As soon as I told my mother, she told me about all the other women in my family who had had abortions, and then you’re like oh! Okay. So that was another time I thought, why is this something we hide? 

“I can’t remember how old I was because it was kind of a non-event, but I was about 26, and I found myself pregnant. It was a new relationship and I was fairly inexperienced about relationships. Immediately I knew to call Planned Parenthood. I called so quickly they said I had to wait until it was six weeks for a procedure to be effective. My boyfriend went with me and, as we walked in, this older gentleman was standing on the sidewalk. He came up and actually put his hand on my arm, which was strange, and said, “Honey don’t let him ruin your life.” I didn’t say anything, but I was immediately angry because I thought having a baby right now would ruin my life! I had already been accepted into graduate school in another state. I couldn’t imagine having to stay where I was, in a low paying job, to raise a child with a man who was not going to be a lifetime partner. I don’t know why, but I didn’t expect protesters to be there– this was in Boston, which is fairly progressive. It was also a time when you didn’t hear a lot of complaints about Planned Parenthood.”

“The procedure was completely fine, painless, just an outpatient procedure, nothing complicated about it at all. Afterwards you have a little cramping, and it’s just like having a period, nothing unusual. I did call in sick to work that day. I didn’t think about abortion stigma at the time, but I also don’t think I told my roommate where I was going that day. I know I was embarrassed. You feel like an idiot – people who get pregnant when they don’t mean to must not understand how sex works or how birth control works — and so you immediately just feel stupid. Educated people aren’t supposed to let this sort of thing happen, so it’s not something you go around advertising.”

“My boyfriend and I split the cost. It wasn’t very expensive, although as people who had just started working, we didn’t have a lot of money, so I’m incredibly thankful that it was manageable at Planned Parenthood. The other thing I remember, a few days later at work I got a phone call. The people at Planned Parenthood had asked if they call me, should they use a password, and I had agreed to that. I was in the lab, and someone said I had a call and told me the fake name which meant it was Planned Parenthood, and I kind of froze. They were calling to make sure everything was fine, and it was. But I remember feeling how strange it was that I was lying to my co-workers, who were friends, about this secret phone call. It was really odd. Nothing about having the procedure felt shameful to me, but then with that phone call it hit me again that I was hiding all of this.”

“I did not tell my parents until maybe a year later. As soon as I told my mother, she told me about all the other women in my family who had had abortions, and then you’re like oh! Okay. That was another time I thought, why is this something we hide?”

“Then you go on with your life, and your life is what you thought it could be. I got to go to graduate school. I have two amazing children now with a husband I love — we’ve been together forever — and everything is great. I would not have been able to have this life and provide for my children the way I can now if I had been a mother so young.  I can’t imagine not having access to a safe abortion.”

“The other thing about my story is that two years later, the clinic in Boston did have somebody come and shoot people. The guy went to two clinics on that street and killed people. At the time the news didn’t affect me much, but what scares me now is I have a daughter. If she ever needed services, clinics are targets, and that’s incredibly frightening to me. Anything I can do to try to reduce stigma and keep women safe I’ll do. It’s important.”

Beth, East Tennessee