Last summer, the Supreme Court overturned the longstanding precedents of Roe v. Wade, representing the largest blow to women’s constitutional rights in history. A series from Ms., 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s note: These stories have been excerpted and lightly edited for clarity. They discuss sensitive subjects, including rape and assault.
In 1968, I was a senior at the University of Missouri. I met a fellow student at a party in his apartment. While we were sitting around talking, he asked me if I wanted to go to a show. I immediately said yes. We went to the movie together and it was instant lust. Fast forward about three weeks, I was still seeing him and there was a very strong physical attraction between us.
We had sex right before the semester break for summer. We both returned to our respective parents’ homes. After about three weeks, I didn’t get my period. My ob-gyn informed me I was pregnant, but he couldn’t do an abortion.
I found out about a doctor in the college town. I called my lover and immediately told him I wanted to get an abortion. He agreed. He met me in the college town, drove me to get the abortion, and drove me back home.
The actual experience was a nightmare. The so-called doctor had greasy hair and was smoking a cigar when he inserted an object into me. It was so painful. After I returned home, I called my doctor because of the discharge from my vagina. He told me that I had an infection and had to come to the hospital immediately. I didn’t want to tell my mother, so he told her on the phone with my permission. My mother, who was a fantastic mother, did not say a word to me about it. I really had no support from her. The only thing she said is, ‘Don’t tell your father.’
The doctor put his medical license at risk and performed a D&C. He saved my life, and I was able to have children later. I have three adult children and three grandchildren.
But that’s not the end of the story. I have lived with the trauma. My whole life, I haven’t seen the father of the baby since he took me to get the abortion. It is now 53 years later and I still haven’t recovered from the trauma. It is worse now because of all the publicity around abortion. I told my husband 52 years after we got married. I also told several friends, but that has not eased my trauma.
I never want to see another person go through what I went through and what I’m still going through 53 years later. I don’t want my granddaughter ever to have to suffer the trauma I suffered.—Susan Goodman
The so-called doctor had greasy hair and was smoking a cigar when he inserted an object into me. It was so painful.
I was raped throughout an abusive relationship.
Taking the condom off during sex, poking holes in the condom, using force and drugging me were just some of the tactics used. Language like, You’re going to have my child,” and “I’m going to get you pregnant,” were daily whispers as my loyalty appeared wavering.
My abortion was awful. But not for the reasons you may think. It was awful because my choice of when I was going to conceive was taken from me. It was awful because two years of abuse surfaced in that one moment. It was awful because my abortion woke me up to see that I was trapped in unspeakable violence on a daily basis.
My mom sat with me in the Planned Parenthood clinic while I waited my turn.
Dozens of other girls just like me sat in silence. Some eat chips, some look at the TV. How was Jerry Springer on, and did I slip into a fever dream?
I waited in the back room for two hours, and I heard women screaming from behind closed doors.
I took a cannabis edible, which was a mistake. It enhanced my anxiety. The two years of trauma jolted into my veins and memories I had forgotten, everything I disassociated away from, came into focus and flooded my eyes with tears.
Nurses and assistants sat with me, held my hand, and stood by me in solidarity while I screamed. But I did not scream at what was happening in the present—I was screaming at all the things that led me here.
I had let go of something, I felt different. It was an initiation I had not expected. On a spiritual level, something changed for me that day.
My abortion was awful because although I had removed all of the energy that was put in me against my will, I knew the fight was not over.
This could happen again.
He will try again.
I didn’t know how to get help.
A few days later, he broke into my apartment to have sex with me.
He stalked me at work.
He told me I had killed his child.
Months later, I was able to leave and get help.
I had never been more grateful for access to healthcare that could support me in my journey to safety and freedom from violence. This abortion was not at all what I thought it would be. I’ve heard stories of abortions that resulted in their friends celebrating it, offering flowers, tea, rest and comfort. Or, there is the classic “being young” abortion story, 18 and not ready for the responsibility. My abortion was neither at a young age nor celebrated. But it was the beginning of getting my life back.
If you think you may be in an emotionally, verbally or physically abusive relationship. Here is a resource to help: The National Domestic Violence Hotline 800-799-7233—Star Stone
Most of womanhood is a horror show.
On Sunday, I tested positive. On Monday, I was at the campus health center. On Tuesday, I saw my ob-gyn and took pill number one. On Wednesday, I put four dissolvable tablets, two in each cheek, and waited.
Within a couple of hours, the pain started. It was an excruciating relief, pain unlike anything I had felt and a confirmation that I do not, in fact, want to experience labor contractions.
On Thursday, it was no better, if not worse. I laid in bed subdued by half a joint, knowing that it worked and I wouldn’t be responsible or financially liable for ushering another life into an overcrowded world, as what felt like my entire uterus fell out from underneath me.
Apologies, but most of womanhood is a horror show.
I waited for grief. I waited for some kind of overwhelming sadness, that actually I did want children, and that at 37 this was probably my best shot. My ovaries have depreciated in value and I can’t afford to freeze my eggs. A moment of wonder at how my DNA might transfer to another human took hold, and a semi-strong urge to be a mom quickly came and went. I’ve barely met myself, barely got at that kid who wasn’t a kid, and I don’t want to share anymore.
My abortion was invigorating. It meant that, at least at one point, I had sex. It meant that I knew something otherwise unknowable about the human experience. A lifetime of bodily detainment was crushed by a series of five pills, the ultimate agency for anyone who can bear children, especially in a time when bodily autonomy is under constant threat by the state.
That I didn’t feel like a radical or that this was some form of dissension, only relocated the experience to just that: protest.
I’m not protesting motherhood or the experience of having an abortion as being traumatic and heavy, nor am I even protesting pro-life protests.
I am protesting the notion that my body belongs to God, Jesus, the government, that little boy who tormented me, all the men… all the men… and every gaze that evaluates my body as fertile, nubile and the correct/incorrect kind of attractiveness.
I am protesting the “this-or-that” evaluation of emotional response, which excludes nuance and discards the individual’s psychology.
The utility of my abortion was not to make a statement, and the statement inherent in the act is not an attempt to dull the communicated anguish I was supposed to feel and express when choosing not to be a mother. The utility was to treat a potential threat to my emotional and physical health, and the treatment was successful.—Sam Brown
For four months I bleed out
the baby you put in me.
Day after day. Week after week. Month after month.
But you are gone.
Your plan so expertly calculated.
only after you leave some in me.
Efforts disguised in love.
You speak incessantly about being a father.
Your latest life mission to become the man yours never was.
as you plant your seed in me.
A matter of time, the day arrives,
your hard hard work done.
I weep through the phone,
sharing the news you already know.
a hole and vessel to you.
You hold my hand while they undo the experiments you’ve done.
You claim this life’s greatest test,
but it is your test alone.
You leave the next day,
no longer amused when I am more than a womb.
Curled on the floor I shake and I scream.
I didn’t agree to bear this burden just me.
“I want my baby back.”
“I’m so sorry, baby.”
9:43 on a Tuesday morning,
winter Wisconsin air cannot chill what is already numb.
A woman with a sign glares into me,
I walk through the doors. I wonder where you are.
Did you forget your experiment took two?
The months trickle by.
My baby won’t come back.
Neither do you.
When abortion begins for me,
it ends for you.—Katie Salmon
Share your abortion story by emailing email@example.com.
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