and I hope if that day comes, I get to choose to want it and have it.
I’m getting an IUD in August, which excites and relieves me. I’m grateful that this is a choice I get to make as well. Reproductive and contraceptive rights are important and they should not be a privilege; they should be status quo.
Autumn Gafforio is an incoming senior at Santa Cruz High School. She plans to attend college in fall 2023 and hopes to continue writing. She has lived in Santa Cruz her whole life.