Though we’ve known for four years that the 2020 US election cycle would be even more fraught than the strange and painful fall of the 2016 elections, most of us still find ourselves a little disoriented these days. For some, the urgency to remove Trump from office has immobilized us. For others, it’s fortified us into action to get out the vote and to sway those who are undecided, apathetic, and reluctant.
In the final five weeks before the election of a lifetime, we asked writers to consider the undecided voter and contribute compelling arguments and ideas for making the world right. Some contributors sent us work that takes on issues with precision and gravity. Others sent us different work, perhaps an even more visceral snapshot of this alarming moment — a one-act play, an open letter, a story of exile. New writing will be published weekdays; we believe its wisdom and strength will help us all navigate the uncertainty ahead.
I confirmed I was pregnant in the bathroom of the Grey Dog on Mulberry Street, the day after I found out my first book would be published, after months of rejection. My husband was unemployed, and I’d been working for two months at a magazine where I stared into a computer screen all day for a near minimum-wage salary.
I’d been married three tumultuous years. I was dreaming of an exit that I wouldn’t find for another three. Our marriage from the start was ill-conceived — we’d never dated; we were young and impulsive. We lived in a studio apartment the size of a prison cell. We called my parents from my husband’s car, parked across the street from our marriage counselor’s office, and asked them for $500.
I called in sick the day I took the second pill. I’d taken the first one the day before, and had carried my dead fetus for 24 hours. I lay crying in the bathtub with my husband, blood snaking through the water around us and dying it pink, waves breaking through my abdomen.
My grief seemed to stand in opposition to my politics. It was dark and overwhelming, my uterus a cavern. I bled for weeks. I was alone in my body and preoccupied with my perceived debt to my mother’s generation for the sacrifices and stands they’d made, which had won me freedom from unplanned parenthood. Admitting I was in pain was an unspeakable secret, something I thought I could never reveal, even to myself.
The persistent cultural stigma around abortion denied me the right to grieve properly, so my grief spilled out everywhere. Each successive failure to write about it only underlined the seeming banality of my abortion. I witnessed myself shoehorning it into the first paragraph of a book review, only to have the editor who had solicited me turn it down. “I had an abortion, too,” she told me. “But it’s really nobody’s business.”
The shame of it. I hoped to give my trauma at least some use. I grappled with the undramatic nature of it: I had not been raped, I was not a teenager, I was not homeless, I was not even single. At the time, I believed that I needed a justification. I don’t. Neither do you. I was forced to admit that my story was unremarkable. As it should be: nearly one in four women in the United States will have an abortion by the time we’re 45. Yet, 58 percent of us live in states where laws are hostile to abortion rights.
I have never wanted to be pregnant. Some women find the experience of bodily transformation fascinating; I did not. I felt as if my body had been stolen from me. I’ve had a conflicted relationship with my body since childhood: I struggle with gender and food. For these reasons, and others political, I’d prefer to become a parent through adoption.
It’s my choice — just as it’s my choice, on Election Day, to support the bodily autonomy of all people by voting Donald Trump out of office.
If you enjoyed this essay, please share it with an undecided voter in your life, and please consider contributing to Planned Parenthood.
Sarah Gerard is the author of the essay collection Sunshine State, and the novels Binary Star and True Love. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Granta, the Baffler, the Believer, and the anthologies We Can’t Help It If We’re From Florida, Small Blows Against Encroaching Totalitarianism Vol. 2, Erase the Patriarchy, and Tampa Bay Noir. She lives in Florida with her partner, the writer Patty Yumi Cottrell.