Why anti-choice legislation is making me rethink motherhood

Each week the Honey newsletter includes a column from women and LGBTQ folks in the South, in collaboration with See Jane Write. This month it’s all about bodies and how they’ve carried us and helped us tell our stories. We’re always looking for more stories from you. Click here to learn more about how to get published.

By Whitney Washington

I’m lying in bed, scrolling through Tik Tok when I feel a twinge of pain at the bottom of my abdomen. It’s so familiar, yet always surprising. I check the date and do some math, and I perk up a bit. Even though it may be painful and inconvenient, hopefully, this means my period will come soon.

The start of my period marks the first day of my cycle (as it does for everyone who menstruates). At the first sign of bleeding, I will call my doctor’s office to let them know. And they will call me in for several visits over the next two weeks for blood work and transvaginal ultrasounds. I will literally be poked and prodded at least four times. They will let me know my progesterone levels and follicle size. And if the stars (and my hormones) align, I will undergo my third intrauterine insemination (IUI) aka the “artificial insemination” of 1990s sitcom jokes.

This is not how I always pictured becoming a mother. I imagined a husband and romance. Instead, I have sperm donors and trigger shots. And while more and more people are becoming more open about their experiences with infertility, it’s still very rare to hear stories from women like me who are becoming single mothers by choice (SMBC).

The decision to pursue parenthood on my own did not come easy. While other moms-in-the-making might discuss the idea with their partners (or stumble into pregnancy accidentally), I consulted my parents, a few close friends, and all my health care providers. I had to weigh finances, childcare, and health risks.

Tonight, as I start to cramp, I have to consider something else. It’s very possible that by the time I successfully conceive and see a positive pregnancy test, abortion will be effectively outlawed in Alabama. This turn of events is heartbreaking for many people, but I’m facing a unique fear. While I desperately want to get pregnant, I also desperately want to have access to an abortion if I need one. The statistics for a safe and healthy pregnancy and birth are already stacked against me: I’m Black, medically “geriatric,” and live in one of the worst states for maternal mortality. As soon as I conceive, I’d likely be considered high risk just based on my age at only 35.

I pray that I do become pregnant. But if I do and my life is at risk, I would possibly not be able to access a life-saving abortion. If the child I was carrying had a terminal medical condition, I’d be forced to endure an unbearable and forced birth. Learning that my health care might be severely restricted by the law forces me to rethink if pregnancy is a safe option for me right now. I imagine that this isn’t what lawmakers and judges had in mind when passing these draconian laws, but I’m certain that there are other people like me who will reevaluate if getting pregnant at all right now is the right choice. Why would anyone choose the risky medical procedure that is birth when their ability to access proper care is being denied?

As anyone who’s gone through a fertility struggle can attest to, the waiting is the hardest part. And I’ll be doing a lot of waiting. Waiting for my cramps to worsen, waiting for my period to come, waiting for test results, and waiting to see if I have the same rights I did 10 years ago.

Whitney Washington writes about Black womanhood, progressive politics, and the South. She lives in North Alabama and tweets as @WhitWashSays. All views expressed are her own.

The Reckon Report.
Sign up to receive the Reckon Report newsletter in your inbox every Tuesday.