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 hello@theatlantic.com. (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.