26 Women Share Their Abortion Stories
November 11, 2013 2:30 PM   Subscribe

I read through about four of these and then started crying. I'll come back to them later.

So many ambivalencies, so much truth.
posted by jokeefe at 3:25 PM on November 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

I got to Dana, 42, and had to stop. I'll also go back in a while.
posted by rtha at 3:30 PM on November 11, 2013

The damage done by the "crisis pregnancy centers":
They sent me home with a rattle and onesie. This was in 2002, not some bygone era. They sent me to another place to get a free ultrasound. The technician said, “If you have an abortion now, you’ll rupture your uterus and won’t be able to have children in the future.” I had no idea what was true. I didn’t want to regret not being able to have children. I went ahead and had my son. Those people weren’t there after I lost my job and couldn’t afford my COBRA, utilities, rent, food. Since then, I’ve had three abortions. I didn’t understand my body. I had no information. After the third time, I ran into a reproductive-justice advocate who finally taught me how to understand my fertility.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:47 PM on November 11, 2013 [22 favorites]

I read all of these stories straight through without a tear shed. I don't know what I'm supposed to be crying for. What I am is angry. I hate panels of priests and 600-mile journeys and $17,500 abortions and fake clinics and bad clinicians and families sleeping in cars and controling boyfriends and, ever so briefly, all those women who say they'd never have an abortion until they have one.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:55 PM on November 11, 2013 [102 favorites]

And the boyfriends who rape their girlfriends hours after the procedure. And the callous butchers who shield themselves behind the good will created by compassionate doctors. And the families who would rather have their daughter-in-law dead or in an institution than accept her after an abortion.

and, ever so briefly, all those women who say they'd never have an abortion until they have one.

And the ones who say women who have multiple abortions are bad people, except for them.

I don't know whether I'm shaking from rage or too much coffee. But I think it's rage.
posted by like_a_friend at 4:08 PM on November 11, 2013 [9 favorites]

I'm with DarlingBri and I'm angry with all those who believe in suppressing sex education and those who still shame and blame women and on behalf of all the girls who are shaped during their formative years by these slut-shaming, judgmental attitudes. Sex is not going away. Love, pregnancy, childbirth are not going away. Abortion is not going away. Women deserve choice and privacy. I was sad just to see how many women felt they needed to explain why. I look forward to the day when a woman doesn't feel she has to justify herself to strangers.
posted by Anitanola at 4:10 PM on November 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

God, I can't even reconcile the story told by Rachel, 30. For a woman to lose contact with her family (or her husband's family, I guess) because having a child would have forced her to go off her mental illness medication? I don't understand that kind of callousness towards someone forced to make such a choice.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:16 PM on November 11, 2013 [9 favorites]

"After the twenty-week ultrasound, a doctor came in and said our baby had a kidney disease and wouldn’t be able to breathe. When the diagnosis was confirmed, my husband and I looked at each other and knew immediately abortion was the only thing to do. Why give birth to a baby who will die?
The public university where we teach offers insurance affiliated with a Catholic hospital. We had to submit our case before an ethics committee of priests who would decide if insurance would pay. Otherwise, the procedure would cost us $25,000. The priests decided I had to deliver the baby." I was so upset I couldn’t talk.

Reading this made me so angry I couldn't actually see straight for a moment. If I read it correctly her husband was probably there with her for this hearing. I can't imagine being there in his shoes... I'm not sure how much self control I would have had watching these assholes trying to get my wife to carry to term and give birth to a fully formed child either dead or dying. Ugh.

Thanks for posting this. It's a tough read but worth it. Beyond all the differences in the individual stories there are two common threads or themes that are shared by most of them that stick out at least in my mind:

The first is simply that a lot of people are behaving in ways towards women seeking abortions (or even just help one way or the other) that I simply can't comprehend as a human. The range covers everything from cold and unhelpful at best via arrogant and holier-than-thou all the way to monstrously inhumane at worst like those priest in the story quoted above.

The second is that, probably mostly as a result of the first, there is this sense of many of these women just having been left utterly alone with it all. It really seems to be permeating these stories. There is only a few of them where you get a sense that at least some people were helpful, compassionate and understanding and that lack of human decency got to me more than anything. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to be a pregnant woman in a desperate situation and finding yourself trapped between hateful bigots screaming at you, loved ones who deny you compassion and try to control you, possibly an abusive partner and maybe a few people who'll help you but, unless you get lucky, won't provide much support and comfort beyond the technical aspects of the process.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:18 PM on November 11, 2013 [13 favorites]

Reading the stories, it strikes me how alone many of these women are, how judgmental they are of themselves, how judgmental other are of them. Not able to tell the people closest to them. Depending on the kindness of others to get them through - to take them to the hospital, to give them comfort. It made me incredibly sad.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 4:19 PM on November 11, 2013 [12 favorites]

Thanks to these women for telling their stories because I don't think that things will change until the stigma is reduced and what is necessary for that stigma to be reduced is for the public to understand the complexity of that choice. The right to privacy, which Roe was decided upon, is a double-edged sword: one should not be required to tell one's story and experience all that may entail to access appropriate care, yet the exercise of that privacy allows the primacy of a black and white interpretation of the issue by those who have not experienced it.
posted by Morrigan at 4:31 PM on November 11, 2013

Mental Wimp: "They sent me home with a rattle and onesie."

Yeah, that was the other story that really struck me hard. Specifically this sentence (even though it's probably one of the least of the bad things in that particular story) because it feels so incredibly patronizing, manipulative and condescending. I wish she could have had the confidence at the time to tell them exactly what to do with that rattle.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:36 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you can spare it, it's easy to sign up to give Planned Parenthood some money every month. They help so many people.
posted by fritley at 5:01 PM on November 11, 2013 [10 favorites]

These didn't make me cry either. I liked these stories very much and I wish I could hear more of them. I wish I could actually be an abortion doula, that seems like a job that does some real good. But I can't, so I just give my money to PP and other places that need it.
posted by emjaybee at 5:21 PM on November 11, 2013 [5 favorites]

A lot of people think they would never have an abortion simply because they are thinking of their future baby. I have a hard time imagining myself having an abortion-- but I know deep down it's not an impossibility, and I've never thought abortion should be withheld from any woman who needed it. A lot of women think abortion is a horrible choice, but that's because it tears their heart apart, not because they think it's murder or that no woman should have one. I have a difficult time thinking this through logically, because what is a fetus, but I think abortion should be available to every woman and women should be able to express their thoughts-- whether complex or straightforward-- about it without worrying that if they don't say just the right thing it will be taken away. You aren't emotional, people think you're having abortions for fun. You are emotional, people say you shouldn't be allowed to make decisions about your own body. It's crazy.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:22 PM on November 11, 2013 [9 favorites]

I definitely did cry, but I'm still strongly pro-choice, I just can't imagine the horrible sadness of wanting the baby and knowing you just can't have it right now at the same time. My sister recently had a baby, so that might be affecting my emotional state a bit.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:23 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

hateful bigots screaming at you,

Honestly, it sounds like the scary anti-choice harassers at the clinics were a minor worry relative to the lack of support before and after, and the tedious challenges of procuring, paying for, and enduring the physical aftermath of the procedure.
posted by gingerest at 6:18 PM on November 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

When I was young--this would have mostly been in the 80s--there always seemed to be these loose networks of girls who'd take up collections, arrange rides and aftercare, and help provide cover stories when someone needed an abortion. It didn't even have to be for a good friend. It was just girl code. Even if we hadn't been in that situation ourselves, I think most of us understood that an unwanted pregnancy was something that nobody deserved.

And this wasn't one isolated group. I saw and participated in it at different schools and in different social circles. I don't know if things have changed that much since then, or if I was just lucky, but whenever someone says that teenaged girls are selfish and catty, I think of that, and of all the brave, supportive young girls I've known who'd spring into action to help out a fellow girl in need.

I'm disappointed that I didn't see any of those stories. I hope they're still happening, because girls and women need each other even more now.
posted by ernielundquist at 6:21 PM on November 11, 2013 [17 favorites]

When I taught ethics and we covered abortions, I had several students over the years who (bravely) spoke up about their personal decision to have or not have an abortion. But among my close female friends? I have NO IDEA if any of them have had an abortion. I know whose husbands have had vasectomies and which of their teenagers are having sex and everyone's preferred form of birth control, but I have no idea if any of them have ever had an abortion, or considered it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:22 PM on November 11, 2013 [14 favorites]

Shocked by how many of these are negative, profoundly sad or very difficult stories. I have a few friends who have had abortions and though it is never something sought, all have felt peace and relief to be able to make their choice. Of the friends who have had abortions, almost all now have children - part of this is owning the ability to plan how and when starting a family is right for you.
posted by arnicae at 6:32 PM on November 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

When I was 18, I was in an abusive relationship. This was the darkest time of my life. Well, I say my life, but my life wasn't really mine at that time. Everything I did, everything I was allowed to do, was for him. My paycheck went to him (he didn't work), I pushed away my friends and family because he convinced me he was the only one who really cared about me, etc. When I got pregnant, he immediately dumped me and wouldn't return my calls. My parents welcomed me back, and I told my mom I was pregnant on the way back from seeing Cats. She drove me to the clinic and afterwards made me lobster and a sweet potato. I am not exaggerating when I say that the pregnancy and subsequent abortion saved my life - the pregnancy got me away from him, and the abortion gave me my life back. I'm not ashamed.

So that's my story, and I don't keep my story a secret because I want my female friends to know that I won't judge, I'll bring them to the clinic and support them in any way I can. And I have.
posted by Ruki at 6:32 PM on November 11, 2013 [89 favorites]

When I was about 17, I worried that I might be pregnant. The only option I saw, if that was the case, was suicide. I really did not think there were any alternatives. So I was pretty psyched when I got my period. But I always wonder how many other girls have thought the same thing and who weren't as lucky as I was.
posted by kat518 at 9:04 PM on November 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

Here's my abortion story: my unmarried teenage runaway mother didn't have one. She gave birth to me and I was adopted a month later. Some people are glad that I was born. The end.
posted by TSOL at 11:14 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am glad you were born and found your way here but claiming to tell "my abortion story" seems somewhat disingenuous. It seems to be your mother's story about her choice or lack of it. Your very existence, delightful as it may be to you and all who know you, says nothing about her experience.

It seems you are not understanding this thread about women's experience with awareness of the implications of pregnancy for a woman and the inescapable truth that it is very different than for a man--not just for nine months but for decades--for her whole life. I think only someone who could never face the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy would frame this comment the way you have.

I hope your birth mother's life went well, and she fared better than the suffering described by some women who give up a child for adoption. I imagine that you might have occasionally wondered why your birth mother did not keep you. Wondered if she didn't "want" you. Maybe she did. Many birth mothers who relate their stories say they had no other choice but to give up a child for adoption and it is much harder, much more psychologically damaging and a much more lasting sorrow than any ascribed to having an abortion.
posted by Anitanola at 1:55 AM on November 12, 2013 [50 favorites]

I want to hug every single one of these women. I can't even imagine. I am so grateful that during my stupidities, I didn't have to face these choices or experiences. It also reinforces in me that my son needs to fully understand ramifications of not using birth control and if something happens such as a pregnancy, it is not his place to be blaming, angry, or insensitive but supportive and fully understanding the options and lifelong impact on them both. I will support whatever decision they both decide and hope that he is open enough to tell me what is going on so I can help.

I couldn't imagine myself pregnant at a young age where I had to tell my parents. Like many of these women I would have to rely on a friend to go with me, sneak me in, and figure out a way to pay for it. A friend of ours in high school was one of these women. She has regretted it ever since and now has three children she can barely afford because she regrets that abortion. I feel horrible for her inner pain.
posted by stormpooper at 7:21 AM on November 12, 2013

Here's my abortion story: my unmarried teenage runaway mother didn't have one. She gave birth to me and I was adopted a month later. Some people are glad that I was born. The end.
posted by TSOL at 2:14 AM on November 12

Until a few years ago, I was very, very pro-life. Like, no-exceptions pro-life. My ma was pro-life and AFAIK my entire extended family is pro-life. However, we were always pro-sex-education and pro-birth-control (as in, if-govts-can-find-a-way-they-should-put-it-in-the-water-like-fluoride-and-you-should-have-to-take-pills-to-get-pregnant pro-birth control). But in my arrogance, I figured everyone had access to quality sex education and reliable birth control, so there was no excuse for having an abortion.

But as I got older, I started to know a couple of women who'd had abortions. I started to get insight as to why they had them. And then I read Freakonomics. Yeah, I know that people like to hate on the book, and I don't doubt some of the methodology was fast and loose, but I credit Freakonomics for changing my mind about keeping abortion legal. I was reading the chapter on legal abortion and crime. There's a line from that chapter that's stayed with me ever since I read it, and that single line opened my eyes:

"When a woman chooses to have an abortion, it's for a good reason."

Such a simple line. But in the context of that chapter, it explained so much. The writers had in that chapter outlined the social and economic factors that didn't just contribute to crime, but explained why a woman who became pregnant under those circumstances wouldn't want to give birth to a child. The writers built to that line, not to be dramatic or anything, but to drive home the point that women choosing abortion aren't doing so for frivolous reasons.

And then it hit me: if it was true for those women in eastern Europe, then it was true for women in the US, and the world over. And that a "good reason" to have an abortion would of course be highly individualized to the specific woman considering abortion--how could it not?

It occured to me that I didn't really know why women choose abortion over adoption. I know what I'd always assumed because of the language of the pro-life movement--that the women were sluts, got caught, and now were willing to take a human life to hide their shame.

So I started looking around. I read reports from the World Health Organization, the Guttmacher Institute, and other researchers about what factors influence women to choose abortion. I remebered that when my college-age cousin turned up pregnant, my aunt informed her that "black babies don't get adopted like white babies do", so I read about the reality of adoption in the US, the foster system, the number of unwanted kids every year. I wondered--where the hell are the pro-lifers?

(When I started calling myself pro-life back in the '80s, one of the biggest topics in the pro-life movement was adoption reform, making it easier for people to adopt children. Now they never talk about it! They're never there to help the kids once they're born, either--I read a statistic (can't recall where, sorry) that said that on average, pro-life groups provided less than three months of support to the women they've convinced to have children.)

I started to understand. I started to get it. And I started to feel like I'd been duped all these years by pro-life.

I say all that to say this: your unmarried teenage runaway mother didn't have an abortion, true. But given that you could have just as easily languished in an uncaring adoption system until you were eighteen, believe me when I tell you, your mother wouldn't have been a bad person if she had chosen to have an abortion.

(And I'm not saying that as some sort of personal attack on TSOL or that I wish s/he was dead or anything. I'm saying it because I really believe that no woman choosing abortion should be judged)
posted by magstheaxe at 8:57 AM on November 12, 2013 [38 favorites]

I know what I'd always assumed because of the language of the pro-life movement--that the women were sluts, got caught, and now were willing to take a human life to hide their shame.

Thanks for sharing your story. The slut-hating is an underappreciated emotional component of the "pro-life" movement. I believe many of them are not even aware of their negative emotions about presumed "sluts" being the problem. It makes the discussions so difficult, because so many of them cannot or will not address that aspect of their position, which leads to disingenuous declarations about how it's all about the fetus.

Not to say that unrecognized emotions don't factor in on both sides (many of us have had or benefitted from someone having an abortion at critical times in our lives), but the sheer weight of this one on the anti-abortion side is especially pernicious, because it can't be admitted into the discussion.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:07 AM on November 12, 2013

I think I've told this story on MeFi before, but what the hell.

My 10 week ultrasound for my first pregnancy came back with no heartbeat. Second opinion confirmed: baby had stopped developing at 6 weeks. I was given three options: let it "pass" normally, have a D&C, or take Misoprostol (Cytotec). I was so sad and disappointed, I just wanted everything to be over and done with, so I settled on the Cytotec, and on July 3rd 2012 started the process.

It took four days, and it made me so sick we wound up in the ER because I'd lost too much blood and was sliding into shock. Though the nurses were great, the ultrasound technician was not particularly kind; I now wonder if she thought I'd had an abortion.

Because here's the thing: I kind of did. All the procedures my doctor offered were abortion procedures. But since it was a miscarriage -- since I had wanted the baby, then lost it -- I was greeted with love and support from my network. No one picketed me. No one told me to try and keep the baby and see if it survived. My mom and sisters all called to commiserate (one of my sisters has had two miscarriages), and my Facebook was full of kindness. But I could not help but think to myself: What if I was having an abortion? The process is horrific enough to begin with -- the sheer amount of blood is terrifying -- but to go through that decision ALONE, or with people telling you how much you suck?

I go back to this MeFi post when I think about what it should be like.
posted by offalark at 11:08 AM on November 12, 2013 [5 favorites]

I read these stories as the baby I'm carrying is kicking me. I'm 20 weeks along with a much wanted pregnancy.

I didn't think I could get any more pro-choice. I was wrong, pregnancy proved me wrong, and the depth of my anger when reading about women being denied abortions, being shamed for having abortions, scrambling and fighting to have abortions, well, the depth of my anger almost scares me.

I wish it weren't so difficult. I wish women who did not want an abortion had the support they needed to not have one. I wish women who wanted an abortion weren't being lied to, and intimidated, and harassed, and shamed into suffering.

I want this fight to go back into the public eye, because it is a fight, and we, as women, are losing the right to determine what should happen with our bodies and our lives and it makes me so. damn. ANGRY.
posted by lydhre at 1:18 PM on November 12, 2013 [17 favorites]

I want this fight to go back into the public eye, because it is a fight, and we, as women, are losing the right to determine what should happen with our bodies and our lives and it makes me so. damn. ANGRY.

As a public health nerd, it makes me angry, too. I bothered to look up the mortality rates from pregnancy vs. abortion and, even in the US, it can be fourteen to eighteen times as risky to carry to term than it is to electively abort. The rates are not high in developed countries, but we're talking about existential threat. In addition, there are very much higher rates of serious morbidities associated with term pregnancies compared with abortion. This issue is often lost in the media chatter framed primarily by the anti-abortion folks, who would have you believe it's simply a matter of sweet little healthy baby vs. murdered baby, cutting mom completely out of the picture.

When it comes to matters of ones own life and death, we must be allowed the choice. The government making it for us is the ultimate overreach and every true conservative should be as pro-choice as every liberal.
posted by Mental Wimp at 8:31 AM on November 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

The New Frontier of the Abortion Wars
ALBUQUERQUE, NM – The woman on the phone was calling about the “Truth Truck.” She supported Albuquerque’s proposed citywide ban on abortion after 20 weeks, she said. But the dismembered, fully-developed fetuses papering the truck—recently updated with “Vote for the Late Term Abortion Ban, Nov. 19”—were scaring the city’s children.

“I’ll certainly take note of that,” Tara Shaver, 29, said warmly, juggling her cell phone with get-out-the-vote maps for the coming city referendum, less than a week away.

But when Shaver hung up, she shrugged. She and her husband Bud, who brought the Operation Rescue-owned truck to Albuquerque, have two small children who are used to the truck—just like they’re used to the signs outside the abortion clinic the Shavers moved here to shut down.

When the three-year-old asks about the images, Tara said: “We just tell her, ‘That’s what happens with abortion, when mommies kill their babies. That’s why we have to save them.’”

Albuquerque is a tough place to drive around in the Truth Truck, said Jim Davis. His business card describes him as a “biblically-based” (quotation marks his) life and career coach and he has been driving the truck for over a decade. Here, the ratio of middle fingers to thumbs up is higher than he’s ever seen. “Maybe three to one,” he said, in favor of middle fingers.
posted by tonycpsu at 5:32 PM on November 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

ABQ 20 week ban defeated by 10 points. There's some real truth for ya there, "Truth" Truckers.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:57 PM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

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