AKG: Thanks so much for sharing your question! While SL is often a forum to talk about sex, sexuality, and relationships, we get that this aspect of reproductive health is sometimes left out of the conversation. Seeking information about options is a big step, and only the person experiencing the pregnancy is able to say what will work best for them and their wellbeing. Very generally, there are three choices you can make:
Abortion: ending the pregnancy
Adoption: continuing the pregnancy but placing the child(ren) with someone else permanently
Parenting: giving birth and raising the child(ren)
Depending on your identities, background, experiences, and future goals, any of these may be an option.
ML: Thanks for submitting this question! As college students, we are often inundated with information about preventative sexual health, but rarely talk about what happens when these events occur. While pregnancy may or may not have been a part of your plan here at Harvard, there are a multitude of services to help you through this experience regardless of the option you choose.
AKG: I agree, ML. Unintended pregnancies account for about 45% of all pregnancies in the US. Because this is a common experience, there are many places to get support and information out there to help folks walk through the decision-making process. A favorite service would be the All Options hotline (1-888-493-0092), which provides “unconditional, judgment-free support for people in all of their decisions, feelings, and experiences with pregnancy, parenting, abortion, and adoption.”
ML: Each state has different laws, policies, timelines, and procedure options. Because of this variety, we’re only going to take a bird’s eye view of methods. For more information about what may be available in your state, please check out the websites at the end.
AKG: Thanks, ML! So, let’s talk about one option: abortion. According to data from 2014, about one in four women will have an abortion by the age of 45. While it is a common procedure, the decision is personal.
The two ways to end a pregnancy in Massachusetts are medical abortion and surgical abortion. Medical abortion is available the first 10 weeks after the first day of a missed period. It’s a two step process where someone would take the first dosage generally at a medical provider’s office, and then they are able to take the second medication at home, usually within two days of the first one. Many folks report feeling severe menstrual cramps and experiencing bleeding or spotting that can be heavier than their normal period. This means that it may be helpful to have support with you including a friend or someone from Boston Abortion Support Collective (BASC) and/or take a break from your normal routine.
Surgical abortion in Massachusetts is available generally until 23 weeks after conception, though there are select instances where abortion may be performed past this point. There are two types of surgical abortions; both are in-clinic procedures that happen at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts in Boston, Women’s Health Services in Brookline, and at some area hospitals. Some clinics require that someone else picks you up from the appointment, so know that it may be necessary to have a friend or a member of BASC with you.
At Harvard, if you are covered through the Student Health Insurance Plan, and electing for a surgical abortion, you will be expected to pay a $75 copayment. A medical abortion should be entirely covered. If you have private insurance, but it will not cover an abortion or you do not wish to ask your insurance company if they’ll cover it, the student health fee (which all undergraduates pay) will provide a $350 voucher. The Eastern Massachusetts Abortion (EMA) Fund is also available should you require additional financial or additional support.
ML: Thank you, AKG. It’s very important to understand the different routes one can take should pregnancy not be a choice you want to make. If abortion is not an option or not the right choice for you, adoption is another route you can take. Through either a private or public adoption agency, you will be guided through the process of choosing caregivers. You will want to speak with an adoption counselor that you can find through your medical provider to learn more about agency-specific procedures and state particular rights; however, a broad overview is that you can choose to have an open or closed adoption. An open adoption is where you can choose to receive some information about the child and their family as they grow up, whereas a closed adoption would involve receiving little to no information post-delivery.
One option for talking to an adoption counselor is the National Pro-Choice Adoption Collaborative, a non-discriminatory, secular, non-profit agency that aims to provide unbiased information about adoption and services related to adoption nationwide. Like All Options, it’s another place to have a conversation with someone outside of your immediate environment to talk through the options that you have.
AKG: If you will be going through the birth process, HUHS can provide OB/GYN services to you, and the birth will take place at Mount Auburn Hospital. Undergraduates are able to live in the Harvard dorms while pregnant. However, if you choose to carry out the pregnancy and parent the child(ren) then you will not be permitted to remain in the dorms. In Cambridge, there are a number of resources and daycares that offer services, although pricing and availability may vary.
ML: While the breadth of information presented above provides a snapshot of your options should you find out that you’re pregnant, there is more information available about each option. It is important to note that each person’s experience will be different, and that there is no one right choice or answer to this question.