Notes
First thoughts, running arguments, stories in progress
Personal Stories of Abortion Made Public
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Prompted by Emma Green’s note on the Supreme Court case Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt, for which a group of lawyers filed a document openly describing their abortions, readers share their own stories in an ongoing collection edited by Chris Bodenner. We are posting a wide range of experiences—from pro-choice and pro-life readers, women and men alike—so if you have an experience not represented so far, please send us a note: hello@theatlantic.com.

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The Power of Making Abortion Personal, Cont'd

Many readers are responding to Emma’s note about the upcoming Supreme Court case Whole Women’s Health v. Cole:

I read your story about the group of Texas attorneys and their own abortions and would like to share my own story. I am a medical student at one of the nation’s top med schools who graduated from college with dual microbiology/chemistry degrees and a 4.0. I became pregnant during my senior year and did not hesitate to have an abortion. I knew this decision was right for me and my future children. I am going to be a surgeon because I had an abortion.

Women who have abortions aren’t the deadbeat, promiscuous, Godless stereotypes that society paints them. Although theoretically I was much more prepared for a baby than many women are fortunate to be (at age 22 and with a bachelors degree under my belt and a supportive family behind me), I would not be able to give that child the best life. I exercised my constitutional right to have an abortion, and I haven’t had a single regret.

Another reader chooses to use her real name, Sarah Berry:

I’m a college teacher who became pregnant while in graduate school. I got pregnant while using a diaphragm (properly)—these things happen. Having an abortion was hard because I knew I wanted children, but I wasn’t in a stable relationship or career. I’m now the happy mother of two thriving children. Access to abortion is essential for women to have an equal shot at self-actualization in the world and for children to have happy, thriving moms.

Another reader:

I was 20 and a sophomore in college. I had been dating my high school boyfriend for almost three years when I met someone else in class that August (2012). I realized I was attracted to him as we became closer friends, and I ended up sleeping with him that Christmas break.

This year, for the first time in nearly a decade, the Supreme Court will hear a case on abortion. Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt* takes up restrictions on clinics and physicians who provide abortions in Texas, which were passed in 2013. The Court will decide whether these restrictions place an “undue burden” on women in the state.

Earlier this week, a wave of new briefs were filed in support of either side of the case. Among them was a brief representing “113 women in the legal profession who have exercised their constitutional right to an abortion.”

This document is remarkable for a number of reasons. It represents the perspectives of people who are trained in the law, but who are also personally familiar with what it means to get an abortion. It rejects the idea that women should feel shame about having an abortion; these stories are serious, straightforward, and unapologetic. And it shortens the sense of distance between those who will decide the legal merits of the case and those whose lives will be affected—this brief isn’t well-educated experts advocating on behalf of women in need, it’s well-educated women advocating on behalf of themselves. As one of the women wrote, “To the world, I am an attorney who had an abortion, and, to myself, I am an attorney because I had an abortion.”

(So, if you’re willing to share: What is your personal story of abortion, either in choosing to have one or not, or perhaps anticipating that decision? We’ll keep stories anonymous by default, although if you’re willing to use your name, let us know: hello@theatlantic.com.)

But the document also highlights the complexity of abortion as an ethical and legal issue. Court cases necessarily consider questions of justice in the abstract, but deciding whether or not to terminate a pregnancy is one of the most intimate choices a woman can make. This fact has defined the political fight over abortion. As Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern smartly put it: