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these are our stories VARIOU S AU THOR S

1 in 3: These Are Our Stories

VARI O U S AU T HO RS

This book was compiled from stories submitted to the 1 in 3 Campaign. The 1 in 3 Campaign, a project of Advocates for Youth, seeks to end the stigma and shame women are made to feel about abortion. Learn more at www.1in3campaign.org .

Advocates for Youth 2000 M Street NW, Suite 750 Washington, DC 20036 202-419-3420 www.advocatesforyouth.org Š2013 by Advocates for Youth All rights reserved. ISBN # 978-0-9888903-0-5 Design by Rosanna Dixon Stories shared with the permission of each writer. Stories have been edited for punctuation but their content has not been changed.

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1 in 3 women in the United States will have an abortion in her lifetime.š The 1 in 3 Campaign is about ending the cultural stigma and shame women are made to feel around abortion. By sharing stories, we can empower others to end their silence and encourage all supporters of abortion access to publicly take a stand. In a time of unprecedented legislative and cultural attacks against abortion access, we must stand up and speak out about our own experiences and the need for these services in our communities. By telling our stories, supporting others to share their own, and sharing these stories among our family and friends, we can create a new conversation that puts people at the center of the discussion about access to safe abortion care. The following stories were selected from among hundreds contributed to the 1 in 3 Campaign, to mark the 40th anniversary 1. Jones RK and Kooistra, K., Abortion incidence and access to services in the United States, 2008, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2011, 43(1):41-50.

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of the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States. These forty stories illustrate the complexities of women’s lives and the important role that abortion access has played throughout the generations. Read them. Share them. Talk about them. We offer our grateful thanks to the courageous women and men who contributed their stories. These and other abortion stories can be found at: www.1in3campaign.org

In tro d u ction

In 1995, at age 35, I found myself alone, pregnant and caring for my six-month old son. My husband had gone to work one day and did not return. Weeks passed without word. For more than a month, I didn’t tell anyone that he was gone. Not my family, not my co-workers, not my friends. I simply went to work each day, attended to my job, and pretended everything was fine at home. Each evening, I left work, picked up my son from day care and did my best to care for him without distraction. Six weeks had passed when I realized I was pregnant. Alone, with little money and a baby to care for, it was clear to me that I could not care for another child. I did not know where my husband was; I did not know what would happen to my marriage; I wasn’t sure I could make ends meet. How could I add another child to such an untenable situation? I chose to have an abortion then and there. It was the best choice given my circumstances. Much later, my husband returned. The following week he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder but refused to stay on his

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medication. We were eventually divorced and a few years later, he committed suicide. To this day, I am certain that choosing an abortion was the most responsible action that I could have taken—for me and for my son. Today, I am happily remarried and my son is now 18. He was recently accepted to the college of his choice—early decision. I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to provide for him as I have. For more than 15 years I did not share this story. One day, the staff here at Advocates for Youth, frustrated with the politicized debate that continued to threaten abortion access, began a discussion about what was needed to create a new cultural narrative around abortion—one steeped in empathy, cognizant of the complexities of women’s lives and supportive of safe abortion access for all women. We recognized that we needed to speak more from our hearts—to tell our personal stories, to give a face to the experiences of women throughout the ages. A young woman of 20 on staff began to share with us her experience as a teen

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parent who one day found herself pregnant again and sought an abortion. In response, I told her my story. We were not so different. That day, as we shared our stories across generations we found our voices. We also found community. Now, as I share my story around the country, more often than not, other women offer up theirs in response. Some are family and friends whom I have known for years; others are complete strangers. The result is a bond, stronger than the anti-abortion rhetoric or the fear of retaliation or violence that too often finds its way into the political debate. In its place is empathy for the complexity of our lives, for the commonalities that bind us, for the need to keep abortion care safe and available. I am proud to be a part of the 1 in 3 Campaign. Mine is just one of many stories. Within are forty more. Each author has given us permission to include her or his story; many have encouraged us to share them with you in hopes of creating a culture more compassionate of women’s experiences and in support of keeping

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abortion care safe and available. Read them. Share them. Talk about them. These are our stories.

Debra Hauser President, Advocates for Youth

Stories

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haven't spoken about my abortion to anyone in a very long time and then only to my closest friend and husband. I haven't avoided speaking about it; it just never seems to fit in any conversation. My husband and I had decided not to have children. And then while taking some medication for a gynecological problem and while thinking I couldn't get pregnant, we had unprotected sex and I did. The medication was contraindicated for pregnant women as it was known to cause birth defects. For the two above reasons I decided to terminate the pregnancy. There had never been any question. I have not missed the child it might have been. During the brief pregnancy I felt fine, no morning sickness and looked well.

