Calladitas No More

Nine People Tell Us Their Real Experience After Having An Abortion

Having an abortion is a decision many women have made and will continue to make for any number of reasons. The stigmas and shame that surround abortion is very real and can have serious repercussions, especially as lawmakers continuously threaten reproductive rights. These attacks on repro rights often force women into situations where their lives and health are at risk.

When culture also comes into play, it can add to the weight of the silence and guilt someone may be enduring.

An abortion, for some, is the hardest decision they’ve ever made, and they’re racked with guilt for the rest of their lives. But for some women, the decision is not hard at all, and there’s no guilt behind it.

Then there are plenty of women who know the second they get the positive symbol on the pregnancy test that they will not be going through with the pregnancy. Some think about it and come to the decision later. Others are forced into the procedure for health reasons.

There is no one narrative and no right way to feel about it. Having an abortion doesn’t have to be the worst experience of your life. Feeling guilt is normal and something to work through. But feeling no guilt doesn’t make you heartless.

If it’s our body, our choice, then shouldn’t it be our reason and our feelings about it, too? No judgments.

Eight women and one nonbinary individual tell us about their abortion experience, and dealing with their own feelings about it.

Stephanie L., 25, Florida

I had two abortions and I do not regret it. Machismo and toxic masculinity impacted how I’ve navigated my entire life. Although I worked and studied since I was 13 years old to support my family, when it came to decisions about my body or my life I was told I was not capable of making my own decisions. My life changed when I was 17 and I had to ask a judge for permission to exercise my right to bodily autonomy and have an abortion. The judge approved my judicial bypass and I felt liberated to live out my dreams on my terms. I continued with my university program and graduated with two Bachelors at the age of 20 and succeeded in earning my Master’s of Social work three years later. Now I advocate for reproductive justice and share my abortion story to combat stigma about abortion and the folks who have them. I live my truth and love myself; sigo siendo poderosa.

Samantha R., 27, Texas

I always felt secure about my decision to have an abortion. However, I didn’t know how to verbalize the guilt and frustration I was feeling, so I would often cry. Though it was an easy decision, I was ashamed to tell people. I thought those closest to me would judge and think less of me. I felt especially pressured to not tell my family, because my own little sister had persevered as a teen mom. I was frustrated because my sister and I made two very different decisions when faced with a pregnancy, but still, we both endured feelings of shame and stigma. I was angry that no matter the scenario, sexist beliefs of unplanned pregnancies will continue to shame those who get pregnant. Additionally, my abortion made me uncomfortably conscious of my ethnicity and I felt like a Latina stereotype for circumstances beyond my control. My partner and I had both graduated college. We accomplished what we were supposed to, but we were both underemployed and financially insecure. I felt like, somehow, my identity as a Latina whose had an abortion overshadowed my accomplishments and hard work. I let my fears of what others would think consume me. Thankfully, with time I continued to grow, reflect on new experiences and truly accept that I do believe in myself and in the decisions I’ve made. I no longer fear judgement and have been happier since sharing my abortion story.

Jack Q., 26, California

I should probably start with the fact that I’m not a woman; I’m nonbinary. My pronouns are they/them/theirs. Because I had a medicinal abortion I didn’t feel like my abortion “ended” until a few months afterwards. I had been pro-choice and very active in my support for reproductive justice in the years prior to my own procedure, but it really isn’t until you go have an abortion yourself that you realize how vital these services really are. In the few instances where abortion was discussed I was always led to believe it was a fairly quick experience. You go into a clinic, have the abortion, leave the clinic no longer pregnant and move on. My thought process was, “I’m trans. I don’t want a stranger looking at my crotch, so I’ll have a medicinal abortion.” I remember taking these pills home and believing a quiet, at-home abortion by myself with no judgement would be a simple process.

Turns out medicinal abortions suck and I was nauseous, bleeding, and bent over in my own cramp Hell immediately after the medication dissolved in my mouth. I couldn’t get out of bed for a week, I ended up quitting my retail job, I missed my college classes, my appetite vanished, and I was spotting for 2 months afterwards. During that time I physically felt like trash, but I distinctly remember pushing the experience out of my head almost immediately after it happened. Sure, I was nervous about going into a clinic, spending all this money, and having a medical procedure take place because, Hell, that’s something to be nervous about. But 6 years later my response to people’s confusion when they find out I’ve had an abortion is often boredom. It happened. It’s not rare. I don’t feel guilty about it. It’s simply a fact of life and I have no problem existing in the body I’m in post-abortion.

