I Used Virtual Abortion Care To End My Pandemic Pregnancy

CW: Abortion


Written by S.H Ross.

The year is 2020. A pandemic is sweeping the globe. And you just realized that it’s not the takeout making you gassy. Now what? 

The Supreme Court recently reinstated a requirement that orders people seeking medical abortions to pick up the pills in person—going against the recommendation of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Virtual abortions are convenient and safe, not to mention pandemic-friendly. This latest ruling is cruel and punishes pregnant people by forcing them to trek, unnecessarily so, to a clinic during a health crisis. I refuse to continue normalizing their stance by staying silent.

We can’t talk about abortion without discussing privilege. The privilege to have access to an abortion clinic, and the funds to pay for the procedure. The privilege to speak about your abortion without fear of violence or ostracization. I am in a situation where I can afford to say on a public platform that I have had an abortion. So, I share my story with the hopes of normalizing abortions and virtual care, of empowering others to speak about their own experience, and to hopefully make you feel less alone if that damn strip unexpectedly turns pink.

The privilege to have access to an abortion clinic, and the funds to pay for the procedure. The privilege to speak about your abortion without fear of violence or ostracization.

I could go into the details of how and why I suddenly found myself pregnant during a time when it was highly advised to avoid medical emergencies at all costs. To keep it short and sweet, I winged it. If you are having unprotected sex and do not wish to become pregnant, I don’t recommend my method of “winging it.” Around five weeks later, I took a pregnancy test before work. My partner and I both said, “no shit” when we saw the results and I started looking up clinics immediately. 

Within twenty minutes I had secured a virtual abortion consultation for later that week. The provider and I met in a secure, private video chat. He asked me what I knew thus far about my pregnancy. I had been worried that he’d want…I don’t know, proof or something, but he made it clear that he trusted my judgement and simply walked me through the process. He reassured me that this was an incredibly safe, common procedure and that everything I needed would arrive at my apartment in a few days. 

When my abortion-in-a-box arrived at my door, I was immediately struck by how benign it looked. My neighbors may as well have assumed it was packing the latest Instagram makeup darling and not mifepristone, misoprostol, a pad the size of my head, and a lollipop—the clinic was cute like that. I also had two prescriptions, one for naproxen, a mild painkiller, and one for oxycodone, a knock-you-off-your-ass painkiller. 

If you’re preparing for an at-home abortion, here are some quick tips:

  • Stock up on crackers, bananas, and popsicles—especially popsicles
  • DON’T and I repeat DON’T pregame your abortion with a breakfast burrito
  • Just go for the steel cut oats. Really. 
  • Have a large box of pads and full coverage underwear on hand 

The medical abortion is a two-day process, at the least. On a Friday morning, I took the mifepristone tablet—this is what gets things rolling and I didn’t experience any physical symptoms. Twenty-four hours later, I activated the rest of the abortion. For pregnancies in the early stage, you place two misoprostol pills into the bottom of each side of your mouth between your cheeks and your teeth, not unlike a chipmunk hoarding acorns. They stay there, melting into sticky, bitter gunk for about half an hour. I was grateful to be safely at home with a constant stream of inane Netflix holiday movies to cheerfully drown out thoughts like “shit, did I swallow it?” 

If you are having a medical abortion, I recommend asking your healthcare provider for an anti-nausea drug to take before your procedure. 

Forty-five minutes later, I ran into my bathroom and had what I’ll call the two-for-one special. From my toilet, I started projectile vomiting breakfast burrito and leftover misoprostol into my bathtub. I immediately called a midwife friend in a panic, certain that I had just ruined the procedure. They reassured me that nausea was a common side effect. If you are having a medical abortion, I recommend asking your healthcare provider for an anti-nausea drug to take before your procedure. 

Most of my preparation had been in anticipation of drop-to-your-knees cramps. Perhaps the naproxen was to thank, but my cramps really just provided some nagging background noise. It hadn’t occurred to me to prepare emotionally for the abortion itself—the bleeding. Hour four passed. Then, hour five. I grew worried that my early episode in the bathroom had screwed up the procedure. Around hour six, my concerns became invalid. The clinic explicitly stated in my information packet that the clots could be as big as lemons. I had the giant pads. I had the facts—I just hadn’t digested them. The bleeding was nothing like a period. It was an unfamiliar heaviness, a chaotic, nearly alien experience. At the end of the day, I had no doubt that my pregnancy had been successfully terminated. 

The days after the procedure were not what I had expected. I thought the abortion would be a flash in the pan and I’d be back to work on Monday. The reality was it took me about a month to really heal. I felt grateful to work from home, but also wondered, what if I couldn’t? What would I have worn to the office that could hide the large pads in my underwear? How would I have dealt with the shadowy phantom pain I experienced after the procedure? I felt like my uterus and cervix were swollen and bruised and I kept cradling my body, as if to hold it together. 

Having an abortion is like being in an underground club. Slowly, the other members reveal themselves to you in whispers. Well, I want to yell. I want to talk about abortion as openly as I’d talk about getting a root canal. And, what I really want is for every person to have access to virtual abortion care during the pandemic, as well as beyond it. 

About The Author

S.H. Ross is a copywriter, poet, and storyteller currently hiding out somewhere along the Salish Sea. Her work has been featured in Holl & Lane, Pussypedia, and other nooks and crannies of the Internet. She’s pretty sure she’ll finish that fantasy novel someday.

Follow on IG: @beetliever

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