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 should not have to sit there all night staring at the wall and thinking about how the baby I wanted was still in me, with a failing heart and no head.Terry
“It had been a normal day.”
When Terry went to her 15-week ultrasound appointment, she found out her fetus had not developed at all above the neck—there was no head. It was a one-in-a-million abnormality, the specialist told them.
“It was at that point I began to go numb. I kind of shut down. My specialist told me, ‘There’s only one thing that we can do to assure that you walk out of this healthy.’ He recommended that I terminate the pregnancy.”
Despite having zero chance of survival due to this fetal abnormality, in her home state of Texas, Terry’s fetus still had a heartbeat. Terry did not qualify for an abortion and had to seek care in New Mexico instead.
“It felt like, does my life matter in this or is this just about bringing a baby into the world for a moment? It felt like my life didn’t matter, like I could just die and it would all be for nothing.
“I should not have to sit there all night staring at the wall and thinking about how the baby I wanted was still in me, with a failing heart and no head. I’ve never been that angry before in my life.
“I felt like a criminal. We lied to everyone we knew to get out. I knew I would get a lecture on how it’s my motherly duty to bring my child into the world.
“The nurse held my hand, petted my hair and talked to me. She kept me calm and wiped my tears.
“My boyfriend did his best to make sure that I was comfortable on the 11-hour drive back. But it’s not so easy to drive for hours after such an emotionally and physically taxing experience. We wanted to get as close to Austin as possible. He was worried that they would call somebody and report us. We’ve heard things about people getting reported and a whole investigation happening.
“I wish I could move past it. I’ve never felt defeated before in my life. I failed math tests, I’ve lost sports games, but I’ve never felt defeated. Not like this. I want to force people to see what they’re doing. I want Greg Abbott or anyone who voted for this law to look me in the eye and tell me that I deserved what happened. That I deserve to be punished by the law for what I’ve gone through. I want them to look me in the eye.”–Terry
I knew what was happening to women who had these back-alley abortions, because for Black girls and women, that was a cause of death for so many of us.Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)
“I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, and I was raised Catholic. Fast-forward to the 11th grade—way before Roe v. Wade. I got pregnant. Of course, there was no comprehensive sex ed class in school.
“I was in a quandary, but thank goodness my mother was there to support me. She called her friend, and her friend said not to worry, that she knew a doctor in Juárez, Mexico. Her friend took me, and I was terrified. My mother gave me the money. It was $200. I’ll never forget that. It was a back-alley clinic. But the doctor was a really good doctor; he was kind. It was late at night, maybe 10 p.m. We crept up there and walked in, and my mother’s friend was with me the whole time. And I survived.
“But all the while, I knew what was happening to women who had these back-alley abortions, because then, for Black girls and women, that was a cause of death for so many of us. So of course I was fearful and worried. Afterward, I thanked God that I survived, because I knew so many women hadn’t.”–Rep. Barbara Lee
They told my husband they were taking the choice away from us. I was going to die if they did not deliver.Janet
“I went through years of infertility procedures including 13 IVF’s. I was pregnant with twin girls, the product of IVF frozen embryos. We were over the moon excited, and scared. I had lost five pregnancies.
“I went to the dentist for a dental cleaning. He failed to call my doctor and tell him that I had some gum abscessing. He introduced that bacteria into my bloodstream resulting in sepsis. I went into labor. I was very sick and nearly died. I was 21 weeks pregnant. (Also I was a NICU nurse, so this was my world). They tried to treat me and stop the labor and the sepsis. I delivered Alyssa and she died in my arms. Then, my labor stopped with the medication. However, I was so septic, my blood pressure dropped out, I went into Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome.
“They told my husband they were taking the choice away from us, I was going to die if they did not deliver Erin and do a D and C. She, of course, died too. Alyssa and Erin are buried together. I stayed in the hospital critically ill for four more days. The devastation we felt was overwhelming.
“If this ridiculously cruel [Texas six-week ban] were in effect when that happened, they would have had to let me die. Medical care needs to be decided by medical professionals. It is not one politician or government officials decision. They act as if we, women, are heartless, irresponsible and incapable of making our own medical decisions.
“This is not ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ This is our lives. Our bodies, our choices must be the rule everywhere.”–Janet, Texas
“My ex-husband and I were both raised in really orthodox families, and so we didn’t use contraception. We had two children in four years and were in the process of divorcing when I realized that my depression and fatigue weren’t just due to the breakup. Again, I was pregnant.
“A very close friend of mine talked about the possibility—otherwise I truly would have never even considered a pregnancy termination. I was raised in a household where we prayed for the unborn children in heaven every single night. I was like, wait, you mean I don’t have to have three kids under 5? I don’t have to financially struggle while raising three children?
“My ob-gyn at the time was very anti-choice; hence I knew I couldn’t talk to her about this. I found an online pharmacy that was light on the pockets to get the abortion pills. I was simultaneously working two full-time jobs as a bakery worker and part-time home health helper while nurturing two babies. I just delayed some bills to pay for those pills by tightening my budget even further.
“I was eight weeks along when I took the first pill (mifepristone), then the second set (misoprostol) at home. I waited until my two children were in bed. I was a bit worried about doing it alone. I kept remunerating, ‘Is this the way it’s supposed to take place? Is the blood too much or not enough? Did I do it right?’ But it wasn’t the worst pain compared to childbirth.
“My ex and I have never discussed what I did, however, I think he knows. We co-parent really well, he’s very active in my kids’ lives now. It’s been four years and now I still feel grateful with the website that helped me then. They guided me in a proper way—I felt so supported.”–Yesenia D. Harris
Editor’s note: At-home abortions via medication abortion are legal, safe and available in all 50 states. The organization Plan C has a comprehensive guide to finding abortion pills on their website, which is continually updated and has all the latest information on where to find abortion pills from anywhere in the U.S.
“I was just married at age 20 and had not finished college. My husband was a private in the U.S. Army and we knew we would be moving and starting over again as soon as he got out of the Army. We were kids ourselves! I was taking birth control pills but was not careful enough. Sometimes my husband would be gone for weeks at a time and I stupidly thought I could skip taking the pill while he was gone. I ended up pregnant.
“This was 1974! I went to the doctor on base and I don’t remember much after that except that some doctor showed me a picture of a fetus and asked me if I was sure I wanted to terminate the pregnancy. I glanced at the picture and replied that I wanted to proceed. There was no discussion or conversation. No mandated waiting or counseling. I was admitted to the hospital and treated as any surgical patient; wheeled into an operating room, knocked out with anesthesia, woke up in a recovery room and went home a few hours later.
“I have NEVER regretted this decision, in fact it’s probably why we stayed married for 49 years and are financially and emotionally stable. I was never shamed, harassed or hassled. No one tried to interfere with my choice. I was so lucky! I am distraught that we are at this point in the USA and especially Texas.”–Sally, Texas
These stories were told to Abortion, Every Day; Planned Parenthood; Advocates for Youth; and Elle—four organizations collecting and sharing abortion stories.
Share your story with Ms. by emailing email@example.com.
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