Layidua S., 32, California

I am an undocumented immigrant. When I was 28 I was in deportation proceedings and found out I was pregnant. I knew that I did not want to be pregnant given everything else going on in my life. It would be disingenuous to say that my immigration case did not impact my decision. The reality is that any person who makes a decision to parent or not to parent is impacted by multiple factors in their life. Decisions to have an abortion do not happen in a vacuum. Sometimes life is complicated, but my decision to have an abortion was not complicated. I found out I was pregnant and scheduled my appointment immediately. Two days later I had my abortion and felt relived. The most complicated part of my abortion was everyone feeling sorry for me. Many people felt that I made my decision out of distress, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. My decision was empowering, it made me feel in control of my own destiny. And I know every day that I made the right choice for myself.

Alejandra P., 32, Washington, D.C.

For a long time now I have not only seen, but I’ve understood the lack of freedom we have to create families in this country. I grew up in Arizona and I come from a mixed status family, and I grew up seeing fear in the eyes of people I love, people in my community. This fear of “No tener papeles,” a fear of the constant policing by Border Patrol in our streets and schools. My name is Alejandra, I am 32 years old and I had an abortion this year. I actually wanted to have a baby but quickly had a reality check. I had that abortion for systemic reasons; my choice was made for me. The broken, cruel and corrupt immigration system is the constant reminder that we are not safe. I know that I can be torn away from family any day. Everywhere, families are terrorized and ripped apart by ICE, parents are displaced in prisons, daughters in jails, sons in deportation proceedings. Fear. Criminalization. Mass incarceration. That is what is present in my mind. Not a family. I just want to be safe. I tell my story so people know what justice means. I tell my story because I want to thrive, not just survive. I want to love, not just hide.

Lucy F., 37, California

I grew up very poor and was raised by a single dad after my mother abandoned my family when I was 9. I saw my older sisters become teenage moms, leave school and try to raise their kids on minimum wage jobs and social services. I saw my friends get pregnant and do the same thing. I got caught up in the school to prison pipeline at age 12, and by 15 I was already on juvenile parole. So when I got pregnant at 16, it was just another typical occurrence in my community. But a voice inside me said maybe this isn’t the best situation. I have a choice. I don’t have to be like everyone else. I don’t have to bring a kid into a world where that kid may or may not have food to eat or clothes to wear or a house to live in. So I did the most difficult thing I ever had to do, and asked my dad for the several hundred dollars I needed for an abortion. I knew I disappointed my dad in so many ways, so the best thing I could do was to let him know that having an abortion was the best way to give me a chance at a better life. He somehow managed to find the money and I went with my best friend. After I had my abortion, I was relieved, hopeful and happy. And even though I was shamed into silence for many years, I never felt shame or regret about my decision; on the contrary, every passing day reaffirmed, and continues to reaffirm, how right that decision was for me. Even though the stigma persists for women who have had abortions, speaking out and having honest conversations about these experiences is what ultimately changes perceptions, one conversation at a time.

Magda*, 38, California

The pee on the pregnancy test wasn’t even dry and I was on the phone with Planned Parenthood, scheduling the abortion. I knew I’d fucked up on my birth control pills and turned to the oldest and least reputable form of birth control: prayer. It didn’t work. I knew in my heart, my gut, that I did not want to be a mother, not then, not in the future. I knew I was the first woman in my family in generations who was born with the option of opting out of the roles mother/wife. During the procedure I thought about how much I wanted to do with my life and how much I didn’t want to be yoked to my partner at the time. It may sound crass, but I high-fived him when I was released. I laughed in the elevator and celebrated with burgers and milkshakes. No regrets. I told my mom and she was initially horrified but then remembered how much she hated my partner and was grateful I hadn’t continued with the pregnancy. I broke up with the guy soon after and have been living a life that makes me happy. I still don’t want to be a mother or a wife. I’d have a fifteen year old right now had I continued with the pregnancy with a partner who had anger issues. No thanks. No regrets. Best choice I’ve ever made.

Jessica*, 27, California

I’m a very emotionally unattached person, so when I found out I was pregnant, it was no big deal. I knew what I was going to do. It was a surprise, but it was a no brainer that I was gonna get an abortion. My boyfriend and I talked and he was very supportive of whatever decision I would make. I didn’t cry before. I was just like, “I’m gonna go to the doctor and handle it.” But then when you get there everything changes. I did it at a Planned Parenthood and there were protestors outside. You can have a mindset of “I’ve got this, I’m gonna do this,” and immediately you feel shamed by the protesters. Then you’re in the waiting room. That’s when it hit me. I’d never gone through a medical procedure without my mom being there. So I started to feel like I was missing something, my protector, especially because I didn’t tell my sisters or my mom. I didn’t do the anesthesia so it was the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced. The nurse helped me breathe through it. They were very nurturing. Even though it was really painful, I’m glad I did it. I was a bit careless about my birth control, so it made me think, “Yeah, not going to do this again.” It also made me realize if I do become a mom and have a daughter, I definitely want to have that open communication about sex and reproductive health with her. I would never want my daughter to go through that without her protector there.

Rebecca G., 33, Los Angeles

I had a lot of feelings after having an abortion. The main one was relief since I was able to do the procedure in a safe environment by a trained medical professional in a country where it was legal and regulated. So many women risk their lives or the ability to have children in the future because these procedures are not accessible, too expensive or flat out illegal and unsafe. But the story I wanted to share is how it feels a few years looking out. I was 28 when I had my abortion and now I am 33. I remember speaking to two close girlfriends — one was expecting and the other was a mom to a sweet little baby. All of the women knew I had an abortion. When we were talking about pregnancy, they both told me often “Oh one day when you get pregnant you will see what it feels like.” And I said, pretty matter of factly, “Well, I was pregnant for almost three months and I totally felt sick, was constipated, my boobs hurt, etc.” They looked so uncomfortable, like that experience didn’t matter or didn’t count as being pregnant. I don’t know what it was like to go to full term but it’s not completely foreign to me. The narrative I feel people want, especially when they ask me about my experience, is doom and gloom and sadness. And it was very sad and hard. I had an extremely difficult time for lots of reasons (shitty partner, being young and alone in a different country) but now, looking back, that’s part of my experience and I’m not ashamed or embarrassed. I want to be able to talk about it as an experience that women have that has many sides, and I want to be able to laugh about it or make a joke, or be serious about it. When women talk about their experience with pregnancy and motherhood, we should make a space for those women who had abortions to talk about that too. It’s part of it.

Special thanks to National Network of Abortion Funds, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health and all the women sharing their story.

*Names have been changed at the request of the author.

READ: 5 Things To Know About Latina Girls And The Sexual Abuse-To-Prison Pipeline

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Argentina’s Abortion Advocates Take To The Street To Protest After Bill Was Shot Down

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Argentina’s Abortion Advocates Take To The Street To Protest After Bill Was Shot Down

On Thursday, Argentina’s Senate voted against the legalization of elective abortion. The decision on abortion rights is shedding a spotlight on the country’s ongoing struggle to keep religion out of its politics as it continues to be dominated by the power of the Catholic Church.

The proposed abortion bill was rejected at a vote of 38 to 31.

The bill, which sparked heavy debates and protests in the weeks leading up to the vote, would have allowed women to end their pregnancies in the first 14 weeks. The country’s latest decision means that women seeking abortions must fall into two categories: those who seek to terminate a pregnancy that came as a result of a rape, and those whose pregnancies threaten their own life and health. In response to the decision on abortions, The Guardian published a report that found  3,030 women have died in the country at the hands of an illegal abortion since 1983. Another statistic from the report estimates that every year, nearly 45,000 to 60,000 women have to be hospitalized after suffering complications from these procedures.

Since the decision was made, women are speaking up about why they are pro-choice.

Many are underlining why access to abortion is a women’s health issue.

Others have pointed out that such a decision affects women’s mental health as well.

Many have highlighted that few advocates are pro-abortion but rather pro giving a woman a chance to make her own decision about her health and future.

So many of women across the globe are tweeting out their support as well.

Argentina, which is the birthplace of the current Pope of the Catholic church, remains a largely Catholic country. Just like many Latin American countries where abortion debates continue to rage on.

There’s no denying the disappointment the vote has caused for women’s rights advocates across Argentina. In the hours after the decision was made thousands of women spilled into the streets around the National Congress in Buenos Aires. Fortunately, activists are already planning to fight for the bill in the 2019 legislative session.

