By Laura — Planned Parenthood Great Plains volunteer
August 2 was a big day for us in Kansas, and for the rest of the country. It’s the day we all — maybe for the first time since the Supreme Court took away the federal constitutional right to abortion — felt hope that we could win back our rights.
Kansas voters rejected a ballot measure that would have taken the right to abortion out of the Kansas Constitution. I knew we were going to win, but I am still feeling the joy of the massive margin of victory, and the confusion of people who wrote Kansas off as “red” without understanding that the vast majority of Kansans believe abortion is freedom — and it’s none of the government’s business.
But I need you to understand something about this victory: It is not enough. Because having a right, even when it’s written into the state constitution, doesn’t mean you can access the care you need.
I have had 10 pregnancies in my life. Four of them came during the five years I was with an abuser. It was hard to leave him due to his financial, emotional, and physical control over me. I finally left him after the last time he raped me, but then tragically learned I was pregnant again. I thought maybe I could do it differently on my own and decided to keep the pregnancy. Soon after, I started miscarrying, but the process lasted more than two weeks, increasing my risk for infection. I turned to a trusted friend that helped me access medication, the same medication used for medical abortions, to save my life.
When I started a new relationship, we took every precaution to prevent pregnancy. But alas, I discovered I was pregnant for the 10th time. After delivering three children and going through six miscarriages, I decided to have an abortion. But I didn’t have the money to pay for it, I couldn’t travel to the health center, and I didn’t have anyone to take care of my kids while I got the care I needed. And the idea of walking through the anti-abortion protestors outside the Planned Parenthood health center was too much for my anxiety, on top of all that.
I also have an antibody syndrome that puts me at high risk for blood clots during pregnancy and high risk for miscarriages. Therefore, any time I get pregnant, I must immediately seek the care of a hematologist to take a blood thinner medication every single day of my pregnancy. When I found myself in front on a Catholic hematologist, she tried to coerce me to continue my pregnancy so she or her brother could take my baby. It was shocking and horrifying: I was just trying to keep myself healthy, and had to endure deeply unethical behavior from a health care professional I should have been able to trust.
I chose to self-manage my abortion with the help of a trusted friend. I was in the comfort of my own home, and I felt empowered by the experience. Every person who wants to end their pregnancy should be able to choose when, where, and how it happens. No one should be blocked from getting health care, by protestors or by politicians.
All of my experiences — from a past abusive relationship, to a health condition, to financial hardships, to just the place where I live — taught me what was at stake on August 2. Folks across Kansas knew it, too. This is what so many people don’t understand about folks like me in rural areas. We’re going to keep fighting. A Supreme Court decision isn’t going to stop us.
But we have a long way to go. People in Kansas today who are pregnant and don’t want to be will have to jump through just as many hoops as I did. Across the country, people are traveling to get the care they need. And more are doing as I did, managing an abortion outside the medical system, whether that’s what they want for themselves or not.
This cannot be our normal. In California, in Kansas, in Connecticut — we all deserve better than this.