Roar will publish a first-person story about abortion, “My Abortion: A Daily Story,” every day for at least 365 days.
One out of three women will have an abortion by the time she’s 45. Yet women don’t discuss how they decided to end a pregnancy—or not; how it felt and how they recovered, physically and emotionally; how they look back on their choice as time passes. There are great resources that can help women navigate this choice: pregnancyoptions.info can guide you through parenting, adoption and abortion decisions; prochoice.org can refer you to a safe provider; NARAL’s state map shows what laws affect abortion access in your area; Exhale offers after-abortion counseling; and imnotsorry.net invites women to share their positive experiences with abortion.
And yet those tools can’t replace a supportive, nonjudgmental conversation with a friend, sister, colleague or cousin. “There’s enormous power in sharing stories and knowing you are not alone,” says Jennifer Baumgardner, the author of Abortion & Life.
For a story in our March 2008 issue , Glamour interviewed more than two dozen women about their abortions. Whether the abortion experience was good, bad or indifferent, every woman said she appreciated being asked, “What was the abortion experience like for you?” Here, three women share their own personal stories. We invite you to share your own—we hope this forum will open the dialogue.
Allyson Kirk, 26
I was 23 when I discovered I was pregnant. My partner and I had been dating only a month, and I got pregnant due to failed birth control—I’d recently switched to the Patch, which didn’t work for me. I had just moved to Virginia from Florida and didn’t know where to go for an abortion, so I looked online and called a local NAF-recommended clinic. The day of my initial consultation, I drove to the address in a mall and entered an office that had a pregnancy-testing sign on its door. I filled out some forms, then a woman led me into another room to ask me more questions. Everything was fine until she asked what my religion was. I asked her why that was necessary, and she said she could not properly counsel me without knowing my “morality.” I was shocked—it was none of her business! So I asked to move on. She gave me a pregnancy test, and then as I waited for the results, she had me watch a video. Within minutes, I knew it was propaganda: It said not many people know the truth about abortion—that doctors who provide them graduate at the bottom of their class and that it is linked to breast cancer and depression. I was outraged. I went in trusting these people and felt betrayed and manipulated. When they started showing graphics of an actual procedure, using an illustration that was the size of a third-trimester fetus, I got up to leave. It was too upsetting. As I stormed past both the “counselor” and the receptionist, I said, You people should be ashamed of yourselves.’ Once I got home, I called NAF to tell them they should take that clinic off their website—and that is when I first learned about these fake “crisis pregnancy centers” that sometimes use propaganda to discourage women from having an abortion. The NAF clinic I was supposed to go to was two doors down. When I went to see them the next day, I told them what happened, and they apologized and said it’s a common occurrence. It breaks my heart to think of someone going in there already scared. If I had been nervous or ill informed or did not have a support network, that experience would have been devastating.
Jenny Egan, 28
I didn’t tell anyone about my abortion for years—I was 16 years old when I got pregnant. I was not in a great relationship and had gotten pregnant after having sex only a few times, mostly unprotected. I was raised a Mormon, but after a lot of hand-wringing, I decided to get an abortion. I knew nothing about the procedure, so I was terrified; I worried it would literally scar my insides forever and that I’d never be able to have kids again. Still, I went through with it anyway because I was not ready to be a mother. The procedure wasn’t painful, but it was really hard emotionally. My guilt was so large that I tried to convince myself that I didn’t want kids—that way my inability to have them wouldn’t matter so much. That’s how I tried to cope. Years later, a friend of mine told me she was pregnant. I drove her to the abortion clinic and knew she was upset, but I didn’t say a word about my own experience; I could have comforted my friend during her abortion the way I needed to be comforted during mine. It wasn’t until later that I realized how important it is to share our stories, and I started talking more openly about my experience. I was surprised by how people responded to me. So many women confide in me that they too had abortions and never talk about it. Years later, I was in a writers workshop where the subject came up. There was one woman in her late fifties who said, “There are people in our lives who are going through this right now alone because we don’t talk about it.” She was so right.
Vanessa Paloma, 37
I was 27 when I found out I was pregnant. My then-boyfriend and I weren’t using protection because we were discussing marriage. But when I got pregnant, it was clear we wanted different things. I was angry, and then I was defiant—I considered being a single mom, but then I realized that meant staying connected to this man for the rest of my life, and I knew I didn’t want that. I was just five weeks pregnant when I told my doctor, but he told me I had to wait two more weeks to have a surgical abortion. Waiting was the hardest thing for me. I went to a private clinic, and the whole procedure was quicker than I thought it would be. There was a little bit of pain at one point but very slight. And the doctor was very kind—he wasn’t just somebody doing a job. I told a few people but not my parents at first. I did not have the emotional wherewithal to share this news with them. When I finally told them, they wondered why I hadn’t come to them and wished they could have been there for me while I was going through this. I told them that my girlfriends had helped. But I had to deal with it on my own first.