Read: Jeff Sessions Is Attempting to Illegally Block Victims of Domestic And Gang Violence Asylum

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Here Is Why Women Need To Be Cautious About Crisis Pregnancy Centers

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Here Is Why Women Need To Be Cautious About Crisis Pregnancy Centers

Jessica Decena

When it comes to abortions, the culture of shame and taboo around the medical procedure does not just keep women quiet, it also threatens their lives. For Latinas, whose access to fact-based, comprehensive information about prenatal care options is particularly underserved, a lack of information can unwittingly lead them to “crisis pregnancy centers.” The locations are typically state-sponsored and created by religious and conservative organizations with strident anti-abortion agendas. They also often work to present themselves as actual medical health clinics.

In October 2015, the state of California passed Assembly Bill No. 775, or the Reproductive FACT ACT, in an effort to ensure that state-licensed clinics provide visitors with information about abortion.

The law requires pregnancy crisis centers to provide information to patients about state-funded or reduced-cost abortions.

(Photo Credit: Valentina Argueta)  

Crisis pregnancy centers typically promote anti-choice agendas with the intention of preventing women from pursuing or accessing abortions. In 2015, NARAL Pro-Choice California recruited a 19-year old from San Francisco to pose as a pregnant teen in order to collect information about 43 crisis pregnancy centers located in impoverished regions of California. During her visits, she found that many of the clinics did not inform her that having an abortion was safe or that time was of the essence to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. 

In a separate research report conducted by NARAL, the pro-choice non-profit found centers providing grossly inaccurate information. The report concluded that “60 percent of CPC clinics advised that condoms do not work to prevent pregnancies/ STDs and 85 percent of CPCs in [the] study advised that abortion leads to mental health problems.”

Despite the passage of the 2015 bill, the battle for access to information about abortions is not over.

Anti-abortion groups have taken the issue to the Supreme Court. In 2017, the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) challenged the Reproductive FACT Act in the highest court of the land. In the case of NIFLA vs. Berecca, the anti-choice group claims that the law violates their first amendment right to freedom of speech. NIFLA argues that they should not have to disclose their unlicensed status and that the government should not control the information that they give to their patients. “It is a classic example of compelled speech in violation of the Free Speech Clause,” the organization claims.

On Tuesday, March 20, 2018, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case.

In oral argument, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor criticized NIFLA for supporting anti-abortion clinics who present themselves as medical facilities.

(Photo Credit: Flickr Gage Skidmore)

During the oral argument that took place on Tuesday, March, 20, 2018, Sotomayor underlined her belief that the language featured on one of the crisis pregnancy centers’ promotional materials is deceptive. “There is a woman on the homepage with a uniform that looks like a nurse’s uniform in front of an ultrasound machine. It shows an exam room,” the justice said of an advertisement for California’s Fallbrook Pregnancy Resource Center. 

A report conducted by NARAL in 2018 highlighted the ways in which employees at a series of clinics present themselves as medical professionals by wearing scrubs, lab coats or both in as many as 50 percent of cases.

For some women making a decision about the future of their pregnancies is one of the most impactful decision  they will ever make in regards to their mental and physical health.

(Photo Credit: Flickr AAL)

A 2017 study conducted by JAMA Psychiatry found that women who are denied abortions experience anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression at similar rates to women who received abortions. The study concluded that “4-5 years after the abortion women who terminated their pregnancies were not at a higher risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or anxiety than those denied abortions.”

Despite Justice Sotomayor’s criticism of crisis pregnancy centers, there is still a chance that the Supreme Court will rule against the California law. They have taken similar action in the past. According to the New York Times, similar laws were struck down as recently as this past January. In these cases, second and fourth circuit judges felt as though the states could find other methods to share information about abortions with women.

The Supreme Court is expected to make a decision about AB 775 in the summer of 2018.

Supporters of the 2015 law are hopeful that they will require all clinics to ensure women have every resource available so that they can make the best informed personal decisions for themselves. There are pregnancy clinics out there that do give accurate medical information.

To learn more about reproductive rights, especially in California, visit California Latinas of Reproductive Justice.

Read: Why You Need To Be Talking Openly And Honestly About Sex To The Youth In Your Life

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