(Photo: Christopher Anderson/Magnum Photos/New York Magazine)
New York Magazine‘s Meaghan Winter compiled the abortion stories of 26 women, providing an intimate peek into the confusion, fear, loneliness and shame that women often feel in a nation that attempts to legislate our bodies.
According to recent statistics from Guttmacher.org:
• Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and about four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion. Twenty-two percent of all pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion.
• Forty percent of pregnancies among white women, 67% among blacks and 53% among Hispanics are unintended.
• In 2008, 1.21 million abortions were performed, down from 1.31 million in 2000. However, between 2005 and 2008, the long-term decline in abortions stalled. From 1973 through 2008, nearly 50 million legal abortions occurred.
• Each year, two percent of women aged 15–44 have an abortion. Half have had at least one previous abortion.[2,3]
• At least half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45, and, at current rates, one in 10 women will have an abortion by age 20, one in four by age 30 and three in 10 by age 45.[4,5]
Taxpayer dollars do not pay for abortions at Planned Parenthood – which only account for 3 percent of their services. And President Barack Obama’s signing of Executive Order 13535 ensures that federal funds will not pay for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest and health of the mother. Still, even with these facts, conservatives are hellbent on destroying a woman’s right to choose, while terminating government assistance for low-income families and, to quote Barney Frank (former Democratic Representative from Massachusetts) creating a government “small enough to fit into a woman’s uterus.”
NY Mag reports:
Successive court rulings have granted even more latitude in writing abortion laws, and legislators have responded by creating a patchwork of regulations: Arkansas has banned abortion after twelve weeks, while in Louisiana, a woman is shown her ultrasound before having an abortion. In California, a trained nurse practitioner can now perform an abortion, but in Mississippi, a provider must be an obstetrician with admitting privileges at a local hospital, a rule that could shut down the state’s last remaining clinic. This month, a federal appeals court upheld a similar law in Texas, closing all but a handful of clinics.
This is why this New York Magazine piece is so important. Abortion isn’t just about science or legislation or sociopolitics, it is an often painful experience that real women go through while the country they call home wages war against them.
These are a few of their stories:
Illinois, 2004, 2005, and 2007
I looked in the Chicago Yellow Pages and made an appointment at what I thought was an abortion clinic. They sent a black woman in to talk to me. She told me that she and her husband hadn’t wanted their child at first and tried to convince me to keep mine. Then they showed me a video of a D&E (dilation and evacuation). They assumed I was on food stamps. At that time, I didn’t know how to articulate why that was offensive. I was a 28-year-old paralegal—not the stereotype. They sent me home with a rattle and onesie. This was in 2002, not some bygone era. They sent me to another place to get a free ultrasound. The technician said, “If you have an abortion now, you’ll rupture your uterus and won’t be able to have children in the future.” I had no idea what was true. I didn’t want to regret not being able to have children. I went ahead and had my son. Those people weren’t there after I lost my job and couldn’t afford my COBRA, utilities, rent, food. Since then, I’ve had three abortions. I didn’t understand my body. I had no information. After the third time, I ran into a reproductive-justice advocate who finally taught me how to understand my fertility.
Tennessee, 2011 and 2013
I already had two daughters. Neither was planned, and it never, ever, occurred to me to terminate those pregnancies. I was brought up with a very religious background. Now I’ve had two abortions, and if my family knew, my relationship with my family would be gone. My first was two years ago. My husband and I were having financial problems and were considering separating. I just had to shut my conscience down. The doctor was grotesque. He whistled show tunes. I could hear the vacuum sucking out the fetus alongside his whistling. When I hear show tunes now, I shudder. Later, he lost his license. A few months ago, I got pregnant again. My in-laws have been helping us out financially, so we have no choice but to involve them in our decisions. They gave us $500 cash to bring to the clinic. I felt very forced. I felt like I was required to have an abortion to provide for my current family. Money help is a manipulation. I’m crazy in love with my daughters—imagine if I did that to them? It’s almost too much to open the door of guilt and shame because it’ll all overcome me. In the waiting room, there was a dead silence that’s hard to describe. Everyone was holding in her emotions to a heartbreaking degree. Truly pro-life people should go light on the judgment, because shame motivates abortions.
Although I always thought it was a woman’s right to choose, I honestly thought if I got pregnant I’d find a way to make it work. All that changed. My boyfriend terrorized me. At some point, I decided it was safer to have him in my life than cut him out. But when I got pregnant, I knew right away I didn’t want a lifelong connection to that person. I was right; when we later broke up, he sawed my clothes in half and poured corn syrup in my gas tank. During the ultrasound, I shouted, “We’re not keeping it!” It was a way of not acknowledging the life-form. When I went to the clinic, there were protesters with awful, very graphic signs. I felt their judgment. Other experiences changed me more. This year, I had another D&C after I miscarried, and it’s amazing how much I mourned that pregnancy. The same experience can be so different when you’re in a different place in life. My first husband died. With the slew of shitty things that have happened to me, I wonder, am I paying the price for what I did? I believe in a God who wouldn’t punish that way. But when you don’t want the gift you’re given, will the universe offer up that gift again? As I started to get older and was nowhere near having kids, I started to wonder if that was my chance and I blew it. But I’m 21 weeks pregnant now.
Read all 26 stories at New York Magazine.
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