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I don’t know when I decided to be pro-choice, but I remember my first pro-choice act: sophomore year of high school, I helped a friend get an abortion.

I was fortunate enough have a nurse practitioner for a mom who did her best to make us feel comfortable asking about sex. As soon as my older sister hit high school, we had a tin of condoms and reproductive health pamphlets in the bathroom for anyone who might have needed them. I also had a pretty comprehensive sex-ed from 5th grade all the way through 8th grade at my public school. It started with videos of moms making a uterus out of pancake batter to learning how to say “penis” and “vagina” without giggling from 6th to 8th grade.

Entering high school, I kept condoms and safe sex pamphlets in my locker at school and made my locker combination widely known just in case someone needed them. I knew people were having sex and knew people weren’t doing it safely. I was hoping to do my part until my high school’s mandated sex ed our sophomore year. Unfortunately, it came too late for my friend, Sophie.

I remember the panic in her voice when Sophie told me her period was late… 2 months late.

I remember the torturous wait for the pregnancy test results.

I remember the confusion when she explained to me that she and her boyfriend always used condoms—except that time they had sex in the lake, since she knew you can’t get pregnant when having sex in water. (She clearly didn’t have the same thorough sex-ed that I did.)

I remember the crying when it came back positive.

We eventually talked about her options: keeping the baby, putting the baby up for adoption, or getting an abortion. She knew she wanted her boyfriend to be part of the conversation, so I stepped back so they could figure out what was best for them.

Two weeks passed and they still hadn’t made a decision or even found out more about their options. So, one day after lunch, Sophie and I snuck off to use a pay phone in a secluded part of school to call Planned Parenthood. Sophie asked me to make the phone call. The woman who answered explained Sophie’s opportunity to make a decision about an abortion was quickly coming to an end, but regardless, she should come in and have an exam to make sure she was in fact pregnant and to make sure she and the fetus were healthy in case she decided against an abortion.

Sophie went to her check-up with her boyfriend where it was confirmed she was pregnant and was given more information about all her options and prenatal vitamins (Planned Parenthood is great like that).

Soon after, Sophie passed out in gym class and realized she wasn’t going to be able to stay in school and carry the pregnancy to term. We made an appointment to terminate her pregnancy and she finally told her mom (both her boyfriend and I weren’t old enough to drive so she needed a ride). Fortunately, her mom was supportive and Sophie’s pregnancy was terminated right at the end of her 1st trimester.

These days according to a recent Facebook-creeping session, Sophie is a nurse and happily married (not to her high school boyfriend) with two super cute kids.

Me? I’ve been a vocal pro-choicer ever since I saw first-hand the process of making the decision to terminate a pregnancy. I’ve seen how difficult of a decision it is and I’ve seen how the passing of restrictive abortion laws based on the weeks a person is pregnant can force that decision out of a woman’s hands.

So when I hear about the proposal of new laws which basically force the police to enter the exam room with women or when I’m clinic escorting at the local Planned Parenthood trying to protect women from the vitriol and hatred spewing from the anti-choice protestors, I think about my friend Sophie and the panic in her voice when she told me she thought she might be pregnant, the sound of her voice when she called me after her abortion, and the proud smile on her face when she graduated high school.

I trusted my friend Sophie enough to raise the baby if she decided to carry the pregnancy to term, but that meant I had to trust her enough to terminate the pregnancy too. It wasn’t my right to decide she was capable of one, but not the other. Sophie wasn’t a special exception; she’s just like every other woman in the world: trying to reach her full potential and make the best decisions possible.

That’s why I’m urging Congress to treat reproductive rights like the human rights that they are so women like Sophie from all across the country and of all ages have the opportunities to reach their full potential.

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Alissa M.

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