On June 24, the Supreme Court overturned the longstanding precedents of Roe v. Wade, representing the largest blow to women’s constitutional rights in history. A new Ms. series, Our Abortion Stories, chronicles readers’ experiences of abortion pre- and post-Roe. Abortions are sought by a wide range of people, for many different reasons. There is no single story. Telling stories of then and now shows how critical abortion has been and continues to be for women and girls.
The fall of Roe will strain abortion access nationwide. We cannot, we must not, lose the right to safe and accessible abortion or access to birth control. Share your abortion story by emailing [email protected], and sign our “We Have Had Abortions” petition.
Editor’s note: These stories have been excerpted and lightly edited for clarity.
Content warning: this story contains graphic descriptions of rape and sexual assault.
We met at Hartford’s Warehouse in 1978—the best dancing spot in Connecticut.
Your family came from Honduras, your glasses made you look studious and your laugh emanated from deep in your chest, almost catarrhal.
We’d meet at your apartment near South Marshall Street where you’d play your violin and I’d dance. Maybe we’d smoke some pot. You were a classical violinist, musician and music teacher.
When I found out I was pregnant, you said, “Let’s keep the child. I’ll marry you.” But at 26, I was not ready for marriage or parenthood. I’m not sure you were ready either. I think you might have had another girlfriend at the time. What kind of home could we have made for a baby?
I made the appointment at the clinic. You drove me that day and waited with me.
“Are you sure?” you turned to look at me. I nodded.
Inside the treatment room, the surgeon did not wait for the anesthesia to kick in before he began his work. I moaned over and over, “This hurts!” The surgeon furrowed his brow. Then, thankfully, I lost consciousness.
You dropped me off at my friend’s apartment in New Britain where I recuperated alone.
Raised a Catholic, I had to work on my guilt for years. Did I do the right thing?
We had stopped seeing each other. But for decades, the spirit of our cocoa-colored son hovered in the doorways of my dreams letting me know he was okay. That the abortion was okay. He grew a little in each dream, until he was a young man. His visits stopped. I let him go with love to the light.
The course of my life was changed forever.
Five years after the abortion, I begin teaching Black, biracial, Latino, Asian American and white students whom I referred to as “my kids.” I met my husband-to-be. Five years later, when I was ready, our son was born. Three years later, our daughter.
I was grateful to be able to raise our two children in a loving home.—Marie Lavendier
I saw girls with unwanted pregnancies—without access to abortions—submerge themselves in scalding hot Epsom salt baths, have their boyfriends punch them in the belly and starve themselves to the point where they weighed less than they did before they were pregnant.
I was pregnant at 16, six weeks after being dumped by my high school sweetheart. I faced one of the hardest decisions a woman—or in my case, a girl—will ever make: to keep, get rid of or give away my baby.
The moment a girl or woman discovers she is expecting, she is sentenced to a lifetime of selecting the least bad options from a list of hopeless alternatives for herself and her child.
I was too young to have a baby but too afraid to give it away. I didn’t think I’d ever recover from the loss of my child to adoption. I considered abortion but couldn’t bring myself to terminate a life that I’d created.
I’m grateful I had a choice. I saw girls with unwanted pregnancies—without access to abortions—submerge themselves in scalding hot Epsom salt baths, have their boyfriends punch them in the belly and starve themselves to the point where they weighed less than they did before they were pregnant.
Eliminating women’s reproductive healthcare rights doesn’t eliminate unplanned fetuses. It gives birth to unwanted children. Forcing women to give birth to unwanted children creates dependence on others. Both mother and child have little chance of climbing out of poverty on their own.
After having my daughter, it took me 10 years to finish a four-year college degree, while working full-time for little pay. I spent 18 years collecting food stamps, “shopping” at free clothing and food pantries and relying on payday loans when my alternator or refrigerator went out. I filed bankruptcy twice. I’m 44 years old and still owe almost $70,000 in student loans.
At 16, when I chose to keep my baby, I forfeited the remaining balance of my childhood and any chance for a normal life for myself and my daughter.
On my worst days, I was quick to remind my daughter of the sacrifices I’d made for her. She was quick to remind me that she didn’t ask to be born.—Deana Mason
I hear, “You are pregnant,” and my ears cannot unhear it. My breath will not exhale and my eyes lock onto the doctor for a sign that this may not be true. Driving home from the clinic, a feeling of terror grips me. I will have to tell my mom. This is 1969 and abortions are not legal.
My brother provided me with the name of an abortionist in Watts. A few nights later, I was on my way to a large, two-story Victorian. I was whisked upstairs to an empty bedroom. Quickly, my “doctor” pulled a towel down from the top shelf and spread it onto the floor. There were no introductions, no small talk. She instructed me to take off my jacket, jeans, underwear and shoes and to lie down on the towel on my back.
She inserted her fingers into my vagina, made a quick, jerking movement, then removed her hand. I remember feeling instantly clammy, in shock, blood draining from my brain as I almost passed out from the stabbing pain. I lay there for a while as blood came flowing back into my head. Weak, I slowly sat up. I carefully stood up with her help and put my clothes on. As I steadied myself, she told me that I would miscarry over the next few days and that it would be unpleasant.
The abortion was traumatic and frightening but I believe it took me much longer to recover because of the necessity for the abortion. I had been raped.
Now, with Roe reversed, there is no room for inaction. If not for yourself, speak out for others. It is not the church or the state or the courts who should be determining women’s reproductive rights. It is women who must decide their fate.—Marlene Simon
I had an abortion in 1975. I was 20 weeks and had a saline induction. I waited that long because my then-boyfriend was lying to me about having this child and he didn’t want to. At the same time he was not planning to be together with me. I couldn’t keep it alone and unmarried because my father told me he’d never recognize a bastard child. It was a horrible experience. The doctor tried to talk me into putting it up for adoption. I couldn’t imagine doing that.
I used birth control. But stuff happens. The doctor did his job even though he didn’t want to. The boy’s parents blamed me. The nurses were horrible. But I was grateful to no longer be pregnant.—Michele H.
I was bleeding profusely and lost consciousness. When I awoke, I found myself in a bed in the maternity ward, surrounded by mothers with their babies.
Back in the early ’60s, my boyfriend and I had been together for six months and I was on the pill. I missed my period but since I was on the pill, I didn’t think about being pregnant.
A few months went by. I went to see my doctor and when he told me that I was pregnant, I was truly surprised. Neither my boyfriend nor I wanted to get married, so I decided to try and have an illegal abortion.
My best girlfriend and I did a little research and we thought that we would try to do it ourselves. We bought a Foley catheter and she inserted it in my uterus and poked it around until I started to bleed. We both were frightened because if either one of us got caught, we could be sent to prison. Unfortunately, I began to bleed excessive amounts of blood. Another friend dropped me off at a local hospital emergency room door. When I entered, I said I was having a miscarriage.
After I was examined, the doctor said that he knew that I had an abortion, and I was left to die on a table in a room with the light off. I was bleeding profusely and lost consciousness. When I awoke, I found myself in a bed in the maternity ward, surrounded by mothers with their babies. I was told that I had surgery and had two blood transfusions and almost died. My punishment was to see all the happy ladies with their newborns. They kept me there for two days. The nurses did not speak to me and treated me with disdain.—Jane S.
At 16 years old, I was raped for multiple days by my boyfriend. I had no way to fight him. Thankfully, I got away and a month later found out I was pregnant. I was too young to understand how to handle him legally and my parents were anti-abortion. Thankfully, I had Planned Parenthood to turn to. At the time, if he had found out that I was pregnant, he would have kidnapped me and the baby. I’m lucky I got away. Please, bring back a woman’s right to choose.—Hannah C.
My grandmother died of that botched illegal abortion—leaving my 2-year-old father and his 4-year-old sister motherless. Men who think reversing Roe won’t affect them, best think again.
I am the mother of three and grandmother of three, but had an abortion in the 1980s before I was ready to start my family. I have never regretted that heart-wrenching, difficult decision for a single minute.
I am grateful that having a safe and legal abortion was an option for me. My grandmother wasn’t so lucky. She married my grandfather without the approval of her parents during the depression. With barely enough to feed the two young children they already had, when she became pregnant a third time, my grandparents decided together that an abortion would be best for their family. Unfortunately, my grandmother died of that botched illegal abortion—leaving my 2-year-old father and his 4-year-old sister motherless. Men who think reversing Roe won’t affect them, best think again.—Carol C.
Sign and share Ms.’s relaunched “We Have Had Abortions” petition—whether you yourself have had an abortion, or simply stand in solidarity with those who have—to let the Supreme Court, Congress and the White House know: We will not give up the right to safe, legal, accessible abortion.