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Too often, conversations about abortion are dominated by the voices of those who seek to shame and intimidate.

In general, when people talk about abortion it is very black and white; us versus them; pro-choice versus pro-life. There isn’t a lot of room for people’s real emotions and experiences about their abortion. Our goal is to strip away the stigma associated with abortion by lifting up the voices of those who have actually had abortions. The Tennessee Stories Project wants to reclaim our stories and reshape the conversation.

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Read and watch their stories below.

Aurie

As I sat holding and staring at the pregnancy test with those seemingly BOLD, two pink lines; I remember asking myself one very distinct question, “How could I, would I explain?” I was a 30 year old full-time college student, a single-mother of a beautiful soul, and working two jobs. I was exhausted on a daily basis, as is, barely able to make ends meet at times and struggling to find balance as a single parent. I was smarter than this, Right? After all, I was a non-traditional college student with “life experience” under my belt. Old enough to know better! Over the next several days, I tossed questions and statements like these around in my head wondering, “how could I have been so “irresponsible”?” About a week later, I accepted that I had a decision to make about the life that had been created inside of MY body. I replayed those same phrases that rang in my head that day I found out I was pregnant reminding myself that I was a college student working toward my goals, a provider, and most importantly already a Mother. I knew in that moment that, for me, becoming a single mother again was not in the best interest of myself or my child. Mentally, emotionally, and financially I knew I could not manage the responsibilities of being a single mother of two. You could insert judgement here, but there would be no need because I already have judged myself far beyond what you could administer. I asked myself all the questions of morality that one could conjure. Cried when none of the answers soothed the idea of terminating the pregnancy more than the last. Fought with myself about even questioning the existence God’s flawless creation. Screamed out loud to myself knowing that having this child was the wrong decision for me, but the “right thing” to do by the world’s man made standards. On the day of the operation, my anxiety did not ease. I STILL contemplated running out of the doors as I filled out paperwork to pay for this “horrible” act I was about to commit; as I left my best friend in the waiting room and the privacy door shut and locked behind me; as I waited in the private waiting room with other women crying, laughing, then crying again; as I hesitantly answered, “Yes” when the ultrasound technician asked if I’d like to keep the ultrasound pictures; as I sat in the service room for what seemed like a thousand hours listening to every tick of the clock, every voice in neighboring rooms, every single footstep, every nearly drowned out expression of pain and sorrow by the same women that had been in the private waiting room with me; and even as the Doctor and nurse and support aide entered to begin the procedure but I stayed. In the coming months, I questioned MY decision, cried, screamed, slept with the ultrasound pictures under my pillow, became tense at the sight of babies, hugged and kissed my child in desperate attempts to “apologize” for the lack of a sibling; I also knew. I knew that while no law maker, congressman, senator, mayor, judge, father, mother, neighbor, co-worker, cousin or friend could explain why life would present such a painful and definite conflict in decision making neither could they judge that decision. Everyday I live with the Spirit of my unborn child, some of those days I am sad, but I have peace in my decision to terminate my pregnancy. I have peace because I no longer ask myself the question, “How do I explain”? because I know that MY decision is both My Truth and MY Story, not my explanation.

