Stephanie | East Tennessee

It was 2006, and I was 16. My boyfriend and I used condoms, but not consistently enough, and on a warm day that spring we discovered I was pregnant. My best friend was the first to know; then my parents, who assured me they would support whatever decision I made. I wasn’t ready to be a parent, nor would I submit a child to a life in foster care when so many children already wait for someone to love them.

At that time, the Tennessee Constitution provided even stronger protections for women seeking abortions than did federal law, so there was no waiting period, no mandated ultrasound, no blatantly false, emotionally manipulative descriptions of the growing embryo. I only had to wait until seven weeks gestation because I wanted a surgical, rather than medication, abortion.

On the day of my appointment, my parents drove my boyfriend and me 30 minutes to the women’s center. The parking lot was empty; no protesters were there to shame and harass my family. My mom had a cigarette, and we all walked inside, where she signed the consent forms and helped me fill out paperwork. My parents and my boyfriend split the cost, about $480.

I remember being struck by the normality of the process; it felt like a normal office visit. I met with the nurse, who took me to the procedure room and gave me medication to help me relax. The gynecologist came in and performed the abortion, which was nearly painless. It was over and I was in recovery in less than 30 minutes. I had been nauseous for a couple of weeks, so I was thrilled to finally be able to eat. Then I was able to go home and rest knowing I had made the best decision for myself and my family, a decision I have never regretted. In retrospect and after hearing and reading the stories of countless women – particularly those of undocumented women and women of color – I realize how very privileged I am to have had both unconditional support and assistance from my family and no obstructions when seeking and obtaining my abortion.

Two years later, I gave birth to my daughter. My previous relationship had ended, and my daughter was conceived and born from a subsequent relationship rife with abuse and sexual assault. But in spite of the trials that brought her into my life, there is no one I cherish more than my wonderful daughter; having her has changed my life in a hundred magnificent ways, and she has given me new reasons to keep fighting for reproductive justice. I look at my daughter and see not just what might have been but what is and what could be; I feel an obligation to make the world safer, healthier, kinder, and more just — for her, for her friends, and for others.

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