“Your abortion is not a taboo or a deep, dark secret; abortion is healthcare.”
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. Warning: The stories below contain descriptions of sexual violence.
It was our six children we thought about when weighing the risks of carrying another baby. Our doctor agreed a termination was the best choice, but we were still heartbroken, frightened and exhausted.Katie
“To this day, I have the most vivid recollection of the overcast afternoon I spent crouched in my bathroom in November 2020, physically ill and emotionally overwhelmed as I clutched a positive pregnancy test.
“I need not elaborate on what my husband and I felt leading up to our abortion because I imagine our sentiments were not unique. Our reason for the termination was not that we already had six children and a sudden, unexpected pregnancy; rather, it was rooted in my having suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and pulmonary embolisms years before, followed by the diagnosis of hypercoagulative and seizure disorders. Yet, it was our six children we thought about when weighing the risks of carrying another baby. Our doctor agreed a termination was the best choice, but we were still heartbroken, frightened and exhausted.
“Afterward, I staggered toward the vague reality that I would heal, though I had no idea where to start or how long it would take. I had never shied away from declaring myself pro-choice, but admitting that I had an abortion was a completely different matter. A voice inside me nagged away, reminding me that my community perceived me, first and foremost, as a mother. While I was confident that I had made the right decision, albeit an exceptionally difficult one, I understood that not everyone would agree. To those who didn’t, my medical history would be a moot point, a poor excuse not to exchange my gilded title of ‘mother’ with ‘murderess.’ I cowered in the shadow of that reality, and I bottled up fleeting inclinations to treat my abortion as anything but clandestine.
“During the past few years, though, my opinion has gradually evolved. The journalist in me flinches against keeping secrets and the mother in me clings to the wisdom of Atticus Finch: ‘You don’t truly know someone until you evaluate them with empathy.’
It’s simple to judge and jury people we don’t understand or see, to assign our stereotypes about complicated and controversial subjects to strangers. A wide range of women have stories that are irrevocably intertwined with reproductive rights; some are more closely connected to you than you’d imagine and many are struggling to find their voice. The infamous Supreme Court ruling of June 2022 notwithstanding, I believe we have indeed progressed beyond the back alley butcher shops of the early 20th century. All the same, until we’re willing to share, listen, and empathize, the only right that remains unjeopardized is our right to remain silent.”
“During my abortion, doctors inserted an IUD to guard against a repetition of what occurred in November 2020. By May 2021, we discovered that the IUD had failed miserably. Shortly after Memorial Day, I learned I was about six months pregnant with our 2-year-old. Though a second termination was a possibility in light of my health history, we opted to continue the pregnancy, given its advanced state. It was an extremely precarious journey, and despite a rewarding outcome, it reinforced both the rationalization behind our procedure in November 2020 and the need for the preservation of reproductive rights.”
I could have manipulated him into marriage, but that felt like a lousy way to begin a family. … I’m 73 years old. I’ve had a life rich with gratifying work, a husband I cherish and children I was able to provide for. And that life could not have existed without my right to choose.”Susan Kraus
“It was 1975 in Austin, Texas. I was the first in my extended family to go to university. I’d fast-tracked a BA and MA, and was in a Ph.D. program, supporting myself with scholarships, a teaching assistantship and loans.
“I was using birth control but it obviously failed. I cared deeply for the young man who was the father. We were in a relationship but still navigating commitment. We’d both been raised Catholic. Yes, I could have manipulated him into marriage, but that felt like a lousy way to begin a family.
“To have a child then meant dropping out of school, relinquishing my life and probably returning to live with my parents across the country. There were no resources available to make choosing to be a single mom a sane choice: not for me, not for a child. Abortion was only recently safe, legal and local. I did not have to travel in secrecy to another state or risk my life with an illegal abortion. I could schedule an appointment, be treated with both respect and compassion and receive competent medical care.