Brandi

My name is Brandi, I come from a small little town in Virginia. I was raised like so many other small town girls not really knowing much about sex, other than the actual act of course, we didn’t really discuss birth control and the word abortion was as dirty as the coal dirt that covered everything. I had been told the possibility of children wasn’t likely due to a medical issue when I was younger so I never took birth control seriously or on a regular basis. So many of us grow up in different circumstances and belief systems it’s hard to fathom someone being so ignorant, but I was and so are many others. See, even though it wasn’t discussed at the dinner table or during late night talks so many of us have now with our children, we are curious creatures so as little children we played Dr or the famous truth or dare game, and that was our sex ed. I was a victim of molestation most of my life, since the age before I could even start making memories and I learned to be promiscuous in hopes of finding love one day. I had sex with so many partners by the time I was 15 I lost count. By 16 I was pregnant and I honestly didn’t know who the father was, but I had a boyfriend who was, what I thought, the love of my life and being the ignorant child I was I thought “hey this is perfect I’ll have him forever” so when my own mother asked about my choice I was livid. “I’m a grown woman” I said “I made my bed I’ll lie in it” and I meant every word, at that moment. I don’t regret my choice that day, I love my son who is 20 today but it wasn’t an easy road. I had been honest with my future husband about him not likely being the father but he gave him his name and has always been his father but, that wasn’t the issue. We would fight physically with one another, we was horrible parents to say the least my son has suffered deeply because of the mistakes we’ve made, we turned into alcoholics and would do any drug we could get our hands on. We would split up and get back together, all the rotten things horrible parents do. That baby boy didn’t deserve to have us as his parents but, thankfully we both had decent parents that stepped in and basically raised him for many years. During this time of course I was sleeping around, not being a responsible human being not to mention parent so when I discovered I was once again pregnant and didn’t have a clue who the father was, I had to face that choice again. I would hold my son and think about how screwed up his life was already, I knew I was weak and even though I wanted to change I still knew I wouldn’t. I was deep in the world of drugs, I didn’t love myself, I thought I didn’t love my first son enough to change so I would likely put another child through the same hell. Was I being selfish? Hell yes I was that’s what an addict is best at being. So I told my parents, who were extremely disappointed in me, again, they swore they wouldn’t raise another, I couldn’t blame them because they was getting older and this was my responsibility. My mom was my support though, she understood my decision and helped me through it all. I was 7 weeks pregnant when I made the 9 hour journey to Charlottesville, VA. My mom has anxiety so my dad and uncle drove me, it was the longest and quietest drive of my life. We reached the clinic, my dad slipped me the $500 and left me to walk around the block to the actual center alone, I was 19. I walked past protesters screaming “baby killer” all the propaganda they love to scream but I knew I didn’t want another child to be born only to live like my other son had so I held my head down and walked the walk alone, like so many others. The staff saw my broken soul and welcomed me in with open arms and shoulders to cry on. They gave us all 1 valium to calm ourselves after they explained what was going to happen and gave us all a chance to change our minds. I walked into the room and 2 nurses held my hand and talked me through the procedure, keeping me calm and making me feel like I wasn’t such a piece of trash. My dad picks me up and I sleep the whole way back again it’s very quiet in the car, neither asked how I was they just looked broken hearted at me and I guess they just didn’t know what to say or how to and that’s ok. I arrived home late and laid down for the evening, I tried telling myself I would feel better tomorrow and I did. I knew I made the right choice for my situation, putting another child into that mess was more cruel than ending the pregnancy in my opinion. I needed a follow up appt to make sure everything was ok but I wasn’t able to get that appt because in the small town I was living no Dr. would do follow up abortion care, it was against their policy or whatever excuse they made and I wasn’t able to afford another long trip so I had to cross my fingers and hope I was ok and I was. You see, mine isn’t the only story like this and I’m not special by any meaning of the word but I can say this, drugs hit my small town like so many others and because abortion is so stigmatized in that town many don’t see it as an option. There’s so many children living with grandparents, wondering why their mom or dad doesn’t love them, wondering if they are even alive and many more children whose parents are dead from overdose. Hundreds get thrown into abusive foster homes or sent to live with other relatives who get left to pick up the pieces. My story isn’t only about abortion but the effects of the opioid epidemic as well. Babies are being born with horrific deformities because of addiction and the stigma of abortion. Communities are left with the responsibility of caring for these children and they don’t want these children, they only want you not to abort. We have generations of children that are continuing the cycle, it will never end all because someone wants to tell us that our choices aren’t choices anymore or make it so difficult you have no real choice. They care so much about that child while it’s inside of you, but wash their hands after it’s born and it’s wrong! They aren’t trying to save babies they are trying to keep us in this cycle and control our bodies. I know this is long but if you made it this far just know that no matter what the reason is it’s still your decision. It’s our bodies, we have a right to decide what we do or don’t do with it.

Cassie

I am so thankful for the services that planned parenthood has provided. My pregnancy was unplanned and caught early on 4wk mark. Being a full time college student, worker, and mother of one, I would not have been able to supply the income or the ability to raise two children without being in poverty. Right now I currently do not receive child support so I work doubles to compensate. I chose my abortion so my child can have a better life to be able to go to extracurricular activities and go to the best school. Even with birth control being used pregnancy still can occur. I am one of the 100s that it happened to. I hope Tennessee will allow women to keep their rights to their bodies. I hope I don’t have to drive my own child, my daughter two or three states away if she has to make the same choice I had to make.

J

I was 30 years old. My amazing daughter – I had wanted to have, was 5, and I could no longer use birth control, without serious side effects. I had tried multiple formulations of pills, the Nuvaring, the shot, and I knew I only wanted one child – that was my decision and choice my entire life. I was denied any form of sterilization when I was pregnant and planning for delivery – back then they said I had to be 35 before the would allow it – allow me to make the choice to be a proud and content parent of one child. So, my husband – at the time, her dad – said he could not orgasm wearing a condom and I reminded him I only wanted one child and did not want to get pregnant and have to get an abortion. He told me he would get a vasectomy, which made sense – cheap and fast and allowed for him before 35. I had to go out of town to help family and was taking my daughter with me, so he said he’s have a friend drive him, then just stay home and rest all weekend – made sense. Well, he said he went, but it turns out he lied, but he even told me that he had to go for a check-up to make sure it worked, so I trusted him. About a year later I start getting sick in the morning – my period had never been regular, so I could not assume that not having a period in 4 weeks meant I was pregnant, I would go months without a period. At first I thought I had some kind of flu, but after a couple days with no fever, I knew something was wrong. I went to the drugstore and took a pregnancy test in their bathroom and then began to vomit and cry when it came back positive – one of my worst nightmares. This may be surprising to some, but not all women want get pregnant and have babies – some don’t want any children, and some like me only want one. I felt terrified about having to get an abortion – I had always believed in having that choice and had taken a friend for one, when her pills and his condom failed, but I knew it would be a hard decision – I was aware of the reality of my decision. I also knew I had to have the procedure immediately, since I didn’t want the fetus to get any more mature. I also felt betrayed and trapped. I called the abortion clinic – still in the Walgreens bathroom – to make an appointment. I had to wait two days to get in, by Florida law (that’s where I was at the time) I had to hear the heartbeat and see the fetus on the ultrasound. I was 6 weeks pregnant the day the ultrasound was done. I then was required to wait three days to make sure I was committed to my decision. All the while I was dealing with not letting my daughter know what was going on, while confronting her father about his actions. He said he wanted more than one child and thought he would trap me into having another one and having to stay with him for financial support, plus he didn’t want a vasectomy, so he lied. I had the abortion and declined the pain medication, other than a local, so that I would be completely aware of the procedure and what I was going through. After recovering from the procedure, I tried again to get some sort of sterilization procedure and was still denied any options due to my age. To avoid divorce – which should have happened (and eventually did), he agreed to have me go with him to watch the real vasectomy and then I drove him back for the check up. I have not ever regretted my decision and am thankful I had the option to make that choice. I didn’t ever want a second child and it is my body, so my decision to make, and I had not been irresponsible – as so many judge-mental people say. I had been denied sterilization in the hospital after my daughter was born, been denied any procedures in the 5 years after her birth, still denied any type of procedure after the abortion, and been lied to by my husband about his vasectomy, all because he wanted a more pleasurable orgasm and to trap me into getting pregnant against my will. Each woman that gets an abortion has her own story and it’s her choice to make. Plus, as my daughter says, they are not pro-lifers that oppose my choice or her choice, but they are pro-birthers, because once they are born, they are not there to provide support and care. As a mom, I will do everything I can to guarantee she always has a right to make a safe choice.

Krista

“When my period still hadn’t come months later I thought – I can’t be pregnant I’m on the honor roll.”

Right now there is a war on women — their reproductive rights and the doctors who provide abortions. We’ve heard the rhetoric — we’ve heard the hate speech — we’ve seen lawmakers trying to use loopholes to make abortion illegal. But we will not give up the battle to keep abortion safe and legal.

I had an abortion when I was 15-years old. That was 32 years ago. But it was a decision that allows me to be who I am today.

Let me take you back to the time of leg warmers and big hair. It was 1986 — I was 15-years old and pregnant. My boyfriend and I had been using condoms – most of the time. When my period was late I thought it was just stress. When my period still hadn’t come months later I thought – I can’t be pregnant I’m on the honor roll. I waited so long to tell my parents – it was too late to have a first trimester abortion at a clinic less than an hour from my home. So my mother and I traveled across country to Wichita, Kansas – to the Women’s Health Care Services. It was one of the only clinics in the nation at the time performing late term abortions. The clinic was surrounded by a brick and iron fence. That is because this clinic had been firebombed before – and the medical director had been shot before but survived.

When I arrived, there were two protesters standing outside the gate, praying. Inside there were about a dozen of us – a cross section of ages, races and circumstances. Among our group was a 20-something who was so thin you couldn’t tell she was pregnant. There was an older couple who were making a desperate decision. The child she was carrying would suffer the same painful and deadly disease that took their other child’s life a few hours after birth. And a 12-year old girl who didn’t speak English and looked terrified.

The medical director was Doctor George Tiller. During my week long stay, Doctor Tiller and I spoke often. He told me I reminded him of his daughter. I told him I wanted to go to college.

It wasn’t until 2004 when I saw Doctor Tiller again. He was a speaker at the March for Women’s Lives in Washington D.C. I was able to thank him. Thank him for giving me a choice.

In 2009 — Doctor George Tiller was murdered inside his church moments after serving as usher. His killer entered the foyer, put a gun to the doctor’s head and pulled the trigger. I mention this because the anti-choice movement is still dangerous and violent.

I would not be where I am today without Doctor Tiller and his services. I am not alone. Even though Doctor Tiller’s clinic closed with his death, other health centers have worked to help women in need BEFORE they need a late-term abortion.

Because of this dedication, and my own experience, I started volunteering as an escort. My job is simple. I am there to let them know they are not alone, they are supported and they are not judged.

I wouldn’t be here today without Roe v Wade – but it is continuously under attack. We must continue our fight to protect women’s reproductive rights.

Sara Weddington – the attorney who won the Roe v Wade case in front of the U-S Supreme Court said —
“It is time to renew the battle for reproductive rights. We have been outmaneuvered, outspent, outpostured, and outvoted by a group of single-issue activists. It has taken them nearly two decades to turn back the principles of Roe. Let’s make sure it takes us a shorter time to replace protection for reproductive choice.”

Stephanie

It was 2006, and I was 16. My boyfriend and I used condoms, but not consistently enough, and on a warm day that spring we discovered I was pregnant. My best friend was the first to know; then my parents, who assured me they would support whatever decision I made. I wasn’t ready to be a parent, nor would I submit a child to a life in foster care when so many children already wait for someone to love them.

At that time, the Tennessee Constitution provided even stronger protections for women seeking abortions than did federal law, so there was no waiting period, no mandated ultrasound, no blatantly false, emotionally manipulative descriptions of the growing embryo. I only had to wait until seven weeks gestation because I wanted a surgical, rather than medication, abortion.

On the day of my appointment, my parents drove my boyfriend and me 30 minutes to the women’s center. The parking lot was empty; no protesters were there to shame and harass my family. My mom had a cigarette, and we all walked inside, where she signed the consent forms and helped me fill out paperwork. My parents and my boyfriend split the cost, about $480.

I remember being struck by the normality of the process; it felt like a normal office visit. I met with the nurse, who took me to the procedure room and gave me medication to help me relax. The gynecologist came in and performed the abortion, which was nearly painless. It was over and I was in recovery in less than 30 minutes. I had been nauseous for a couple of weeks, so I was thrilled to finally be able to eat. Then I was able to go home and rest knowing I had made the best decision for myself and my family, a decision I have never regretted. In retrospect and after hearing and reading the stories of countless women – particularly those of undocumented women and women of color – I realize how very privileged I am to have had both unconditional support and assistance from my family and no obstructions when seeking and obtaining my abortion.

Two years later, I gave birth to my daughter. My previous relationship had ended, and my daughter was conceived and born from a subsequent relationship rife with abuse and sexual assault. But in spite of the trials that brought her into my life, there is no one I cherish more than my wonderful daughter; having her has changed my life in a hundred magnificent ways, and she has given me new reasons to keep fighting for reproductive justice. I look at my daughter and see not just what might have been but what is and what could be; I feel an obligation to make the world safer, healthier, kinder, and more just — for her, for her friends, and for others.

Ebony

I don’t think it has to be a scary experience for everybody. I think everyone has their own individual story.

When I had my abortion, I was 22. It happened out of the blue. I was late, but I wasn’t stressed out about it. In fact, in a previous relationship I thought I was pregnant because I went a whole month without having a period. I went to get a blood test and found out that I wasn’t pregnant, but that stress could really push back your period. So, I woke up one morning and thought that was what it was again. I thought, “Let me just go get a pregnancy test so it can be negative and then I can stop stressing about it. Then it’ll just start.” I went to the grocery store around the corner and bought a pregnancy test. I went home, took the test, and saw that it said positive. I looked at it and thought something must have been wrong. But I was like, no, that’s definitely a plus sign.

