Years before my own abortion, I grew up escorting patients into the only clinic in my state, while protestors hurled insults and plastic fetuses at them. The protestors carried enormous signs depicting grotesque (and inaccurate) images, and used them to physically block the entrance to the clinic. The medical providers received bomb threats, and sometimes violence erupted outside on the sidewalk.
I loved creating a physical barrier around patients as they made their way into the front doors. Sometimes they cried and covered their faces, other times they looked straight ahead with fierce dignity. I felt honored to be there with them on their big day, and do what I could to make it a little bit easier.
When it came time for my first abortion, I was sick anticipating the hateful crowd that would surround and shame me. I lived in a different region by then, and was lucky to find a placid parking lot on the date of my appointment. Inside, I met an incredible doctor, who piped classical music throughout the clinic and displayed his own paintings on the walls. He greeted me in a bowtie and treated me with such profound respect, I will never forget his quiet and dedicated practice.
Abortion providers show up every day to provide quality and compassionate care. They are targets of vitriol and violence, yet still choose to serve their community.
I have never spoken publicly about my abortions. I’ve worked to hold my sense of empowerment over the pressure of shame. At the time of writing this, we are facing a potential reversal of Roe v. Wade, and I hope that in sharing my story, I can help others who might be struggling with their own meaning-making around this experience.
According to Ana Langer, who is a professor of the practice of public health and coordinator of the Women and Health Initiative at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “a recent study estimated that banning abortion in the U.S. would lead to a 21% increase in the number of pregnancy-related deaths overall and a 33% increase among Black women, simply because staying pregnant is more dangerous than having an abortion. Increased deaths due to unsafe abortions or attempted abortions would be in addition to these estimates.”
I don’t know what my life would be if I hadn’t found those competent providers. In the moments after my procedure, I cried with relief and gratitude, feeling my life had been given back to me. I will forever be thankful for what I was able to access, and wish the same for generations to come, particularly marginalized populations for whom this restriction will have the greatest impact.