Margaret K. Mestraud, 34
“I am still filled with regret—not that I had an abortion, but that I will never meet that child”
I had an abortion on April 17, 2008. I feel like a murderer, but medically I know that I made the right decision. I’m blessed that I already have two children: After seven years of trying to have a baby, we adopted our son. Two weeks after his adoption was finalized, I got pregnant. The pregnancy was awful; because of complications with my type 1 diabetes, I was on bed rest and in and out of the hospital. My daughter was born healthy, but I lost my eyesight because of the strain. I’m legally blind now, though my attitude is, who needs vision when you have two healthy kids? My husband was scheduled for a vasectomy and I was still breast-feeding when I discovered I was pregnant again. My doctors told me carrying the pregnancy full-term would be incredibly dangerous—my high-risk ob-gyn said my baby might survive, but I might not. Still, it was not an easy decision. Physically, the abortion wasn’t painful, but emotionally, it was hell. I didn’t talk to anyone but my husband and doctor about it for a long time. When I finally told my brother, he said, “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there to hug you when you came home.”
Natalie Ferraro, 33
“I often wonder if I will get the chance to be pregnant again”
I had an abortion when I was 26—the same age my mother was when she had me. I thought the father was The One, but he was not ready to have a family. We were doing the rhythm method (I’m allergic to latex condoms and had a terrible reaction to an IUD). I considered raising the baby on my own—my mom did it, so could I—but I decided against it in the end. I wanted my partner to be on the same page. So I flew to California, where my mom lives, and she took me to a clinic. My boyfriend had offered to pay for the whole thing, but then I decided to get general anesthesia, which is much more expensive, so we agreed to split it. I did not want to be awake for it, and my mother said, Being asleep is the kindest thing you could do to yourself.’ Before the procedure, they took an ultrasound photo of the eight-week-old baby. I still have that picture. Now 33 and single, I often wonder if I will get the chance to be pregnant again. That may have been my one shot, but I am still OK with it.
Liz Kupcha, 37
“I wasn’t scared at all—I already knew it was a safe procedure”
I’ve had two abortions. The first one was when I was 18. (We’d used a condom, but it must not have been on right.) It wasn’t a hard decision—I did not want to leave college to raise a kid—and I wasn’t scared at all; I knew it was a safe procedure. When I got pregnant again, I knew exactly what to do. I was 23 and studying for the LSATs. The condom broke, so the day my period was late, I was sure I was pregnant. I went to a different clinic, and there were protesters yelling, but they didn’t bother me. I really believed that having a child would derail my plans. I was perfectly fine with my decision then and don’t have any regrets, especially now. At 37, I’m married to a man I’ve been with for nine years, am running my own department at work, and am finally ready to be a mom: I’m pregnant and due May 6.
Sarah Hanley, 30
“The clinic sent me home to really think about my options”
When I was 22, I was on the Pill, so I was shocked when I missed my period. I thought the clinic would force me to have an abortion as soon as I walked in; instead, they explained the procedure and tried to assess if I was ready. They did an ultrasound—the nurse was eight months pregnant, and that made me realize the clinic was not pro-abortion, but pro-choice—and told me I was eight weeks along. I was surprised when the clinic sent me home to really think about my options; they wanted me to be 100 percent sure this was the right choice for me. I went back that afternoon and had the procedure. Afterward I kept waiting to have a nervous breakdown; I worried the sight of a newborn would send me into hysterics. That never happened. If anything, the experience forced me to take control of my life.
Tova Ramos, 26
“I felt irresponsible for getting myself into that situation”
My pregnancy was a total surprise: My husband survived Hodgkins Lymphoma but was told the chemo had made him sterile. When I conceived, he was elated, but I was floored. I was 22 and didn’t feel ready to be a mother. I was also taking Accutane for acne, which can cause horrible birth defects. That made our decision easier. It’s crazy, but I still felt irresponsible for getting myself into that situation. I told my mother, who was very reassuring. She knew my experience would be nothing like the potentially life-threatening abortion she had in the 1960s, when it was illegal. My abortion was not painful, but I am wistful about losing the physical sensation of being pregnant. I never realized how a baby could get into a woman’s blood—I still feel a connection to that little lima bean. My husband and I want to have a baby one day—but it will be planned.