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.
I’ll never forget the look of contempt on that doctor’s face when he humiliated me on that examining table, or the way it affected my self-worth for so many years after.
It was 1971 and I was 15 years old. “Medically necessary” abortions had been legalized in Canada, but only if a committee of (almost always) male doctors determined that continuing the pregnancy would endanger the mother’s life or health.
On a cold December day, I went with my mother to Women’s College Hospital, the only hospital in Toronto that performed abortions. It was under renovation, so I was sent to a room to put on a paper gown, then told to put my coat on over it and return to the waiting area—a long bench on which sat about a dozen women, all in their paper gowns with their coats clutched around them against the cold that whistled down the hall. I was the only one there with my mother. One by one the women were called into the examining room.
When my name was called, my mother squeezed my hand before I walked alone down the hall and into the room. Inside were a young male doctor and a female nurse. The nurse told me to get on the table and put my feet in the stirrups. I’d never had an internal examination in my life and I was terrified. But I did what I was told and counted the holes in the acoustic tiles in the ceiling (a tip from my mother on how to dissociate from what was happening) while the doctor examined me. He didn’t look at me or speak to me until he asked me why I wasn’t taking birth control. When I replied that I’d been too embarrassed to admit I was having sex, he finally looked at me. With his fingers inside me, he said, “Well, how do you feel now?” I didn’t have to answer.
The examination concluded, and they called for my mother. I was too young for them to speak to me about my body. They told her that from the size of the fetus, I was more than three months along (I’d missed one period and figured I was about six weeks pregnant at most) and that if they terminated the pregnancy it would have to be by caesarian section. On the other hand, if I went to term, I would deliver normally. The abortion was denied.
At home, I wasn’t allowed to eat meals with my family, and it was clear that having a child at my age was something to be deeply ashamed of. There were no baby showers or childbirth classes. No new mother groups or community support. Seven and a half months later, at 16, after 33 hours of labor, I gave birth by cesarean section.
I’ll never forget the look of contempt on that doctor’s face when he humiliated me on that examination table, or the way it affected my self-worth for so many years after.
At 19 I became pregnant by my abusive ex-boyfriend against my will. I had no idea I was pregnant until I started to have a sharp cramping sensation in my side and went to the clinic to make sure I did not have an ovarian cyst. Instead of a cyst from my PCOS, I was told I was five weeks pregnant.
As a young college student in a small west Texas town, I was surrounded by many judgmental people who used God to justify what happened to me and only cared about the future of the baby instead of my own. A week after my clinic appointment, I went for an ultrasound and was told my pregnancy would be high-risk. Nobody in my community could give me guidance on what my true options were now with my health at risk. That was until I called Planned Parenthood who gave me information on all avenues I could take.
As a young woman, I knew I was in danger physically with my ex-boyfriend and medically with the pregnancy, so I made the final decision to have the abortion. At a clinic, I was able to speak to a medical professional who explained and walked me through the process of my abortion in the form of pills. They cared for me and made sure that it was my decision and most importantly that I would be safe when I took the pills. I am thankful every day for Planned Parenthood for giving me the freedom to make my decision and reach my goals. This year I will be graduating with my bachelor of science in nursing and have landed my dream job of working in critical care, where I advocate for girls who were once in my situation.—Mallory, Texas
Terminations were allowed until 24 weeks in Texas at that time. A woman today in Texas does not have the option I had.
Twenty years ago, at age 31, I had a 3-and-a-half-year-old son and was pregnant with my second child. At a routine 20-week ultrasound, my husband and I found out that the baby had several heart defects. We went to see several specialists to see if his heart could be fixed after he was born. They told us that he would continue to live and grow in utero, but would die after birth. His heart had too many problems to fix. They could not tell us how long he would live, but that he would be in pain since he did not have a fully functioning heart. We decided to spare him the suffering and interrupted the pregnancy at 22 weeks.
I gave birth to my beautiful baby boy who weighed one pound. My husband and I held him until he passed away and even for a while afterward. It was a heartbreaking choice to let him go, but it was my choice and my husband’s choice with input from medical professionals. No government has the right to have a say in such personal and life-altering decisions. Terminations were allowed until 24 weeks in Texas at that time. A woman today in Texas does not have the option I had.—Menaca, Texas
Planned Parenthood was there for me when I had no idea where to turn. I was 23 years old and ended up with an unexpected pregnancy. My partner and I were not in a serious relationship and I was only earning $22,000 per year at an unstable job. On top of that, I was undergoing Interferon treatments for a rare bone tumor disease. The fetus would not have survived and my own health was seriously compromised.
I didn’t find out I was pregnant until seven weeks and already had two active tumors that needed surgery. The care I received at PP was compassionate, knowledgeable and affordable. The only time I felt judged and terrified was when anti-choice protesters yelled at me that I was going to hell for murder as I entered the building. I was raised in a strict religious home and already felt too ashamed to tell my parents. The nurses and professionals inside PP showed me more Christian love than I had ever experienced at my church.
Twenty years later, I no longer feel ashamed because it was MY choice what to do with my body. I don’t regret that choice, not even for a second because my life now is better for it. It breaks my heart that Texas passed this terribly restrictive bill. Outlawing or bounty-hunting abortion will not stop it from happening. It will only increase the systemic racism and cycle of poverty for women who can’t afford to travel out of state, are forced to carry to term, and then aren’t able to find social services for assistance because the same men who feel they can tell women what to do with their bodies have pillaged social service budgets. But as we all know, this has never been about saving unborn children. It’s about controlling women. When will men be held accountable?—Erin, Texas
I’m 34 and I live in a part of Mexico where abortion is still not legal. Back in February, I found out I was three weeks pregnant, first through a home test, and then through a blood test done at a lab. When I got the results from the lab, I knew right away I didn’t want to be pregnant. I didn’t tell the father anything because we were not in a relationship and I also didn’t want to justify or explain my actions to anyone.
On my way back home, I started thinking about what I would do to end my pregnancy. I thought about traveling to Mexico City where you can get an abortion safely, but that was an expensive option for me. I then got in contact with a group of local feminists who use Facebook to guide other women through medicated at-home abortions. I went to my nearest pharmacy to buy misoprostol. Even though you don’t need a prescription, the pharmacist didn’t want to sell it to me, so I went to another pharmacy. The other pharmacist was very kind and sold me the misoprostol with no problem. I paid $25 for a box of 28 tablets. I bought ibuprofen, pads and electrolytes.
I went back home and before taking the first dose of misoprostol, I decided to call my sister who lives in California and who had had an abortion at Planned Parenthood a couple of years before. She was very supportive and helpful. I then took two doses of misoprostol and began to bleed lightly. I also got cramps, fever and diarrhea but these symptoms only lasted through the night. In the end, I only took three doses of misoprostol because that seemed to work. The bleeding went on for days.
After 10 days I was still bleeding and I went to my ob-gyn and told her the story. She was very kind and told me that she was not going to report me to the authorities and that I needed an ultrasound to make sure the pregnancy was terminated. We did that and sure enough, there was no more pregnancy—I was relieved. She also gave me a prescription for an antibiotic to avoid any infections.
In total, I bled for 15 days and it took a while for my period to come back. I’m happy that I had no complications and that I had the resources to buy the medication and pay for my visit to my ob-gyn. However, it saddens me that I had to risk my well-being and that I had to do this alone at home because it was the only choice I really had. Abortion should be legal, safe and free for every woman that decides to terminate her pregnancy.—Adriana
My abortion story starts with having my tubes tied during the birth of my second child. We knew we didn’t want any more children. I was bedridden for most of both my pregnancies and it had been very hard for me to stay pregnant. I had already had one miscarriage and a tubal pregnancy before I got pregnant with our second child. I didn’t want to face that again.
I had almost died during the C-section due to an allergic reaction to medication given in the epidural, but we now had the family we wanted.
Fast forward a year after our second child was born. A year in which our youngest was diagnosed with a severe internal birth defect that made them very ill and required surgery. I found out I was pregnant on our youngest’s first birthday.
I was shocked. The doctor told my husband and I he was very concerned that I might be risking my life if the pregnancy continued. We were also still dealing with many medical problems with our youngest and were told there was an 80 percent chance this child would have the same birth defect. We decided to get an abortion.
Was this an easy decision for us? No, it was surely not. But with all the complications we were facing, it was the only decision we could make. If we didn’t have the option, I don’t know what we would have done. Thank God we didn’t have to face that. I don’t regret what we did and now our two children are grown and healthy.—Anonymous
These stories were told to Ms., Planned Parenthood and Advocates for Youth—three organizations collecting and sharing abortion stories. Share your story with Ms. by emailing email@example.com.
U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.