Daring to Remember: Relief, Not Regret

This post is part of Daring to Remember, an ongoing series of stories about life in the years before Roe v. Wade and in the face of contemporary attacks on the right to abortionIn these uncertain times, we are fighting for Roe and safe, legal abortion access with our own testimonies about life without choice. We are daring to remember what a nation without safe, legal abortion access looks like. Submit a story here.

“I stopped to think if I should share my story. I have never had the courage to share my abortion story. So here it goes: I was in an abusive marriage with two children already. I remember getting dropped off, walking in alone. My heart racing, my mind numb, my body tired. Scared I would have to explain that this baby came from rape or that I just simply couldn’t do it. Scared I would have to explain my life, my situation, my fears. I had all my answers ready for them. Yes, I love my kids. Yes, I love my body. No, I didn’t use protection, because I couldn’t, and so forth. I went in—and they didn’t ask, they didn’t judge, they just asked if I was okay and if I needed them. It was a quick procedure, and as I got picked up, I got into the car and he said you smell like death. I don’t know if it was the courage of what I’d done, but it was the beginning of my leaving my situation. This is not a dramatic story. It is one for those who are in a fucked-up marriage and want to have a choice. It’s not an easy one, but we have a choice—and that is what I’m afraid of,  that we get that taken away from us.” — Tamara, New Jersey

“I became sexually active in 1969.  Even though I lived in New Jersey and knew I could go to New York for an abortion if necessary, heath issues and very low income meant I’d have to ask my father for money for any abortion—and he would humiliate me, even if he did give me the money. Because I only got my period every four months or so, and found it difficult to use the pill because of yeast infections, I was frequently in a state of panic about possibly being pregnant. About the time abortion was legalized, I solved my financial issues—but I’ve never forgotten the repeated panics of those years. I have continued as an outspoken pro-choice activist, including for 30 years in a national organization where the small anti-choice minority is constantly lobbying for an end to the group’s pro-choice position.” — Carol, New Jersey

“In 1971, I was a college freshman at The Ohio State University in Columbus. I went to Planned Parenthood to get a pregnancy test and found out I was pregnant. The second I found out, I knew what I was going to do: I asked PP how I could get an abortion. In Ohio at that time, you needed two psychiatrists to claim you would harm yourself if you didn’t get an abortion. They referred me to a clinic in New York City, where abortion had just been made legal. I called made an appointment and then had to figure out how to get there and how to pay for it. My boyfriend was also a student and we literally had no money; I didn’t want to tell my parents so asking for money from them was out of the question. The abortion was $150 and we would need gas—New York is 500 miles from Columbus. I borrowed $100 from a friend and he did the same. We figured $200 would get us there and back. We had not one penny more. We drove to New York City, I had the abortion, signed out AMA and we drove back the same day. Abortion wasn’t just a choice for me, it was the only choice. I didn’t consider any other option. On the ride home, I remember feeling relieved and grateful I could get this done safely and legally. 47 years later I still feel the same way. No regrets or guilt. Women have made amazing strides educationally, financially and socially, since 1971. However, none of it matters if we cannot control our reproductive lives as we see fit. Fight for abortion rights as if your life depends on it—because it does.” — Pam Mason, New Jersey

A pro-choice activist at a demonstration for the legalization of abortion in the Netherlands in 1981. ( Nationaal Archief / Wikimedia)

“Twelve years old… victim of incest… in the eighties… when no one would listen… child would have been my half sister… couldn’t carry to term… still can’t 30 years later… would have killed me and or child… had to deal with the pictures of fetuses in people’s signs… had to deal with people screaming at me to not do that to my baby…” — Little Girl, Wisconsin

” I have always been pro-choice, and while in college I worked as a counselor for a women’s clinic that provided abortions. I explained to many women that it would be completely normal to feel relieved, as well as  guilty. One married woman in her forties came through—said she already had five kids and they shared a “mobile home with no heat.” I clearly saw that her choice was a benefit to her whole family. At the time, I had never been pregnant; strangely enough, once I graduated from nursing school I did, by my (now) husband, and needed the services of my previous employer! I later returned to work there as a resident nurse in the recovery room, and over a decade later, I chose to become a mother—and, if possible, became even more pro-choice than ever before. No job compares with parenting, and no one should have to raise a kid they don’t want. I had a second abortion between my two children, who are less than two years apart. I’ve benefitted enormously from access, and think many women like myself have legal abortion to thank for creating the life, and family, of their dreams. Sign me as pro-family, pro-contraception and pro-choice! — Sarah Donly, Florida

“I am the illegitimate daughter of a 30 year old Roman Catholic priest and a 17 year old woman. I was born in 1963, before Roe v. Wade and placed for adoption. I found and contacted my birth mother who told me had she been able to have an abortion, though it went against her Catholic upbringing, she would have. She says I’m lucky. She said she I should be thankful. I am thankful: I’m thankful that my daughters have options.” — Anonymous

“To start the story, I was adopted. My bio parents were teenagers and they signed the papers to put me in a ‘good home.’ I remember when I was in my late teens my mom told me if I ever got pregnant [and I was single] get an abortion and don’t tell her. So that’s what I did. I was in my early twenties, very early. I had just gotten into a lease after being homeless for almost half a year. I started living with this guy to stay off the streets before that. He ended up being abusive and an alcoholic. The emotional abuse became my norm, being woken up at 2 a.m. by a drunk man trying to have sex with me was my norm, being called a cunt when he was angry was my norm. He figured out I was pregnant before I did and brought home a test. I had skipped now, a second period, and thought it was due to stress and having a cold. Nope, pregnant. He became excited started talking about getting a better job and being married. I stared at him. He would never work a better job. A marriage to him would be a life sentence of abuse. I told him what I was going to call Planned Parenthood and have an abortion. I had no insurance state or otherwise. My income was too low. I went alone. Scraped together 500 in cash to pay for it. Went to the two appointments alone. Took the pill, still went to work until I started to cramp too hard, and then I went home to be emptied. The abortion saved me and my future. After that he slowly pulled away from me except on occasion to be more violent. By that point I realized it was his loss of power over me that made him so angry. I was so young. I never regret having the procedure done, because abortions save women beyond medical reasons. They save them from abuse. I am married now, have a graduate degree, and we have a healthy, loved son.” — Ms. Hart, Ohio

“When I was a little girl, my mother showed me that image of Gerri Santoro, and told me she was marching that day so that this would never happen to me. It stuck with me my entire life. I’m pro-choice.” — Edie, California

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