The Power of Making Abortion Personal, Cont'd

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

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.

Shortly afterward, confused, I told my boyfriend I wanted to go on a break without telling him what had happened. While we were on the break, I continued to see the new guy on and off, and that February I found out I was pregnant and knew it was his.

I knew immediately I wanted to get an abortion. I’ve always been pro-choice, and I didn’t have a doubt that it was the right decision for me. As a college student, I didn’t have the resources to support a child, and while my family would have been supportive, I just knew I didn’t want to be a mother yet. I wanted to graduate and focus on my future, not to mention the complications of my relationship status. I didn’t know if I wanted to continue seeing the new guy or eventually get back together with my boyfriend, and either way, having a baby would complicate it.

I took the pregnancy test and told my best friend and the guy I was seeing, and then immediately I called my local women’s clinic to schedule an appointment. This was on a Monday, and the soonest availability they had was Friday. It was the longest week of my life, and was probably the hardest part of the entire process. When Friday came along, I took off work and class and went with my friends for the procedure.

From that point on, it was so easy I was almost worried about myself. Our culture tells women this is an agonizing, life-changing decision, and I thought something was wrong with me for being so confident and calm about what I was doing. I was only six weeks along, so I was able to have a medical abortion rather than a surgical one, and thankfully I have insurance that covered the procedure except for a $30 co-pay that was later refunded.

I told my boyfriend about everything, and he called me a whore and a murderer and sent me photos of fetuses, and we broke up for good.

I haven’t regretted my decision once. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had decided to keep the child. I graduated summa cum laude in May and then spent three months in Europe working as an au pair and sightseeing, and I’ve continued to happily date the guy I met that August.

I live in a state that has followed the national trend of restricting women’s access to abortion services, and I think every day about how lucky I am that the process was easy for me. I had a support network, I had insurance, I could afford to miss a day of work, the clinic was less than two miles away. Each of these privileges means my pregnancy was a short episode in my life, rather than the defining factor of it. I hope one day soon that will be true for all women.

Thank you for reporting on this important issue, and thanks for reading my story.

To share yours, email (Please indicate whether you’d like to use your real name or remain anonymous.) One more reader for now:

Up in my closet, among the t-shirts collected from various marathons, fund-raisers, and intolerable NPR drives, is a never worn t-shirt from the Emma Goldman clinic. I bought it my senior year of college because my freshman year of college I went there to get an abortion.

Unlike the other t-shirts, which are threadbare, this one has never had its public debut. I have never gotten rid of it, moving it from college to home to first apartment to second apartment to all the place between then and now, and yet, I have never worn it.

That is a great shame, I think.

The Emma Goldman clinic saved me from a boyfriend who sent me down a flight of stairs at a party and kicked me with his feet in public settings. It allowed me an education, a career, and a marriage. Yet, I do not celebrate it and I do not promote it.

I think maybe that is the greatest setback of this fight for reproductive freedom. It’s women like me who don’t stand up to say, “Yes, it was sad. Yes, I was scared, Yes, I still think about it, but given the chance, I would make the same decision.”

So maybe in addition to the “I stand with Planned Parenthood” magnet and the pro-choice posts on Facebook, I will do something really radical: I will wear my Emma Goldman t-shirt and show the world that I am not ashamed, but that I am grateful.