So I immediately called my OB/GYN, who was a family friend of ours. The first thing I said was, “Hey, I took a test.” And she said, “It’s positive, isn’t it?” I said, “It is, it definitely is.” And she told me, “Go to Planned Parenthood, walk in there and they’ll take care of you, you can get everything taken care of.”

And that’s what I did. I hadn’t even brushed my teeth for the day. I literally was in pajamas, I looked probably the most a mess I could ever imagine myself looking. I went to Planned Parenthood first, but they hadn’t opened yet. So, one of my friends worked at Pinewood Social here in Nashville and they open at like 6 a.m. and she worked the morning shift. I went in there to her, sat by myself, and asked her to pour me a drink because I was pregnant and was about to have an abortion.

I actually had to work that day. So, I called my boss, who is also someone that I developed a friendship with and asked her, “Hey, this is the situation, I can’t come in, just please kindly don’t mention this to anyone right now.” And she didn’t. One of our other coworkers who we were friends with covered my shift and everything was fine.

And so, after I had my drink at Pinewood, I went into Planned Parenthood. I went in, and went through the entire process. Towards the end of the appointment, I did the pill. So I did the at-home abortion. But what I think is interesting about my story is that for me having it wasn’t traumatic at all. I felt almost nothing.

To me, the hardest part of my abortion story was the guy that got me pregnant. When I realized I was pregnant, I knew he was the last person I had sex with. And the last time I had sex, I knew he knew he did this. He knew he did this. Because I thought he possibly did it, but normally whenever we’ve had slip ups, he always notified me, and gotten the morning after pill…but he didn’t say that this time. Once I thought about it, I realized that he knew what he did and just did not say anything to me. In fact, one of the reasons I was so adamant about it was because I always knew that I would have an abortion. I think for me, the reason why it was not very hard of a decision to make, and I didn’t have to think about it, and I wasn’t sad, was because this particular guy was a piece of shit. So much so that he lied to me about having a child for a year. So, as you can image, not that hard of a decision to have an abortion.

But, I also felt like he needed to know. One, because I felt like he needed to help pay for it. When I told him that day, he answered my first text, and then I told him that I needed him to call me. I was like, “I need you to call me, I don’t want to talk about this over text. We have to talk about this through the phone.” And he wouldn’t do it. Another friend of mine, who I was also texting at the same time, she said you need to just tell him. So, I did. I did not hear back from him for the entire day. For the entire day. It was my good friend, the one who I went to go see at work, who helped me pay for the abortion off the bat. I did not have the full $450 it cost at the time to have the abortion done. So, she met me in the nick of time, right before I had to make that payment, and gave me the remaining cash. Then waited there with me. I think I was there, I think the entire process of being there was at least like…I got there pretty early…so I think they open at like 8 or 9…I don’t think I left there until 2 or 3 o’clock.

I was very much bothered by the fact that I hadn’t heard back from him. It felt like a very huge sense of abandonment, you know what I mean? Someone not helping you through this. Despite what it is that I might be to him. It’s like, be a man. Be responsible. Take care of this. But I was very thankful to have my friend there with me, and she was so much there with me that the next day, when I had to do the at-home miscarriage, she let me stay at her house and her other roommate took care of me through the entire process. I was there all day. Which I was very grateful and thankful for. I will never, ever forget about that. That’s such a big thing, to be there for somebody through that experience. You never forget something like that.

So, for me, that’s pretty much my story when it comes down to what happened. I never told my parents. I still haven’t told my parents. Which is something that I probably will do. I’m now 25, I feel like I’m old enough to where I don’t feel the need to lie about something like that. Especially when it comes to, not just what’s going on in this country at this point in time, but also just the things that I’m involved in and the views that I have. That’s the type of information you have to divulge in order to gain some credibility when talking about such a serious topic. So, it is probably something that I will tell them, but it’s never something that I’ve been ashamed of.

I think that the hardest thing for me was not having that particular guy take responsibility. That was incredibly hard. Especially because I spoke to him later on that day after the abortion happened, and of course he had some excuse as to why he didn’t text back. Then he said he would help out and be there the next day and completely was not, completely bailed. That’s such a vital part of my story because it drives home the point about why I was so adamant about getting it.

And even sitting in that room at Planned Parenthood with some of these girls waiting to get that first initial pill to start the process, some of the girls were talking about how they were there, and why they were there. I was so desensitized and so not bothered by my decision that I asked how and why everybody ended up here. At first it was like, complete silence. I realized how uncomfortable people may have been, or maybe how difficult this process was for some people, more so than it was for me. But hearing all the different reasons as to why people were there, it wasn’t just about…for example, there was a woman there who was in her forties and was just like, “I have too many kids. I have too many kids. I don’t want another one.” And then hearing some of the girls talk about the process of it. For me, it wasn’t painful. Some girls said the at-home abortion was very painful. It was like cramps times ten, which I have absolutely horrible cramps so I’m thinking it’s going to be incredibly painful and it wasn’t really at all for me. But, I also think that’s because of how early I was. I couldn’t have been more than three weeks pregnant, honestly.

For me, it was a pretty painless experience besides the way in which I think I was neglected. That was really the hardest part. But I don’t regret my decision at all. That’s not someone I would want in my life, and I wouldn’t want to bring a child into this life with that person being the father, and him always being in my life. I don’t think I would want to have offspring with that person.

For me, my decision was very, very easy. I think it would have definitely been a little bit more emotional had it been with someone else, a couple of other guys I’ve been with in the past. Because I know they probably would have been a good father, but I just didn’t want to have the child. I still don’t want to have kids until I’m like thirty-something years old. If it happens again, you know, it is what it is. I know some people might sit here and say, “Well, were you using protection?” No, I was not using protection. Was I on birth control? No, I was not on birth control. Some people might say that’s incredibly irresponsible, and maybe so, but shit happens. That’s not an excuse, I’m just saying that shit happens and for me it just wasn’t a scary experience. I don’t think it has to be a scary experience for everybody. I think everyone has their own individual story.

I am so incredibly thankful that I had the resources and the access to Planned Parenthood so that I could do that, that day. I can’t really imagine today having the abortion and waiting 48 hours. I didn’t have to do that then. I got it done right then, that day, and I moved on with my life the next day. That’s exactly how I feel like, if that’s how somebody wants to do it, then that’s how they should have the right to do it. They should definitely be able to do it like that.

To this day, like I said, I’m very open about my experience. I’m open about it because I feel like there’s no need to hide it. But I also feel like, in a way it helps people better understand me and why I’m so hardcore as far as being pro-choice. I don’t think it’s anything to be ashamed of. I don’t think it’s a big deal. And I don’t think I would feel the need to share it if it wasn’t under such an attack. I don’t think I would feel the need to sit here and say, “Hey, I did this, it’s okay, I’m fine, I turned out fine.” If you didn’t have people who were so adamant about how bad of thing it is, or how negative of thing it is, or how maybe destructive of an act or practice that it is. I don’t think I would feel the need to disclose all of this information if people didn’t give a reason that I have to defend it. I think that’s what it comes down to, for me, which is why I think I am so vocal about it and not scared to share it. I feel like if you’re willing to judge me, then in my opinion, I think that’s very narrow minded. If you can’t really understand what it’s like, if you’re someone who I feel like if you say you would never do that…you know props to you to have that much confidence. I don’t have that much confidence in myself right now to raise a child. And I don’t think I could let someone else raise it.

We’re all different people. I think we forget that. We’re all very different people, we’re individuals, our brains work differently. The chemicals in our brains react differently. Our bodies are different. Therefore, we’re going to have different decisions. And I don’t think that you can run a country or make policies in a way where you think that people are all the same.

I want anyone who is against abortion to hear my story. I want anyone who can’t decide. My story is really not for the people who are already pro-choice. My story is for the people who can just really not decide, or are against it. I’m someone who will welcome discussion of that opposing opinion than someone who agrees with me, because I feel like the opposing opinion opens more of a space for both parties to learn, to grow and to develop. And for me, to do this is to show people who might be against it or also don’t understand it another perspective. And to just take a second, and think about the other side of the equation.

Olivia

There was never a moment that I questioned if having an abortion was the right choice for me- but that doesn’t mean it was easy.

As a sophomore in college, I had been seeing a new boyfriend of mine for 3 or 4 months. We were sexually active, and did not usually use protection. One day he came over and told me he thought we should break up- I was bummed, but agreed we should both be moving on.

About a week went by before I noticed my period was late. I remember going to the pharmacy down the street to buy a pregnancy test and having two waves of emotions: 1. embarrassment, trying to hide what I was buying and 2. a surge of feminism telling me I was a grown woman, and that this was perfectly normal. I bought the test, brought it home, and took it. It read positive but I wasn’t convinced.

I waited a few more days for my period to arrive before I really started getting worried. I called my recent ex-boyfriend and told him that my period was late, and he came over. I took the test in the bathroom while he waited outside, and left it sitting on the sink. I was so scared to look at the result and made him do it. It read positive.

I called Planned Parenthood and set up an appointment. My ex took me to the appointment, and I remember there being protesters with pro-life signs in the front. I did not feel guilty- they almost reinforced my decision. The workers were SO kind, and I really felt a sense of protection. They asked me many questions about if I was making the right decision for myself, and I said yes.

I came back a few weeks later for my abortion appointment. I’ll never forget it was snowing that day. My local Planned Parenthood only provided abortion services via pill, so I took one pill and went home to take the other. As the nurses had warned me, I experienced some heavy bleeding and cramping. Mostly, I felt very alone. It felt like a deeply personal experience- and I made the mistake of not confiding in any of my friends about it for a very long time. Not because I was embarrassed or felt I had made the wrong decision- just because it felt like something that was mine. Looking back, I wish I had reached out to a girl friend for support- my ex-boyfriend was very helpful, but it just felt like I needed to let the feeling sit inside me, alone, for a while.

Now, 5 years later, I have finished college, I am living in New York City and I am thriving. I cannot imagine my life if I had chosen to keep a child that I didn’t want and couldn’t support. It was the best thing I have ever done for myself and I have no regrets. It is deeply ingrained in us as women that we don’t have the right to our own body or decisions. Do what fits into your life and your plan.

I feel so lucky there was a Planned Parenthood near me in my southern town and that even provided abortion services at all. The Tennessee Stories Project is a wonderful effort to get people to start talking about it! So many women you know have probably had an abortion- it’s nothing to be ashamed of. When I eventually told my older sister a year after mine, she told me she had had an abortion too and was so happy that she did. In the current political climate, it is so important to make our voices heard. So let’s talk about it!

June

The main reason for my sharing my story is twofold. My grandmother died in an illegal abortion in 1933 that profoundly affected my mother, her siblings and family for a few generations.
In 1976 when abortion was legal, I too found myself fighting for my rights to reproductive freedom.
During my first six years of marriage, my cycle was unpredictable at best. I would bleed heavy clots for months and have months of no periods.
Upon expecting a diagnosis of pregnancy and at the initial visit, my gynecologist confirmed that I was pregnant. The problem was my uterus was the size of what a seventh month of pregnancy uterus should be and the fetus was the size of a four to six week.
My gynecologist thought my general health was at risk as the fetus probably died or if alive and survived would most likely be a vegetable requiring sophisticated medical care in an institution. My gynecologist told me to take time to decide, but the sooner the better.
This was before the days of ultrasound. After consulting with my husband and minister (who tried to remain neutral but is really pro life) I called my gynecologist as directed to schedule the therapeutic abortion. His nurse stated their office does not perform abortions and referred me to a cold, heartless doctor who ran his practice as a factory for abortions. He didn’t even keep the remains as directed to help the specialist understand why I had multiple miscarries.
I was admitted to a prestigious Pittsburgh hospital for a two night stay. This hospital was almost my second home as I had numerous D&Cs here and laparoscopies. I was surprised when the anesthesiologist was placing the mask over my nose, he whispered, ” You don’t have to do this, you can change your mind.” That was not helpful. Plus, it seemed to me that my post op experience was that the women who had abortions were the last to receive nursing care as compared to my other stays at the same hospital. We were the forgotten ones on the floor.
The great ending to the story is my personal gynecologist left the practice where the nurse told me they don’t perform abortions. He said that I was his patient and should have been the one to perform the procedure. I felt validated and supported in my choice. I thought that perhaps this would make it easier for other people in his practice facing the same decision.
My advice would be to question authority and believe in yourself for making the most personal decision of your life. My husband, daughter and I have no regrets. My wish is that medical professionals listen to the patient, treat without prejudice, explain post op, and if you don’t want to be associated with abortions, then work somewhere else. It’s a personal choice!