One of the best ways we can reduce abortion stigma is by telling our abortion stories — even if we think they’re ordinary. In our case — on the occasion of Abortion Provider Appreciation Day, March 10 — we’re telling them because they’re ordinary, because Colorado remains a place where patients can access abortion care without the stigmatizing and abusive laws that exist in other states.
I wasn’t sure my abortion story from the summer of 2020 was worth telling. Barring the part about how I got pregnant with my copper-IUD-of-seven-years and during a global pandemic — it’s pretty unremarkable.
My partner, my parents, my friends, and my employer were all more supportive than I could have ever hoped for. I knew how to find a doctor, I had health insurance, and I knew what to expect. However, the phrase “wow, you’re the one percent!” when referencing the nearly nonexistent likelihood I should have found myself pregnant after getting an IUD doesn’t get more comforting the more times different medical professionals say it.
And after having a chance to reflect on last summer’s events it occurred to me that my story, when contextualized within my generational history, is more complex than I’d originally thought.
Throughout my childhood and into my teenage years, my mom claimed that she didn’t want to engage in political discussions. She felt like remaining “apolitical” was easier. The exception to that sentiment was abortion access — I was 13 or so when she told me her abortion story.
My mother’s abortion was a deeply traumatic event in her life. Though not because she regretted her decision; she is grateful to this day to have been able to postpone becoming a mother until she was ready. My mother’s abortion story is imbued with distress because she didn’t have support from her family at a time when she really needed them.
Hailing from a family guided by deeply conservative, Mexican Catholic values, my mom — motivated by fear and shame — decided she had to seek her procedure in secret. After borrowing money from a family member with a promise to pay her back and getting a ride from a friend to the health center, she spent the remainder of the day doubled-over on the floor of her bedroom closet. She knew it was the only way she could conceal the severe cramps and nausea that followed her appointment from her family.
But her efforts to avoid fallout with her parents were undermined by the medical bill that turned up in the mail a few weeks later. Some additional context to this story is that I’m the first in my family to go to college — in no small part because when growing up, my mom never missed a chance to remind me that I was going to go to college. And because she worked so damn hard to support every dream I’ve ever had.
My mother is and was always the best mom I could have ever hoped for. And I know she went out of her way to break some painful familial cycles of trauma.
And that’s why I wanted to put the opportunities that were afforded to me to use by advocating for the one issue that my mom was vocal about — abortion access.
Everyone loves someone who has had an abortion. Abortion is health care and I am infinitely grateful to my abortion provider.
When you work in abortion rights, you toss around the words “unintended pregnancy” a lot. That’s not an abstract concept for me. It’s why I got an abortion. Even when you’re on birth control — and I was — unintended things happen. And it’s the reality for a lot of women working service industry jobs where health insurance and regular health care are unreliable.
So when, as a college student working restaurant jobs, I discovered I was pregnant, I knew without a doubt that abortion was the right choice for me at that time. I made an appointment and went to my local Planned Parenthood.
Walking into the clinic I still vividly remember the protestors, the bullet proof glass, and having to get buzzed through what felt like a bombproof box. But I got the date my birth control failed wrong and it turned out I was further along than I thought. The nurse told me they wouldn’t be able to perform the procedure there but they could refer me to another clinic that could.
Since I was working a restaurant job to put myself through college, having to move the appointment to a different day on such short notice meant trying to move shifts around, having to rely on alternate transportation to get there, and my boyfriend trying to rearrange his schedule so he could pick me up.
It also meant the cost was significantly more and I had a very short window to come up with the additional money. Needless to say, by the time I got to the clinic, I was stressed out and anxious. Not for the abortion itself — that I was ready for — but because of all of the things it took to get there and all of the things that could have gone wrong to keep it from happening.
The provider and clinic staff were kind, compassionate and patient, and I could not be more grateful to them. I can vouch for the fact that the most common emotion after abortion is relief. Those health care workers gave me back my future and allowed me to build the life that I have now. And they’re the reason I went into abortion and reproductive rights advocacy.
I fight every day to make sure that every person will always be able to access the care that is best for them and their families and to control their future in the same way I was able to.
Abortion providers and clinic staff do so much more than just provide abortions. Their work allows us to control our futures, to build the families that we want, when we want them. Today, and every day, I’m grateful to our abortion providers.