This story is titled “Why I Think It’s Important to Talk About My Abortion As Much As Possible” and it appears in Teen Vogue.
I’ve had two abortions, and the first one happened under very different circumstances than the second.
The first one, I was 20 at the time and I was living in Seattle, where it seems like basically everyone is pro-choice. It’s just the status quo there. I was dating the man I would eventually marry. We had been dating for about a month-and-a-half when I found out I was pregnant. It wasn’t an easy choice and it was scary, but I was living paycheck to paycheck, even living out of my car at times. I had an abortion and I knew it was the right choice for me and I have never questioned that.
My situation was not unique, but maybe one that not a lot of people talk about. Flex spending accounts were a new thing companies were doing. I had just gotten a new job, I was an admin at a company. I didn’t have full benefits, but I had an FSA.
When I talked to my partner to tell him I was pregnant and what I was going to do, he was able to pay for some of the procedure, and I planned on using my FSA to cover the rest. But when I got to the appointment, they took me into a room and told me that the FSA debit card I had given them was not working. I had no idea what I was going to do. I called my HR department and spoke to the HR rep and said, “I know how much money is on this card and it’s not working.”
She called me back a little while later and lowered her voice and said, “I need to know if you’re at an abortion clinic.” And I just said, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no — of course not.” And she said, “If you are, those cards are coded in a way so that they can only be used at medical facilities and most abortion clinics are coded as non-profits, so they can’t be used there.”
And I denied it again, I said, “No, no, no, no,” and hung up the phone.
I was in panic mode. I knew she was in a cubicle surrounded by other people and the thought that everyone in my office now knew that I was having an abortion and not home sick that day was horrible. And also, I didn’t have the means to have the abortion — and I definitely didn’t have the means to have a baby. It was one of the only times in my life I have had a true panic attack. I left the clinic for a little bit to just try to calm down and think about what I was going to do. When I came back to the clinic like 20 or 30 minutes later, they told me they had found funds for my procedure in an abortion fund. I didn’t know anything about abortion funds then, but now I volunteer for them all the time. People should be able to use their own healthcare money however they want to. That was a really scary hour for me.
I came from a teenage mother myself. My mom was 14 when she had me. She didn’t want to have me, she didn’t want to be a parent — but she had no choice. I think about what I would look like as a parent in that situation, having a child who knew they weren’t wanted the way I knew I wasn’t wanted and I can’t imagine doing that. I think a lot of people think about the choice to have an abortion as a selfish one, but for me, the choice to not have one would have been the selfish one. A child deserves to be parented. And there’s a difference between really living, and kids who just survived their entire life, like me. If I ever have a child, I would want that child to live a full life.
I made the decision to have my second abortion when I was living in Texas. My boyfriend from Seattle and I had gotten married. He had gotten transferred there for work and we moved there in 2009. Pretty soon after we moved, we separated.
I had an IUD and I had started dating someone living in California. I was about 12.5 weeks along when I found out I was pregnant. I wasn’t having super regular menstrual cycles because I had an IUD, so that didn’t warn me. I didn’t think to check if I was pregnant. But then it became pretty obvious to me — I had swelling in my breasts, I had trouble getting food down.
I was recently separated, had just broken up with the person I was dating in California, and though I had a job with benefits, it was just a PPO. It cost a fortune to go to the doctor, still, even if I just had a cold. And whenever I would get sick, my boss would say I couldn’t take off, that I still had to come in.
HB2 had already passed and clinics were already starting to close. Fortunately, not where I lived. But now there was an influx of people coming from all over the state to Dallas, where I lived, to get the procedure. And when I called the clinic in my town, I was told there would be a two-and-a-half to three-week wait for just my initial appointment. And in Texas, they had also passed a sonogram bill, so getting an abortion was a two-appointment process at a minimum. You had to go in, get a sonogram, wait the mandated 24 hours, then come back in for the procedure. Given that there was a two-and-a-half-week wait for just the first appointment and given that my job situation was what it was, I was really worried that I wouldn’t be able to make one of those two appointments and everything would be pushed back another three weeks, minimum, as a result. And we also have a 20-week ban here. I was really nervous that my circumstances would push me over the ban.
Since the person I had dated was in California, I decided that was the next option — I would go there, have the procedure, and have support. I took a pretty high-interest loan out to get there, and it put me on financial aid for a while. But I was lucky: I was able to get on a plane and go to California, have the procedure, recover, and be back in a week — which was way less time than I could have even had my first appointment in here.
My abortion [that I decided to have while living] in Texas wasn’t the same as my abortion in Seattle. I had considered myself to be pro-choice, but I wasn’t vocal about it, because growing up in Seattle, my experience was that it’s just default mode. You assume everyone around you is, too. And I felt like I had done everything I was supposed to do to not be in this situation again. I had an IUD. I had a job.
But it was so different. In Texas, I had to learn that you can't assume people are pro-choice. In Seattle, I assumed everyone was unless they told you otherwise. But I knew I wouldn’t even be able to find a friend to come with me to the clinic here in Texas. I didn’t think any of my friends would support my position, and they definitely wouldn’t have wanted to encounter clinic protesters. There are protesters outside the Planned Parenthood in my town that doesn’t even perform abortions — I guess those people are just protesting cancer screenings and birth control. But even more than the financial strain I was facing needing an abortion, I was up against the stigma of having an abortion in a red state.
And while there are a lot of really great things happening now, and I do a lot of abortion storytelling, it’s different shouting your abortion in a state where people feel the same as you and living in a place where you literally can’t talk about your own experience because doing so puts you at risk.
After my experience of needing an abortion and living in Texas, I started doing more activism and telling my story more. I was featured on the news [for talking about my abortion and the impact of HB2 in Texas] and shortly afterward, I lost my job. They said it was because my position was eliminated, but I felt like it was because of my activism. To be able to feel safe talking about your abortion is a privilege. I try to talk about my abortions as much as possible now because there are a lot of people who cannot speak out themselves because the choice to do so is too risky.
I think it would be unfair for me to say that sharing my abortion story was an amazing experience. I don’t regret my experience and I don’t regret my abortions — they have changed my life for the better — but I feel that being able to talk about it came with collateral damage. It’s hard for somebody like me with just a high school diploma to get a job that pays reasonably well — and to do so means working for a lot of small to mid-sized companies. And now when you Google my name, you see that I had an abortion. Members of my family don’t speak to me anymore. My parents decided it was just too much for them.
But then there are people who will Facebook message me out of the blue and say, ‘Your story is my story and I won’t stand for anybody who won’t allow for that.’ Or there will people who email me and say, ‘I have a friend who needs an abortion — can you help her?’ And I will reach out to them and will walk them through what it’s like to go to a clinic and will let them know that even if they don’t know anyone who supports them, I support them.
As told to Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy.