Abortion Story #183: Taylor from Virginia

Roar will publish a first-person story about abortion, “My Abortion: A Daily Story,” every day for at least 365 days. Below is an excerpt is from Taylor’s story, which appears on the blog of Physicians for Reproductive Health. A queer college student in the south, Taylor talks of facing both emotional and logistical barriers when seeking abortion care and of the compassion she found at Planned Parenthood.

 In the conservative suburbs of my hometown, my friends and I were often shamed and silenced about matters concerning our sexual and reproductive health. We did not receive comprehensive sex education, but were instead shown horrifying images of STIs and told that losing our virginity was like crumpling a crisp white sheet of paper.

Those of us who were queer? Forget about it. We had a hard-enough time starting a Gay-Straight Alliance that talking about LGBT-inclusive sex education seemed like a fairytale.

Planned Parenthood was a lifesaver for us. No question or concern was too small or too embarrassing at our local health center. We could access information and resources without stigma or shame. When we needed condoms or dental dams, they were there. When we needed birth control, they were there. When we needed STI testing, they were there. When a friend needed compassionate care after she was sexually assaulted, they were there. And yes, when we needed access to safe and legal abortion care, they were there.

Although I was a proud supporter of the movement for reproductive rights when I started college, I became a committed advocate and student leader because of my own abortion experience. I became pregnant the summer after my freshman year of college and knew I wanted an abortion. I had plans for the future, was living in a dorm room when I wasn’t at home with my parents, and had no way to raise a child… nor did I want to. I was fortunate to know about the Planned Parenthood in Roanoke from visits throughout high school, but scheduling an abortion procedure was much harder than I expected.

Since I was terrified of what my family would think, I kept my abortion a secret and had no financial support. I saved money from my summer waitressing job at IHOP and accessed assistance from Blue Ridge Abortion Fund through the National Network of Abortion Funds – their work is lifesaving. At that time, Virginia was in the thick of TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) restrictions that place medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers, clinics, and patients accessing care. This meant that I had to go through two separate appointments, mandatory counseling, and a compulsory ultrasound before I could access the simple, outpatient procedure that ended up taking fifteen minutes and was worlds smoother than the rest of the process. I felt exhausted and dehumanized, which is the goal for many TRAP-like restrictions. Anti-choice politicians attempt to restrict access by increasing the time, stigma, and shame surrounding abortion care. Thankfully, the clinic staff always treated me with compassion.

At my first appointment, in tears, I told the provider how frustrated I was with myself for missing a birth control dose. I told her I was queer and closeted from my family, that they didn’t know about the abortion, that all of this was so layered and overwhelming. She responded, “Honey – I’m not here to judge, I’m here to take care of you. You’re safe here.” ”

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