“Thanks to Gloria Steinem and the many women who have told their abortion stories without shame, I have decided to do the same.”
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. Share your abortion story by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Did they talk about unwanted pregnancies?”
It was 1965. Unable to make eye contact with my mother, I handed her the letter from school explaining that we had had the fifth grade sex talk. All I could hope was that my mother would sign the paper without reading it, hand it back to me, and I could pretend none of it ever happened.
My mother read the letter and signed the form. Then she looked me in the eyes, holding it just out of my reach.
“Do you have any questions?” my mother asked calmly.
“I have one,” my mother continued. “Did they talk about terminating pregnancies?”
I am sure my face betrayed my confusion and discomfort. I will never forget what my mother said next: “If you ever find yourself pregnant and you do not want to have a baby—for any reason at all—I want you to tell me, no questions asked. I will take you to Sweden, where abortion is legal.”
Abortion? I nodded as if I had any clue what she was talking about and reached out my hand for the form. I ran up to my room and locked the door.
Abortion was not legal in the United States until one year after I graduated from high school—but 12 years before Roe v. Wade my mother wanted me to know that I had a choice. I was lucky—so much luckier than I could possibly have known at that time.
In 2015, I was serving in the New Hampshire legislature when I answered a phone call informing me that one of Hillary Clinton’s “surrogates” needed transportation. It was Gloria Steinem. I was over the moon; I had one uninterrupted hour with a feminist icon.
As she discussed the relief she felt after publicly discussing her abortion, my mind was churning. Would I? Could I? I did. For the first time, I told someone my abortion story.
In 1991, I was 38 years old, married, living in a safe community with three healthy children. Life was crazy but we were happy. Our children were thriving, we were focused on balancing our careers and family time, and I was taking birth control pills—clear that I already had the children I wanted. But I fell into the small percentage of those who become pregnant while on the pill.
I did not want to be pregnant again.
I was frantic. I had experienced the pure joy of giving birth and raising children I desperately wanted, and I was ready to go back to work. I could not bear the idea of starting over again. I felt no joy. When I told my husband that I was pregnant again, I was weeping. He listened and supported me unequivocally. We told no one else that I was pregnant. I called Planned Parenthood and I got an abortion without incident.
I did not have to go to Sweden. I did not have to tell my parents. I did not have to tell anyone my reasons, because it did not matter.
I cannot fully understand why I let anyone keep me from speaking openly about doing the right thing for myself and my family, including our seven granddaughters, but that changes today.
Steinem understood why my husband and I had not told anyone, not even our grown children; people can be cruel. She described the freedom she had experienced in telling her truth. She knew why I had kept it to myself better than anyone, and she strongly encouraged me to tell my family and others, with pride and without apologies. I knew why it was important for women to tell their abortion stories, so why was I keeping this experience on a back shelf in bubble wrap?
Thanks to Gloria Steinem and the many women who have told their abortion stories without shame, I have decided to do the same. I cannot fully understand why I let anyone keep me from speaking openly about doing the right thing for myself and my family, including our seven granddaughters, but that changes today—one year after the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the loss of our federal constitutional right to abortion.
I had an abortion at the age of 38, as a happily married woman who came from privilege. I had three beautiful children, a partner who loved me and financial stability. I had everything I needed, including a choice.
I will not stop fighting for our reproductive rights until everyone is as lucky as I was to have bodily autonomy and full agency over their lives. There is nothing more American than fighting for freedom.
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.