My abortion was the health care I needed to meet my daughter.
I was on the ultrasound table when I learned from the tech’s sharp inhale that my first pregnancy had miscarried. She tried to cover her creased brow with a light, chatty “Just need to check something.” But I can still feel that room, my weight pitched back on my elbows, and my belly chilling as the ultrasound gel went cold. The next few hours were a whirl. A second tech. An emergency appointment. A voice that grew inside me from whisper to scream: How long had I walked this world with a dead fetus inside me? The pills. The pain. The blood. The gratitude.
Months passed. We cut our earlier ultrasound into a snowflake, buried it in the garden, tried again, and met our daughter. She’s 11 now, and she knows that she is here because her mama got the care she needed when she needed it. I don’t know where I would be without an abortion. But I do know that with one, I’m a mom.
My abortion was surprisingly easy. The decision wasn’t difficult or theoretical; it was something I knew in my body the moment I knew that I was pregnant. My abortion was full of love. Love for myself and for the things my body could do. Love for my partner, who stayed home from work with me to help me navigate scheduling — we went to a clinic, and, after writing the procedure we were seeking on a piece of paper and sliding it across the table like bank robbers, we were told we had to schedule by phone. Love for my mother, who had shared her abortion story with me many years ago, making it easy for me to share mine with her. Love for my father, who asked if he could drop off soup or ice cream, like he did when I was sick as a little kid. Love for my abortion providers at Whole Woman’s Health, and love for my doctor who referred me to them. My abortion was also full of love for babies — the babies that I help care for daily, and any future babies that I do have. The same week the pills that ended my pregnancy came in the mail, the Supreme Court leaked their decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
My abortion was the week after Roe v. Wade was passed. My boyfriend had intentionally not used a condom. I was a freshman at college. I finally told him, “I don’t have to have this baby.” I loved him and hoped to marry him, but I wasn’t ready to give up on college and raise a baby by myself on a naval base. The school nurse and I planned a trip to Madison — the closest clinic where someone could get a safe abortion. Then the nurse told me that Roe had passed and I could get an abortion in Minnesota. I took the bus to a clinic where the doctor scheduled me at Abbott Northwestern Hospital. My roommate and I walked there on a cold snowy night. After the dilation and curettage, I got dressed and told her I was ready to walk home. She insisted we take a cab. I was overcome with a sadness that I’ve never gotten over. I’m crying as I write this. I thought I would have children someday, but that hasn’t worked out. I think about how old my son or daughter would be now. They would be 50 years old.
My abortions were right for me then. Forty-five-plus years later, I look back and wonder what my life would have been like if I had carried those two pregnancies to term. I was in my mid-20s when I had my first abortion at Midwest Health Center for Women. I don’t remember feeling any indecision or panic about whether I could afford it or find the clinic. Now, decades later, after not having the opportunity again to become pregnant and have a child, I am still crystal clear that it was not the right path for me then. Ultimately, I had the choice, the money, and the independence to do what I needed and wanted to do. Being able to make the decision then created the person I am today. No regrets.
My first abortion was disturbingly different from my second. The first required education by a genetic specialist, waiting, and effort to find an available clinic. The second was arranged and provided by my OB.
My first was accompanied by protesters and minimal comfort measures at a community clinic. I didn’t have the option to bury the remains, which made grieving a more complex process. I left in shock. The second had warm blankets, dim lighting, and lots of choices in a hospital setting. I received the remains in a beautiful box with an invitation to a support group, and I left in therapeutic tears.
Both pregnancies were wanted and loved. They preceded IVF, and were part of an isolating conception journey over the span of several years.
After the first I was fragile, traumatized, and introverted. After the second I was angry and loud — why should I have been treated so differently the first time?
I will tell you why. My first abortion was painstakingly chosen as a result of learning about genetic abnormalities, while my second was the result of a fetus without a heartbeat. The reasons are different, but the experience is equally heartbreaking. I will fight for the second experience to be the norm for my two miracle daughters, and I won’t ever stop.
My first abortion was freshman year, and I was amazed I got pregnant. We flew to South Dakota. After my dilation and curettage at the doctor’s office, we got rid of the tissues at the motel. The doctor did not want aborted contents in his plumbing — legal precautions. Senior year it happened again, by vacuum aspiration.
Years later, a dark, bloody, and spontaneous loss — a miscarriage — in the tub, not sure how many weeks along. I had thought myself unable to conceive. These losses found their way into my life when the children I have always known and loved seemed soulmates to those I chose not to know.
My abortion was due to me being irresponsible about birth control. I was in a new relationship and got pregnant at 19 years old. The father wanted me to have the baby, but I knew I was not responsible enough to be a parent, nor did I want to be a parent at that time.
I was fortunate that in the mid-1980s, access was very easy. I was working full time and was able to cover the procedure. I have two adult children today and never regret my decision. All I want is for everyone to have the right to choose.
I have had much grief in my life; one of these moments was a miscarriage — a sign my body had rejected a natural process inside of my being. The tears that followed were many.
Never once did I cry the three times I chose to not carry my pregnancy to term and have an abortion. I was in my 20s when I chose to end my first pregnancy. I wasn’t ready — still in graduate school, enjoying life with my partner and his young child. I was married the second time, starting my career, and unsure about having kids.
My third decision was after my five beautiful children — all chosen, provided for, and loved — were born. I was unhappy and unhealthy in my marriage. I wanted to break out of many things at that point in my life, and it would have been detrimental to be pregnant, but I mourned not being able to psychologically and financially take care of another human.
The last time I faced an unplanned pregnancy, I was over 40 and it was during Covid. A few days before my abortion appointment, I started bleeding. I knew I didn’t want to be pregnant, but I was not prepared for the emotional and physical feelings that accompany miscarriage. It was another level of feeling out of control. This ending made me sad in a way new to my soul. I remember whispering to the Universe how grateful I was to have my children.
My right decisions may look different than yours, but I own them. They made me keep moving through life at my speed.