“Five years later, married to that same man, both of us educated, employed, and ready to support and nurture a child, we joyfully conceived our daughter. She is now 41, our son is 37. We are still married. I sometimes think of the trajectory of my life had I not–for perhaps the first time–made a decision that deeply challenged my ‘values,’ yet was absolutely the most ethical and moral choice I could make.
“By a convoluted course of events, I ended up in a feature on CBS Sunday Morning around 1983 on the political divide over abortion. It was set in Kansas, where we still live. I was told then that I was the first Catholic woman to talk openly about her own abortion on national television. Only after we taped the program did I finally tell my mother. She said she was sorry she could not have supported my choice years before, but she did now. She became, as are many Catholic women, pro-choice.
“Abortion is often the most significant decision any woman or man will make. To criminalize not continuing a pregnancy? To impose rigid and arbitrary limits? To tell women that we have no right to our own beliefs, health, morality, values, well-being—to our own futures?
“I’m 73 years old. I’ve had a life rich with gratifying work, a husband I cherish and children I was able to provide for. And that life could not have existed without my right to choose.”
I did not press charges, but wish I would have all these years later.Julie
“I had an abortion at age 20 and it was a date rape, a situation I got myself into but could not get out of. I went out on a first date with a young man I thought seemed nice, but he was not at all nice. Late in the evening, he cornered me in a pool with no one else around, coerced and raped me. There was no way out. We were far from where I lived and I had no way to escape the situation. I did not press charges, but wish I would have all these years later. I was scared and wanted to forget it happened. I got the abortion at 10 weeks. I have never regretted the procedure, not even for a moment.
“I would also like to mention that I have ADHD and young women with ADHD are four times more likely than neurotypical women to have unwanted pregnancies before the age of 30 due to the nature of the disorder–impulsivity and forgetfulness especially. Abortion bans are especially hard on these girls and women.
“I am now long past childbearing age but shudder to imagine what it would be like to become pregnant now, under a situation similar to what I described above, and to have no options but to carry the baby to term.”
I realized that I wasn’t the only one going through this, even though abortion stigma can oftentimes make us feel that way.Denise Castro
“When I was 23, I had an abortion. I was fresh out of college, starting my first full-time job in Massachusetts, over 2,000 miles away from my family and friends. At the time, I was in an emotionally abusive relationship—not only was I physically miles away from my support system, but my partner made sure to isolate me from them.
“I remember taking a home pregnancy test and anxiously waiting the 15 minutes with a pit in my stomach. When the results finally appeared, I was in shock. How could this happen? I was on birth control. I started panicking. I began thinking of any friends or family I would be able to call to get some advice, but found myself alone. Coming from a Latinx household where abortions are extremely stigmatized, I felt like this was something I couldn’t share with my mom, let alone the rest of my family.
“How am I going to pay for this? Who would be able to give me a ride and come with me? I made an appointment at the local Planned Parenthood for another pregnancy test because I was in denial–I did not want to believe the at-home pregnancy test results.
“On the way to the appointment, the nerves in my stomach were getting worse. The pregnancy test was positive. At that moment, dread washed over my face. The health center staff at Planned Parenthood must have noticed the look on my face because they were very kind and understanding and went on to explain my options. Before I left Planned Parenthood that day, I scheduled an appointment for a medication abortion.
“When I was feeling completely isolated, Planned Parenthood health center staff made me feel cared for. I left my appointment at Planned Parenthood feeling much more at ease. I was confident I had made the best decision for myself, but I still wanted to confide in someone close to me, so I called one of my best friends from college. When I told her about my abortion, she said, ‘I did too when we were in college, but I felt I couldn’t tell you or anyone.’ It was at that moment that I realized that I wasn’t the only one going through this, even though abortion stigma can oftentimes make us feel that way.
“Your abortion is not a taboo or a deep, dark secret; abortion is healthcare.”
These stories were told to Ms. magazine and Planned Parenthood. Share your story with Ms. by emailing email@example.com.
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