Our Abortion Stories: ‘I Didn’t Have the Support I Needed to Be the Parent I Wanted to Be’

“I already was a parent to my sister and I couldn’t financially or emotionally provide for another child. I also wanted to finish high school.”

Abortion-rights supporters hold up photos of women who died having abortions—Savita Halappanavar and at Rosie Jimenez—at the Fremont Solstice Parade in Seattle, Wash., on June 22, 2019. (Genna Martin / San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

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 myabortionstory@msmagazine.com

Editor’s note: These stories have been excerpted and lightly edited for clarity. 

I remember my male colleague talking about sawing off limbs. I felt this rage build up inside of me and thought to myself, ‘How dare you talk about something you know nothing about?

Rep. Jackie Speier

“I was 40 years old when I had my abortion at 17 weeks. The fetus had slipped through the cervix into the vagina. They put me upside down in a hospital bed, trying to have the fetus return to the uterus and it just wasn’t happening. I decided that it was time to have the abortion. 

“The majority of women who have abortions are mothers. I was a mother. I wanted that baby, but it wasn’t meant to be. 

“I told my story on the House floor in 2011 because the very first bill that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle had introduced was HR 1, which was to defund Title X. It was targeted at Planned Parenthood, and they were particularly focused on second-trimester abortions, which was what I had. I remember my colleague on the other side of the aisle talking about sawing off limbs; I felt this rage build up inside of me and thought to myself, ‘How dare you talk about something you know nothing about?

“When I got up to speak, I said, ‘I had a procedure. I lost a baby.’ I was trembling. I walked to the back of the chamber and John Lewis was standing there, tears in his eyes. He said, ‘Jackie, that’s one of the most powerful speeches I’ve heard on this floor.’”

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.)

“I was on the pill and became pregnant to a guy I was seeing casually. At 12 weeks, I received the abortion pills mifepristone and misoprostol in the mail. A lot of blood and tissue came out at home, so I thought it worked. I didn’t take a follow-up test because the information I read online said it would read as a false positive anyway. I didn’t go to the doctor.

“But months later, stomach completely flat but boobs still sore, I tested on a whim and was horrified to learn at Planned Parenthood that I was 22 and a half weeks pregnant. I don’t ever want kids and couldn’t believe I’d ever be in the situation where I ‘let’ a pregnancy progress so far unknowingly! I bawled. I felt so stupid.

“Luckily, I lived in D.C. and had good insurance. It paid for me to have a D&E (dilation and evacuation) abortion at a hospital at 23 and a half weeks pregnant. I had to go in one day for an excruciating insertion of laminaria, and then the next day, I came back and endured strong labor pains before I was sedated and operated on.

“I have zero regrets about my choice and have a lot of gratitude for the resources that were available to me. More than anything, I hope my story will be a warning to other women and girls to always go to the doctor for prompt follow-up care after an at-home medication abortion, as you can still be pregnant even if it seems like your abortion was successful.”

Sarah P.

Editor’s note: About 95 percent of self-managed abortions with medication are effective at terminating a pregnancy. Incomplete abortions are rare but do require medical intervention. If you have medical questions during your miscarriage or abortion, call the Miscarriage and Abortion Hotline (1-833-246-2632)—an anonymous 24/7 abortion support helpline—to speak to a licensed healthcare provider.

The law was forcing this decision for me. I cried because I knew I needed to get an abortion but didn’t know how.


“When I was 17, I found out I was pregnant. I knew immediately that I needed to have an abortion.

“I had just gotten into [college] and was ready to change cities and start working toward a career in electrical engineering. I knew I definitely wasn’t ready to start a family. But in my state, the law said I needed my parents’ permission to have an abortion.

“My father is religious and conservative, and I knew I couldn’t talk to him about it. I feared what would happen if I told my mom I got pregnant and wanted an abortion. We weren’t close and I was scared she would kick me out. The law was forcing this decision for me. I cried because I knew I needed to get an abortion but didn’t know how.

“I reached out to the nonprofit Jane’s Due Process, which helps minors obtain abortions through a judicial bypass. They walked me through the many steps I needed to get through before appearing before the judge, including getting a sonogram and working with my lawyer to compile evidence of my maturity and why I wanted to have an abortion.

“I was required by law to prove I was ‘mature’ enough to make the decision. The judge got to decide my entire future, before I was able to make any decisions of my own. I felt so out of control.”


“When I became pregnant when I was 19 in college, it was within a month or so after I had watched my grandmother Lucille have a fatal heart attack in front of me. When I became pregnant, I wondered if it was her spirit coming back to me.

“I decided to have an abortion because I didn’t have the support I needed to be the parent I wanted to be. I didn’t have any barriers to access, but I regret my abortion and for many years, I did not talk about it publicly. I am staunchly in support of abortion access without any barriers and never want anyone to try to use my regret against my advocacy. There is room for all kinds of feelings and experiences about abortion that don’t prohibit someone from having one.

“In 2011, I proudly told my abortion story for the first time publicly via Advocates for Youth’s “1 in 3” story-telling project because I was inspired by the project to show so many faces and reasons behind abortion.

“I now lead a national abortion access organization, knowing that I, along with so many, contain multitudes. Abortion, birth and miscarriage are all a part of my life story. I am proud to talk about and advocate for support for all pregnancy options unequivocally without shame or judgment but with love and compassion.”


I became pregnant again—but this time, I was financially stable and emotionally ready to become a parent.


“When I was 16, my mother died of ovarian cancer, and I had to become a mother figure for my little sister. I was the one who had to take responsibility for taking care of her, and it was daunting.

“Then, at age 17, I became pregnant. I went to Planned Parenthood and the staff confirmed my pregnancy. They took care of me. They were extremely compassionate and informative. They explained the different available options: I could carry the pregnancy to term and keep the baby; I could give up the baby for adoption; or I could have an abortion.

“I decided to terminate the pregnancy because it was the best option for me at the time. Planned Parenthood helped me get funding for the procedure. It was a difficult decision, but I already was a parent to my sister and I couldn’t financially or emotionally provide for another child. I also wanted to finish high school and my boyfriend was not in a place to be able to raise a child.

“My life is better because of my decision. I got to finish high school, and I became a certified nurse assistant. I decided to apply to work at Planned Parenthood because going there as a patient made me want to help other women the way they helped me, and I ended up working there for four and a half years. If I’d been raising a child since 17, I would not have been able to enter the healthcare field.

“Six years ago, I became pregnant again—but this time, I was financially stable and emotionally ready to become a parent. This time, my choice was to keep the pregnancy. Today, I’m a proud parent of a little boy and successfully pursuing my career. It’s important that abortion remain safe and legal for women.”


These stories were told to Ms. Magazine, Planned Parenthood, Advocates for Youth, Teen Vogue and Elle—organizations collecting and sharing abortion stories. Share your story with Ms. by emailing myabortionstory@msmagazine.com.

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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.


Val Diez Canseco is a Ms. editorial intern and a sophomore at Tulane University studying international relations and English. She is passionate about reproductive rights and health access, political frameworks in the Global South, and legal processes and systems. You can follow more of her work here.