Now that both the White House and Congress are controlled by Republicans, pro-choice advocates and women who need abortions are facing additional daunting fights for reproductive rights. On Tuesday the House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks, except in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is at risk. President Trump has said he supports the bill, and the Senate will be voting on it next week.
If the bill gets voted into law, it will add to the growing number of barriers women face when seeking abortions. As it stands, many women may have to drive hundreds of miles (or even leave the state where they live) and make multiple appointments to undergo these procedures, making access and affordability major challenges for some.
While politicians continue to fight over women’s reproductive rights, the national conversation about abortion doesn’t usually include the real-life experiences of women who have had abortions. For some, the decision to get an abortion is an easy one, and the abortion itself presents few challenges. But for others, having an abortion comes with complicated feelings — some that go away quickly, and others that may linger for a long time after.
Brit + Co spoke with five different millennial women who have had abortions, to talk about what the experience was like for them.
Mechi Annaís Estévez Cruz, 28, new york
Mechi was just about to turn 22 when she found out that she was pregnant. Because she was on birth control at the time, the pregnancy was completely unexpected. And, because of the hormonal side effects of her birth control prescription, it took a few months before she even realized she was pregnant in the first place. Until then, she went on with her day-to-day life unfazed.
“I drank, I smoked cigarettes, I took medication for my asthma and my allergies and did all the things you’re not supposed to do while pregnant,” she tells us.
Mechi says she has never wanted kids, so when she realized she was pregnant she went to Planned Parenthood for an abortion. But, while she says she felt no emotional attachment to the pregnancy and the abortion was easy in that sense, other aspects of the procedure itself were challenging. The abortion was expensive, and Mechi has a difficult time with needles. She also says she didn’t get the kind of support she was expecting from the clinic’s staff, which made an already unpleasant experience even worse.
Though the memory of her abortion is far from a happy one, Mechi is grateful that she had the option to exercise such a pivotal reproductive health decision.
“I feel very confident that I made the right choice for me,” she says. “Every so often I’ll think ‘Damn, right now I’d have a X-year-old.’ And in those moments I always feel this overwhelming sense of relief that [I did not have a baby].”
Terry*, 27, Canada
Terry found out she was pregnant this past summer. It came as quite a shock; she hadn’t even thought that she could get pregnant, as the man she’d been dating had told her he’d had a vasectomy. For Terry, who had never envisioned herself having children, the decision to obtain an abortion was a clear next step. The process itself was a lot less certain.
Terry lives in rural Alberta, Canada, where there are no designated women’s health clinics or abortion providers. The doctor at the hospital where she found out she was pregnant wasn’t much help, Terry says.
“You’re a little bit pregnant, two to six weeks. Good luck,” the doctor told her.
After researching her options, Terry reached out to Hope Air, a Canadian organization that helps transport low-income patients to places where they can receive the care they need. Terry also got in touch with a counselor through Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights, who talked her through everything she needed to know both pre- and post-abortion. These resources gave Terry the emotional and logistical support she needed for the procedure.
Terry tells us that the procedure itself went quickly. Overall, she describes the experience as “surreal.”
“My emotions and hormones are still all over the place,” she says, “but I have recovered.”
[*Name has been changed to protect privacy.]
Kyla, 30, East coast
Kyla had an abortion when she was 25. At the time, she was in grad school and had been in an “off-and-on relationship” for a few months. Though Kyla is adamant that she does not regret her abortion at all, the emotional aftermath was more intense than she’d anticipated.
“I felt really sad afterwards, and guilty,” Kyla remembers. Today, she wishes that the dialogue around abortion would include real discussion about the emotional impact that terminating a pregnancy can have on a woman.
“One thing that’s kind of strange to me about conversations regarding abortion is that they’re almost always about rights,” Kyla tells us, “but rarely about the emotional impact on the women, and their partners, who generally don’t get a say. I wish there were more space to talk about those feelings.”
Though Kyla feels she made the right decision, it was a choice that — even years later — she says she doesn’t “feel lightly” about.
janet, 28, minnesota
Janet was 26 when she found out that she was pregnant. Though she loves young children and was working as an early childhood educator at the time, Janet knew she was not in a position to raise a family. She grappled with what to do next.
At first, she thought she might want to keep the pregnancy and place the baby for adoption. She spent a week looking for families who wanted to adopt a baby. But after more time examining her feelings about the situation, Janet realized that “I could heal from an abortion, but I don’t think I could heal from having a child” and then parting with it.
Meanwhile, Janet had to continue working with very young kids, babies, and their parents every day at her job. It took a month for the date of her abortion appointment at Planned Parenthood to finally arrive. Experiencing morning sickness, as well as complicated feelings while working with infants and toddlers, was an emotional challenge.
“For a whole month, I would go in and hold these little babies, every day, rocking them, wondering what mine would look like. I had my appointment on a Saturday and I had to go back to that rocking chair by Monday, which was one of the hardest things I ever did,” she tells us.
Now, Janet explains that she’s healed a lot from the emotional aspects of the abortion. These days, she says she has an “appreciation [for] the ways my choice affected my life and the lives around me in a positive way. There’s a lot I’ve been able to do.” It was a decision she didn’t take lightly, but ultimately she knows it was the right one for her.
Priscilla, 32, coloraDo
Priscilla and her husband had already experienced two difficult pregnancies and births when they found out they were pregnant again.
“We had two babies, but the first one was born prematurely and passed away after birth. The second pregnancy was high-risk and our son wound up in the NICU for two months after he was born,” she tells Brit + Co.
Priscilla’s third pregnancy came unexpectedly only a year after their son was born. She knew it wasn’t the right time to undergo another (possibly risky) pregnancy. After talking it through, Priscilla and her husband agreed that the best decision for their family was to get an abortion.
Making the decision was hard, but navigating the logistics wasn’t much easier. Priscilla and her family were experiencing a financial hardship that made paying for an abortion daunting. After researching her options, Priscilla learned about the Women’s Emergency Network, an organization that helps women in south Florida — where Priscilla and her family lived at the time — pay for abortions. The Women’s Emergency Network wound up helping the family with the procedure’s costs.
When it came to scheduling the procedure, Priscilla wanted to make sure she didn’t have to face the anti-abortion protesters that often gathered in front of her city’s Planned Parenthood. In order to avoid being heckled or shamed for her choice, she drove to a smaller clinic three counties away.
While she first thought that the abortion would also be traumatic for her, Priscilla says that it ended up being “incredibly easy” from an emotional perspective. She knows she made the best decision for herself and her family. Ultimately, she says she has “zero regrets” about getting an abortion.
If having an abortion has been a part of your story, share your experience with us @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty)