SPECIAL REPORT: Abuse, Fear, and Abortions
Real women share their personal stories about why they chose abortion
**Trigger Warning** The following stories depict elements of abuse and trauma that may trigger certain individuals.
At a time when the United States Supreme Court appears primed to overturn its landmark case that made abortion legal, Roe v. Wade, people are coming out across the country and sharing their stories about why they chose an abortion.
As a storyteller and former journalist, I felt it important to help share some of these stories. They are not easy to read, often riddled with testaments of abuse, control, and fear.
Below, you will find three stories from three women across various racial and cultural backgrounds who chose to share their reasons for getting an abortion. For some of these women, this is their first time telling their story publicly. I feel honored and humbled they trusted me to share it.
*Please note that I changed their names to protect their identity and emotional safety. I ask you to remember that these are real people sharing real events from their lives. Please be respectful if you comment, as I will delete anything abusive, cruel, or threatening.
I have edited their stories for brevity and received each woman’s final approval before publishing their edited accounts.
It started at 17 years and 11 months old, when I graduated high school and moved out with a man much older than me. He was 26. I was on birth control pills, but I was not very careful. I had not taken them for long and often forgot them. I got pregnant at 19 and had a baby boy three months before my 20th birthday.
When our son was 18 months old, his father got mad at me and wrapped his hands around my neck, leaving bruises on both sides. I called my family and within hours, they began emptying my stuff into a U-Haul. The best decision I ever made was not to marry him, despite having a baby.
I was a single mom by age 22 with a high school diploma and no college education. I applied for welfare and food stamps while babysitting for two family friends who paid me cash under-the-table so I could afford rent in my own place.
I got by with help from my family and when my son was 5 years old and starting school, I went to community college before switching to the police academy at Golden West College. I graduated in June 1997 but had trouble getting hired because I’d smoked marijuana in high school.
In December 1997, I met a man online who lived in Arizona. We began chatting and in January, my sister babysat my son for a weekend while I flew to Arizona to meet him. I had a blast and he drove me back home to California, where I lived with my son next to my mom and grandmother. My grandmother saw his car with Arizona plates, and my family became controlling.
My sister refused to let me take my son back after her babysitting session the following weekend. She said I was not a good mom and called me irresponsible. I called the police, who told my family they would be arrested for kidnapping if they didn't return my son. Afterwards, I bought a one-way ticket to Arizona with two suitcases and my 6-year-old. I never spoke to them again.
I moved in with the man I met online for more than a year, and this time, I became very disciplined in taking my birth control pills, never missing a day. Yet, I still ended up pregnant by an abusive man.
I was working full-time at a small business and had one friend there. I saved money, she gave me a ride to Planned Parenthood, and I got an abortion. I have never once thought about the “what ifs” for that baby. I do not ever wonder if it was male or female. I wouldn’t have been able to care for it either way. I was already facing single motherhood with no support system and my first obligation was to the baby I already had: my 7-year-old son.
Now, at age 50, I am happily married with two additional children. I am also seven years post-hysterectomy and am so thankful I was able to form my family on my terms when I was ready.
When I was a senior at a Catholic high school in 2008, I had a serious boyfriend with whom I was becoming intimate. I scheduled a gynecologist appointment when I was 18 years old to request birth control.
As this was a private Catholic school, there was no access to sexual education or reproductive healthcare resources. When I arrived, the first thing they had me do was a urinalysis. I thought nothing of it. I was completely shocked when the doctor didn’t come in to discuss birth control; rather, she told me I was pregnant.
My boyfriend, my mom, and his mom were the only ones who knew about the pregnancy. I am so blessed that neither of these women, who I looked up to, pressured me to make a specific decision that served their agenda. They both had separate discussions with me regarding options and vowed to support me in my decision.
Eventually, my biological father and his wife found out and they inserted themselves into the situation. They were the reason I attended Catholic School and after discovering my pregnancy, they constantly preached, “prayed” for me, and passive aggressively shamed and guilted me.
Because they were anti-choice, they offered to take my baby to raise (and indoctrinate) for me. The thought of that still sends chills down my spine, even 14 years later. I’ve since cut off contact with them due to reasons related to sexual assault and psychological abuse during my childhood.
In the end, thanks to my supportive mother who informed me of my options and ensured she would support me no matter what I decided, I made my own choice. It didn’t take me long. I was not ready to have a child at 18 years old, and in my mind, reincarnation is real, so that same soul came back around seven years later when I decided I was ready to have my daughter in 2015.
Forcing a woman to carry a fetus for 10 months against her will is torture. Forcing adoption as the only alternative is torture. I experience no guilt for ending that pregnancy. In comparison, the thought of allowing my dad and stepmom to have adopted my child, or giving my child up to foster care, would have created a lifetime of guilt and additional trauma. I know I made the right decision.
During my senior year in high school, a month away from graduation, I went to visit my boyfriend. He was attending college at that time. One thing led to another and our condom broke. Although I took the Plan B pill within 72 hours, I ended up pregnant.
Feelings of immense panic, fear, disappointment, and sorrow crept over me. I had worked hours during my high school career to obtain a 4.0 GPA and participated in the National Honors Society, as well as track and field. Going to college was my most sought-after goal. Yet there I was, a month before graduation, in mental and physical turmoil.
I knew that having a child was not something I was capable of handling at 18 years old, especially mentally. The relationship I was in, which I later came to realize was an abusive relationship, was filled with toxicity. It wasn’t good for me, let alone good for a baby.
Choosing between giving birth and having a child, or having an abortion, is overwhelming and scary. However, the choice should always be mine, and to be frank, the choice was not difficult for me to make. There was still so much life for me to live.
I scheduled an appointment to have an abortion. Because the state of Arizona requires two appointments, I had to wait a week before receiving the abortion. That week was hell. My anxiety skyrocketed and I was in tears daily, hoping nothing would go wrong with my second appointment.
After my abortion, a tsunami of relief washed over me: I could breathe, my chest loosened, my mind cleared, and I went on to graduate two weeks later.
I was young, in an abusive relationship, and I struggled connecting with myself for a while afterward. But ultimately, I healed, and I am grateful I was able to make that choice for myself. Without my abortion, I do not think I would be the person I am today, and I like her.
I went to college and began working as an advocate and organizer for a grassroots organization. I also discovered so much more about myself, my womanhood and my sexuality; I ended my relationship and came out as pansexual shortly thereafter. I chose life—my life—because my happiness and stability are essential, especially if I do decide to become a mother one day.
Below are a few facts pertaining to abortion or situations that could lead to needing an abortion:
About 1 in 50 pregnancies in the United States is ectopic, according to the March of Dimes. Ectopic pregnancies happen when a fertilized egg grows outside the womb, leading to heavy bleeding and even death for the pregnant person. The only treatments consist of injecting medicine to stop the embryo from growing or conducting surgery to remove the embryo.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost 3 million women in the United States experience a pregnancy related to rape during their lifetime. Additionally, 434,000 Americans ages 12 and older are sexually assaulted each year, per Planned Parenthood.
Worldwide, 4.7 – 13.2 percent of maternal deaths can be attributed to unsafe abortion (as opposed to legal and safe procedures), according to the World Health Organization.
The U.S. is reaching a crossroads when it comes to safe and legal abortion. If you are concerned about the implications of changing policy as it relates to privacy and personal reproductive choices, I urge you to amplify these women’s voices by sharing this post with your circle, whether through Facebook, Twitter, text message, or email.