Oh Joy Sex Toy is a weekly comics series that graphically explores sex and sexuality. This week, Erika Moen explains the science behind abortion.
Here is a text transcription of the comic to make it more accessible for people using screen readers. Transcription by Morgan Kelly.
Erika begins this comic with a person looking concerned, they are holding a pregnancy test and muttering, “Oh! Oh... oh jeez.” Erika pops in asking, “What’s up?” The person throws their arms over their head saying, “I’m… I’m pregnant! What do I do???” Erika reassures them, “Stay calm and take a breath, it’s time to research all your options! As a newly pregnant person you have three possibilities to choose from: Parenting, Adoption, Abortion. They are all completely valid and it is up to you to decide which is right for you.” The person responds, “Well I CAN’T have a baby, so what exactly does abortion entail? I just tune out with politicians start yelling about it on TV.” Erika replies brightly, “Ok! To talk about abortion we’ll need to start at the beginning. Let’s cover some basics!”
Erika provides a diagram depicting the stages of pregnancy. “Conception: When your egg meets sperm in one of your fallopian tubes, we have conception! Implantation and Embryo Development (1-5 weeks): That fertilized egg (the blastocyst) will slowly travel to your uterus and implant itself, becoming an embryo and making you officially pregnant! Around the 5-7 weeks mark, there’s enough there for the embryo to have a detectable heartbeat, tiny buds (future hands and legs), and the beginning of a neural tube (future brain and spinal cord). Fetus (8 weeks-40ish weeks): Eight weeks in and your embryo will develop into a fetus with organs, fingers, toes, and genitalia that will continue to grow through all the next stages until birth. The timeline of a pregnancy is tracked through “Trimesters.” First Trimester: Weeks 1-12, Second Trimester: Weeks 13-27, Third Trimester: Weeks 28-40ish.”
The person then asks Erika, “Uh that’s super interesting and all, but tell me plainly: What is abortion?” Erika replies, “Nice and simple, Abortion is the removal of an embryo or fetus before it can survive outside of the uterus.” The person sighs, “Ah-ha!”
Erika now says, “As someone considering abortion, you’ve got two options! Surgical or medical, which are both administered by a trained doctor or clinician. Since I only have room to cover one of these today, I’m going to go over medical abortion. But you should definitely research surgical abortion on your own at: Scarleteen.com or PlannedParenthood.com”
Erika continues her explanation, “Medical Abortion: AKA RU486, M&M, The Abortion Pill. (It is NOT Emergency Contraception). Taken before 9 weeks of pregnancy. 95-98% effective. It’s a combination of medications (typically mifepristone and misoprostol) that creates a reaction that is indistinguishable from a miscarriage. One does is administered at the clinic (injection or orally) and a few days later another dose is taken orally vaginally at home. After the treatments you have a follow-up appointment with your abortion provider to make sure the procedure completed and that you’re healthy.” The person says to Erika, “Indistinguishable from a miscarriage? Geez I’ve never had one, what’ll it feel like?”
Erika replies, “Well, there will be heavy cramping and bleeding. You’ll also expel some large blood clots and or the embryo’s tiny grayish gestational sac from your vagina. At nine weeks the embryo is still so small that is unlikely to be seen when it passes out of you. You might suffer some side effects like: nausea, headaches, barfing or bowel troubles, along with a week or two of spotting. But it shouldn’t be more horribly painful than a bad period and your provider will most likely supply you with some pain medication to keep it manageable. You won’t be bedridden but you really should have somebody on call for you, just like any time you have a medical procedure done. Whether it’s for emotional support or to be your aid for anything you may need, it’s nice to have someone around.”
The person then asks, “So… How am I going to feel afterwards?” Erika shrugs, over one shoulder is a little smiling sunshine and over the other shoulder is a sad raincloud. Erika says, “It’s different for everyone and there’s a wide spectrum of feeling you might experience. From relief and happiness to sadness and grief, there’s no one universal way you SHOULD feel. Pregnancy hormones not only cause big changes in your body but can also create giant mood swings, and it’s normal to feel some depression or intense emotions when you’re no longer pregnant – regardless if it’s because you just gave birth or terminated it. Going through a life event is always better when you have supportive, loving, nonjudgmental people in your life that you can share your feeling with. If you don’t have someone like that near you, you can also turn to exhaleprovoice.org for some after-abortion support. Take care of yourself physically and emotionally by doing things you enjoy afterwards, like spending time with friends, sleeping, eating, going to the movies, or whatever.”
Erika continues, “For as long as people have been getting pregnant, people have also been inducing abortions.” Erika provides an illustration from the 13th century manuscript of Pseudo-Apuleius Herbarium. Erika adds, “Fortunately medical practices have come a long way! Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures performed in the USA with over a 99% safety record. You’re actually 14 times more likely to die during childbirth than by terminating your pregnancy. It has no permanent impact on your mental health, no links to breast cancer, and does not affect your fertility for later pregnancy.”
Erika continues, “Today in the USA… 50% of pregnancies are unplanned. 10-20% of pregnancies experience spontaneous abortions (miscarriages) within the first 20 weeks because the body cannot sustain the embryo or fetus till birth. 21% of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion. 30% of abortions take place before six weeks of pregnancy. 30% of people with uteruses will have had an abortion by the time they’re 45 years old.”
The person interrupts Erika, “Wait, 30%? You mean a THIRD of all the uterus’d people in my life have had one?” Erika replies, “Pretty much! People may not feel like bringing it up at dinner, but yes, everyone definitely knows at least a few people who have done it, even if they don’t know they know them.”
Erika stands arm-in-arm with the person and says, “If you decide to have an abortion, remember YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Abortion is safe, legal, and each year over a million people in the USA have one performed. For comprehensive information on abortion, please check out: scarleteen.com/article/bodies/all_about_abortion, exhaleprovoice.org, plannedparenthood.org/health-info/pregnancy/pregnant-now-what/thinking-about-abortion.”