I had the abortion as soon after I found I was pregnant as possible. This was in the 1970's after Roe v. Wade. Having the procedure done was easy and dignified. I would wish that for all women and girls. I have never had any other children or another pregnancy. - Anonymous

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y story is actually two. Most recently, a personal experience.

I was 19, and just three months into what would later turn into a severely abusive relationship when I figured out I was pregnant. I completely acknowledge that I was incredibly lucky, considering I had the finances to pay, a close and safe clinic that didn’t have protesters, and a family that is not at all shocked by the subject of abortion. My mother was there every step of the way. My boyfriend supported my decision at the time, but later would throw it in my face during fights, which only made me extra grateful I didn’t have that tie to him. Neither of us wanted kids then. And while I briefly mulled over the idea of having the kid, I caught myself thinking of the baby like a punishment for not being more careful. The thought of a child viewed as a punishment upset me so much, that I knew abortion was the right choice for me. So I wrote a letter to the kid, made my peace, and tucked it away - I think I’d like to be buried with it. Anyway, I was also lucky in that I discovered my pregnancy early enough that I could take the pill

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version, and despite being told to the contrary, I barely cramped at all. I passed one clot and the rest was like having a period. I eventually got out of the abusive relationship and hope to one day have a family that has nothing less than all the love and support I have had. The other story being one of my maternal family. I knew my mother had had an abortion in college, which is how I knew she was safe to go to when I found myself in the same situation. What I didn’t know til later was that my maternal grandmother also had an abortion. She was also pregnant at 19 but, being rebellious and headstrong, refused to marry the man. Instead she flew to Mexico to receive the procedure, since abortion wasn’t safe in the US during the 1920s. When I learned this I was blown away. My grandmother went on to have 5 daughters, and the youngest had me. I can’t help but feel that without SAFE abortion, I may not even be here. If it were to become illegal, it wouldn’t stop; I know from my grandmother’s experience. People would be left with either chancing it in another country (if they even have the

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means) or seeking a “back-alley� abortion with no regulation or safety procedures. All in all, I owe so much to safe abortion. -Cynthia

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was 26, in a relationship for a few years, and the birth control failed (does anyone remember the cervical cap?). I was not in love with this man, and for me there was never a question that I would abort. He seemed disappointed but did agree this was the best way to proceed. He drove me to the hospital, stayed during the procedure, took me home after (and he paid for it). We stayed together another year or so, but I wanted love, not comfort, and I eventually found the love of my life. My husband knows of my abortion and he agreed it was the right decision at the time. That’s the best we can do, right? Make the right decision for YOU at that time. - Anonymous

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re-Roe v. Wade, my abortion was a cloak and dagger affair.

I was lucky, though. I connected with a true abortion mill run by midwives who obviously had connections to someone who could supply drugs that hastened the procedure and fought infection afterwards. I counted nearly a dozen women with me in the waiting room of the dingy second floor apartment in a horrible part of town. They took us one right after the other into a room with an operating table and you could hear what was going on with each procedure. I only had nitrous oxide during the operation to dull the pain. It was 1969, I was only 18, and it was extremely scary, dangerous, but I have no regrets. - Anonymous

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bout five years ago, I got pregnant on continuous hormone birth control.

I wasn’t getting a period because of the pill, but I could tell something was off. Turned out I was 8 weeks along. I was in a committed relationship and I loved my partner — now, we are married and the parents of a beautiful 19 month old boy. But five years ago, I knew I wasn’t ready to be a mother. I believed then, and I still do, that bringing a child into the world is a tremendous, unspeakably important act that requires incredible will and love and intention. I didn’t feel ready to commit myself fully to that act five years ago, and I was afraid that doing so without full commitment or will would damage my relationship with both my partner and the child we would bring into the world. So I opted to end the pregnancy. It was a sad, strange experience, and while I don’t think back on it with fondness, I do not regret my choice one iota. As a mom I know now just how hard and brilliant and intense motherhood is, and I am proud to have exercised my right to choose—twice. Once it ended a pregnancy. Once it brought a beautiful boy into the world.

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Read stories, watch stories, and share your story at 1in3campaign.org

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Discussio n G ui d e

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How did reading these stories make you feel? Did reading them change your ideas or feelings about abortion?

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Were there themes or patterns in the stories? What were some themes multiple storytellers expressed?

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Some of the stories are from before the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, and some are from after. How are the challenges women face now different from those of the past? How are they similar?

4.

If 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in her lifetime, why don’t we hear more stories from women who have had abortions?

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What does abortion access look like in your community? Do you know women who have faced challenges getting an abortion?

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Have the stories made you want to get involved in or speak out about abortion and abortion rights?

The 1 in 3 Campaign is a project of Advocates for Youth.

www.advocatesforyouth.org

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1 in 3: These Are Our Stories