"The decision to become two people instead of one is monumental. Sometimes it's the right time and sometimes it's not. This is one of the times that it's not," writes Jex Blackmore, the director of the Satanic Temple's Detroit chapter. Blackmore took the abortion pill on Thanksgiving and she detailed the process—from unexpected pregnancy to recovery—on "Unmother," a blog under the URL crisispregnancymichigan.com.
Blackmore and the Satanic Temple, staunch advocates for women's reproductive rights along separation of church and state, chose that URL strategically; they hope that pregnant women looking for information about abortion stumble upon their website, instead of ending up on one for a crisis pregnancy center (CPC), which are known to pose as women's health clinics. In reality, CPCs are really religious advocacy groups that push biased information on pregnant women, in an attempt to prevent them from getting abortions.
Blackmore's "crisis pregnancy" site reveals the realities of what it's like to get an abortion for the first time. On her blog, she explains Michigan's pending and enacted abortion regulations, the cost of getting an abortion ($800), the process of inducing a miscarriage, and the aftermath. Broadly spoke with her over the phone to learn more about the project.
BROADLY: How are you feeling? According to your blog, it's been 11 days since your medically-induced abortion.
Jex Blackmore: Right. Two days ago was the first day I started to feel better. Now I'm feeling more like myself. I have a check-up tomorrow to make sure everything went smoothly, internally. I'm going to write one last entry after tomorrow's visit.
As part of the Satanic Temple, you've been a long-time advocate for women's reproductive rights. On your blog, you briefly mention the moment of realization you had from going to an advocate, in a theoretical sense, to being a person who actually needed to have an abortion. What was that process like for you?
It was really surreal because I have been focusing so much on women's reproductive rights and thinking about information that's been made available to women in the process of getting an abortion. At first, I didn't even want to believe I was pregnant. Then I just felt like I was in this sort of parallel universe. I had been advocating for this "other," unknown woman's right to get an abortion, and then all of a sudden I was that woman.
When did you decide to blog about it?
After I found out I was pregnant it took a few days to sink it. But it was very obvious that I was pregnant; I was late and I felt achy everywhere. I knew I was going to get an abortion, so I wanted to document it. There's very little information online about the kinds of feelings I was experiencing as a pregnant woman who was planning to get an abortion. No one talks about what it's really like to get an abortion, and I found that there was very little information or resources about the weeks leading up to the procedure. So I thought that perhaps writing about it would bridge that gap in experience.
Yeah, once you're pregnant and decide to give birth there's so much information regarding how to do that. There's an entire industry around it. No tells you the best way to have an abortion.
In going into the clinic to have them explain the process, I learned that there was so much more involved than I ever expected. But for the clinicians, it's sort of routine. They sort of gloss over how painful it can be, for example, or the time it takes to recover. I sometimes think that in the pro-choice movement there's a subconscious attempt to continue to gloss over these details that are hard. I think there's a fear of feeding into the hysteria around abortion. In reality, the physical pain isn't too big of a deal, but we just don't discuss what the decision to take on an abortion requires, physically at least.
What was the pain like after you induced your abortion?
Well, you basically go into labor. You have contractions. The experience is a little different for everyone, but I know several women who have told me stories that were similar to my experience. The pain starts off like normal menstrual cramps but then it becomes intense, deeper. It's certainly manageable, but about an hour or so before I passed pregnancy tissue I experienced blinding pain. It was really intense, but as soon as it was over, it was over. There wasn't a gradual decrease in pain; it was really painful and then it was done.
Michigan is a state that has a fair amount of regulatory burdens on women who seek out abortions. Can you walk me through what you had to do before you were able to get your abortion?
There is a 24-hour mandated waiting period. I had to contact a clinic and then I was required to either print out or pick up the informed consent materials, which are written by the state, and confirm that I had reviewed them before the procedure. Those documents aren't written by any medical professional and they include misleading information. And if I had read about a D&C abortion or came into the clinic with a form for a procedure other than the one I was getting, they would turn me away.
In Michigan, it's also not required that insurance plans cover abortion [under the Abortion Insurance Opt-Out Act]. This isn't something that I had to deal with, but many women do or may [have to]. Many insurance policies in the state don't offer abortion coverage so you have to buy additional coverage for abortion specifically. It's really an additional burden placed upon women to purchase this extra coverage in advance, presuming that they might expect to get an abortion at some point.
On top of that, abortion clinics are so heavily regulated that there's not very many of them in certain counties in Michigan. I'm just lucky that I live near Detroit where there's a handful of places I could have gone to. We've actually been working on a research project to provide information on the abortion clinics in the state. Right now, there are under 50 clinics that perform abortions in the state. To put that in context, there are a little over 100 crisis pregnancy centers in Michigan.
No one talks about what it's really like to get an abortion, and I found that there was very little information or resources about the weeks leading up to the procedure.
Is the Satanic Temple working on any other new projects related to reproductive rights?
Well, with this project, we're hoping that ultimately it grows and can redirect women to a good source of information. We've been gathering good information about safe clinics that women who want an abortion can call and trust, rather than being taken off guard because they accidentally called a CPC, for example. We've also been gathering information from CPCs to scan and upload to our site so people can see the propaganda that they promote. We're also working on a guide for women who are in a position like I was to help them navigate the system and inform them about what they can expect legally. In Michigan, for instance, if you're under 18 you have to get permission from your parents—that's a whole other process for younger women.
I didn't realize, until recently, how insidious CPCs were. Are crisis pregnancy centers successful in getting women to use their services?
They are relatively successful. I know that their websites are incredibly misleading—one in particular provides directions from every area's college campus directly to their clinic. You know how they advertise: "Are you pregnant? Scared? We can help." There's no disclosure that they won't provide information about abortion. The clinic staff aren't even medically certified. They're just all volunteer church moms, or something like that. That's all hidden.
There are several crisis pregnancy centers in a one mile radius from the clinic I went to. I actually read a review of the clinic I went to in which the reviewer wrote that they accidentally ended up at a CPC before finding the clinic. They were like trapped watching propaganda videos until they realized that they were in the wrong place. CPCs and actual clinics look really similar. That's one reviewer's response, but that's a good indicator that other women might fall into that same trap.
Have you gotten any surprising responses to the project?
What's been incredible about this project is the amount of positive feedback I've received from other women who haven't discussed their experiences ever before. I think it's really important that there's an opportunity for women to share their abortion stories anonymously. I hope to put something up on the site in the next day or so to allow women to at least post their experiences. I know that there's another project called #ShoutYourAbortion that's very similar, but I think that thinking about the whole process leading up to the abortion should be included in the dialogue.