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After the U.S. Supreme Court unjustly took away a person’s constitutional right to an abortion on June 24, Denise shared her story at a Planned Parenthood candlelight vigil in Coachella Valley to support those who feel isolated after having this common medical procedure.

Here is her story:

My name is Denise Castro, I am a Community Engagement and Education Specialist in the Coachella Valley. When I was 23, I had an abortion. I was fresh out of college starting my first full-time job in Massachusetts over 2,000 miles away from my family and friends. At the time, I was in an emotionally abusive relationship so not only was I physically miles away from my support system but my partner made sure to isolate me from any support system. 

I remember taking a home pregnancy test and anxiously waiting the 15 minutes with a pit in my stomach. When the results finally appeared, I was in shock. How could this happen? I was on birth control. I started panicking. I began thinking of any friends or family I would be able to call to get some advice but found myself alone. Coming from a Latinx household where abortions are extremely stigmatized, I felt like this was something I couldn’t share with my Mom, who I was close to, let alone the rest of my family. I wanted to reach out to my friends, but because my friends and I had never talked about abortions, I wasn’t sure if they’d judge me or what they’d think. I felt scared and anxious but most of all, I felt alone. “How am I going to pay for this?” “Who would be able to give me a ride and come with me?” “Who can I ask what to expect?” I made an appointment at the local Planned Parenthood for another pregnancy test because I was in denial—I did not want to believe the at-home pregnancy test results. I kept asking myself, “How could this happen?” The day my appointment arrived, since I didn’t have anyone to accompany me, I reluctantly asked my emotionally abusive partner. 

On the way to the appointment, the nerves in my stomach were getting worse. Once at my appointment, the time I spent waiting for my pregnancy test results felt like hours even though it wasn’t more than 20 minutes. Finally, the medical assistant walked in and confirmed my worst fear. “The pregnancy test was positive,” she said. At that moment dread washed over my face. “What do I do next?” “How do I even pay for an abortion?” The health center staff at Planned Parenthood must have noticed the look on my face because they were very kind and understanding and went on to explain to me my options as well as give me resources to help me make my decision. They told me that if I made the decision to have an abortion, they could give me a future appointment that day. I knew that I did not want to be pregnant so without hesitation, I responded, “Yes, I’d like to schedule an abortion.” I was not in a good place financially or emotionally to have a baby. Before I left Planned Parenthood that day, I scheduled an appointment for a medication abortion. 

The days leading up to my abortion were extremely stressful. Not only did I have no idea what to expect, but I also had no one I could confide in, and I was still trying to figure out how I was going to pay for the abortion. I knew I couldn’t ask my family and my partner wasn’t going to help me, so I reached out to a friend and lied about needing to borrow money for “a bill.”

The day of my abortion finally came. Even though I felt some relief to be able to get an abortion, I still felt like I was carrying this deep, dark secret. As I sat in the Planned Parenthood waiting room once again, I felt like throwing up. I could feel the anxiety taking over my body when one of the medical assistants called my name. I got up and slowly walked behind the medical assistant who made light conversation in an effort to try to calm my nerves. They brought me to a room where they had me wait for the clinician. While I sat there by myself waiting for the clinician I could feel my eyes start to fill with tears. “I’m completely alone; I have no support from my friends/family,” is all that kept running through my head. After a few minutes, the clinician walked in and introduced herself and asked me how was feeling. I explained to her that I was nervous and scared, and she reassured me and told me that they will make sure I would be ok. The clinician took her time explaining how the medication abortion works and what to expect. As we sat there talking, I remember the clinician answering all of my questions in a nonjudgmental way and feeling my anxiousness start to slowly disappear. When the clinician returned to administer the medication, she also had a ginger ale and some saltine crackers for me. She explained that sometimes the medication can upset a person's stomach. I had never received that level of care before. At a time when I was feeling completely isolated, Planned Parenthood health center staff made me feel cared for. I left my appointment at Planned Parenthood feeling much more at ease. I was confident I had made the best decision for myself, but I still felt like I wanted to confide in someone close to me, so I called one of my best friends from college. When I told her about my abortion, there was silence for a few seconds, and then she said, “I did too when we were in college, but I felt I couldn’t tell you or anyone.” I felt so many emotions: RELIEF, because I felt like I wasn’t alone. She could understand my experience and we could confide in and support each other. GUILT, because I felt like I didn’t do enough as a friend to make her feel like she could share her abortion story. It was at that moment that I realized that I wasn’t the only one going through this even though abortion stigma can oftentimes make us feel that way. One in four women will have an abortion by the age of 45. The truth is that most of us know someone who’s had an abortion; we just don’t know because people who are having abortions are not talking about them.

After the conversation with my friend that day, I decided I wasn’t going to hide my abortion. It wasn’t something I needed to be ashamed of. I was going to shout my abortion so that others who were having abortions or had abortions would know they’re not alone. Your abortion is not a taboo or a deep, dark secret; abortion is healthcare.



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