My Mom Chose Abortion to Change the World. And She Did.

My mom is just one of millions of people whose lives were better because they had an abortion—because she had control over her future.

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In 2002, Poonam Ahluwalia launched Youth Entrepreneurship and Sustainability (YES). Over the next 10 years, she held summits around the world. YES had 56 country chapters and launched over 400 youth employment projects. Millions benefited from her work. (Courtesy of Saatvik Ahluwalia)

As an abortion rights advocate in Texas, the last month has been a gut-wrenching rollercoaster ride for me amid the continuous court battles that first denied, then allowed, then denied again a woman’s right to choose. 

The choice that is being taken away from millions of Texans makes me think of my mom, Poonam Ahluwalia. She had an abortion and it allowed her to change the world.

My mom passed away on October 21, 2019, after a seven-year battle with cancer. Over the course of her life, she touched millions of people.

When Mom and Dad found out she had become pregnant, they had to decide if they could support a child. As a young couple who had just started their life, the answer was “no.” They chose abortion. What unfolded over the next four decades of her life changed the world.

First, they moved to the United States. She completed her master’s degree at Boston University and began working for former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. Then my mom got pregnant with me and decided to stay at home to raise me. A few years later we adopted my sister, Tara. 

When I was 8, my mom asked us a tough question: “I’ve been offered a job at the Education Development Center (EDC). I would travel internationally at least once a month and would have to spend a lot of time away from all of you. Are you all okay with that?” 

“Yes.” 

At EDC, her life’s mission was formed. She saw what others at the time didn’t—youth unemployment could destabilize any country. If the public and private sectors couldn’t create jobs, then young people would get into risky behaviors like drugs, crime and prostitution.

Her solution? Entrepreneurship.

In 2002, she launched Youth Entrepreneurship and Sustainability (YES) in Alexandria, Egypt. At the opening of her first summit, President Bill Clinton taped a video addressing over 2,000 young people from around the world about how that convening could alter humanity’s future. 

Over the next 10 years she held summits around the world. YES had 56 country chapters and launched over 400 youth employment projects. Millions benefited from her work.

Could my mom have given birth to my sibling and still changed the world? Maybe. Could she have given birth and put my sibling up for adoption? Maybe. But either of those options would have made her life, and our family’s, much more difficult. 

She could have died young from an illegal abortion or during forced labor. If my sibling was born, my mom would have faced far greater odds of being unemployed, of living below the federal poverty line, and being more prone to mental health issues. All of those things would have had a negative impact on my older sibling and, had I been born and my sister adopted, on us too. 

This is the regressive future faced by almost 7 million Texans as Greg Abbott’s six-week abortion bill is born. A lucky few will have the resources to travel to abortion-friendly states. Those without access to resources face near insurmountable barriers to the essential healthcare they need.

With all of this happening, what comes to mind is my 4-month-old daughter. She is so young, she only knows love and warmth, but she will grow up here in Texas. And if one day she gets pregnant and it isn’t the right time for her to start a family, what will happen to her?

Will she be forced to bring a child into this world?


My 4-month-old daughter is so young, but she will grow up here in Texas. And if one day she gets pregnant and it isn’t the right time for her to start a family, will she be forced to bring a child into this world?


I hope not and I hope you’re as angry as I am. Texas is using a novel and dangerous approach to restricting bodily autonomy and freedom of speech. If we are unable to defeat it, state legislatures across the country are likely to enact similar bills. 

We’re already seeing Texas’s abortion bill become a litmus test for 2024 presidential hopefuls. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem directed her attorneys to review Texas’s law. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson wants to “mirror the Texas S.B. 8 bill.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis says he’s looking into the law. 

John Seago, the policy director for Texas Right to Life, the anti-abortion group that helped draft Texas’s law, is working with at least three other states to draft legislation similar to S.B. 8. 

My mom is just one of millions of people whose lives were better because they had an abortion. Not because she was able to reach great heights of success, but because she had control over her future—something all of us want.

Wherever you are, you can help. I urge you to act now and support abortion funds in our state. We know not what greatness we squash if this abominable law stands.

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About

Saatvik Ahluwalia is a digital director at Progress Texas and Austin Asian Civic Communities Coalition. He is also a Public Voices Fellow of the OpEd Project. His work has been covered in the Boston Globe, Austin American-Statesman, Austin NPR, VISIBLE Magazine, and more.