Our Abortion Stories: ‘I Knew Something Was Wrong, But My Doctor Wouldn’t Listen’

“Do I want my daughter to enter her childbearing years in a state where the providers of women’s healthcare are hamstrung by draconian laws?”

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Abortion rights supporters rally at the Texas Capitol on May 14, 2022 in Austin, the day a leaked Supreme Court opinion signaled the eventual overturn of Roe v. Wade. (Montinique Monroe / Getty Images)

In 2022, 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 continue to 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. Warning: The stories below contain descriptions of miscarriage.


I was heartbroken. I was mad. I wasn’t listened to.

Kelly

I knew something was wrong—but my doctor wouldn’t listen. I had been getting severe backaches for months, chills and fever. I was so tired all the time. I was only 26. Married. My husband went to each and every doctor appointment with me. 

“At 14 weeks, the doctor couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat. I panicked. The doctor told me to calm down—I probably miscalculated my last period. Nope.

“I begged him to set me up for an ultrasound. The lady at the desk handed me my appointment paper. It was for four more weeks. I complained, but she said that was the order the doctor wrote. I counted down the days until my ultrasound. I will never forget the warm jelly placed on my ever expanding belly that day. 

“There on the screen: just a bean-looking object. I knew that was not what my baby was supposed to look like. The tech asked me about bleeding—none. Anything coming out at all, like tissue—no! Then they phoned the main hospital doctor and had me get dressed. 

“I had a ‘missed miscarriage,’ probably six to 12 weeks prior. I had never heard of that. 

“My body was attempting to kick start it, then just gave up and was reabsorbing the tissue. For some reason, I had zero bleeding or uterine cramping, just the backache which the doctor said was back labor.

“The doctor said I would need a ‘D and E’—a dilation and evacuation. An abortion.

“My insurance wouldn’t pay for abortions, so he would need special authorization. It was Friday morning and wouldn’t be in until at least Monday! He told me about my serious risk for sepsis, and I explained I was already feverish and getting chills and pains. He said I could turn septic in just minutes—maybe even in my sleep—and to go to the emergency room if I felt worse.

“I was heartbroken. I was mad. I wasn’t listened to. I didn’t sleep well all weekend. 

“Monday came along with the authorization. In the coming days, I was so sick from the anesthetic and had massive bleeding. Two days after the procedure, the same lady at the desk phoned me, I assumed to see how I was doing. Nope. I was informed my PAP test 12 weeks earlier needed to be talked about. Well that wasn’t good. They could see me in 10 days. 

“We argued round and round about telling me over the phone. She refused until I told her I was coming to get a copy of my records and would find out myself. Then she spilled it: I have cervical cancer. My PAP came back as cancer. Not sure what the doctors could do until I stopped bleeding. 

“It was one blow after another. It turned out the doctors there wanted me to have a hysterectomy. I laughed at them. (I also never saw that original doctor who refused to listen to my previous symptoms).

“My body and my choices from now on—and you will listen to me. I had done research and learned that a conization and loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) procedure could be done to try and retain my fertility. And that is what I did.

“I went on to have other children. Always make choices for you, and get other opinions…”

—Kelly

As my daughter rounds the bend towards adolescence, I’m questioning everything. What if she makes a mistake, or God forbid suffers a sexual assault, and needs an abortion? What if she has a wanted pregnancy but something goes terribly awry, like Kate Cox? 

Joanna Owusu

“I have three fantastic kids, two sons and a daughter—three kids that people compliment quite a lot. They’re far from perfect, but they’re polite, they behave in school, and they get good grades. I think it’s mostly luck: these good kids of mine. But it’s also that these kids have been given every advantage, from before birth. 

“For starters, my husband and I desperately wanted them. We both had college degrees (and beyond, for me). We both had good careers and stable incomes. I had college debt, but it was down to a four-figure sum by the time I got pregnant with our first child. I was able to take a year (a full year!) of maternity leave, with pay for the first six months, from my federal government job after the birth of my first two kids.

“I was able to make the difficult decision to leave this job when I had two kids in diapers and a dying mother. My husband had a well-paying job with health benefits and a 401(k). I found freelance work, and we were able to get by. We’ve been able to prevent any accidental, unwanted pregnancies thanks to quality health care that afforded easy and inexpensive access to a nearly fool-proof form of contraception (vasectomy).

“Raising kids in Texas, we’ve been able to hold our noses and ignore the worst of what the far-right state government has wrought. We live in a large urban area; no books have been banned at my kids’ schools. No school board nutjobs or administrators are out to ostracize and torment LGBTQ kids. My kids have been exposed to stories about all kinds of prominent historical figures, not just the white ones.

“I groaned and rolled my eyes when I reviewed the state guidance about the sex education my sons would receive in a public high school. The emphasis was on abstinence, but we knew we would supplement this instruction with more fulsome discussions at home. Because we live in the land of reality—where teens sometimes have sex.

“But as my daughter rounds the bend towards adolescence, I’m questioning everything. 

“What if she makes a mistake, or God forbid suffers a sexual assault, and needs an abortion? What if she has a wanted pregnancy but something goes terribly awry, like Kate Cox? 

“I had a miscarriage before my first child was born. We went in for an ultrasound and the fetus had no heartbeat. My doctor was able to perform a D&C (dilation and curettage abortion) the next day, so I could take a work trip later in the week without an excruciating wait for the bleeding to begin. Anyone who’s had a child or speaks to any grown woman on a regular basis has heard stories like this. Pregnancy is fraught; so much can and does go wrong.

“Do I want my daughter to enter her childbearing years in a state where the providers of women’s healthcare are hamstrung by draconian laws? And where the best and the brightest among those healthcare providers may be fleeing the state?

“I wonder if our elected leaders in Austin—crusty older men, by and large, who have probably never set foot in an OB-GYN office with a partner or daughter—give two squirts about an exodus of well-educated, professional people from the state. 

“I wonder if our state leadership cares about health care deserts, a phenomenon that’s already plaguing the state’s rural areas, because doctors are unwilling to live and work in a state where they could face criminal penalties for providing care to their patients. I find myself wondering, more and more, why we continue to live here.”

—Joanna Owusu

Editor’s note: For help, please look to these trusted groups:

Thanks to Jessica Valenti of Abortion, Every Day for this list!

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About , and

Tallulah is a Ms. editorial intern and junior at Smith College pursuing a BA in government and the study of women and gender. Her research and writing covers the rapidly changing landscape of abortion legality, pregnancy criminalization and surveillance, as well as constitutional law and conservative theory.
Alexa Schnur is an editorial intern at Ms. and a junior at Smith College majoring in the Study of Women and Gender, with a certificate in Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice. Her academic interests include reproductive justice, gender-based law, queer feminism, and feminist history.
Livia Follet is an editorial intern for Ms. and a recent graduate from The University of Colorado Boulder where she earned bachelor's degrees in English literature and women and gender studies. Raised in rural Colorado, her interests include environmental justice movements, Indigenous feminisms and reproductive justice.