Say Abortion: Stories From Utahns Who've Had Abortions

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SAY ABORTION: STORIES FROM UTAHNS WHO'VE HAD ABORTIONS COMPILED BY PLANNED PARENTHOOD ACTION COUNCIL OF UTAH

One in four people with uteruses

their lifetime, so whether you know their stories or not, everyone loves someone who has had an abortion.

Having an abortion(s) is a personal decision – each one being valid and deserving of respect. Say Abortion: Stories from Utahns Who’ve Had Abortions is part of a series of projects created by Planned Parenthood Utah to center people who have had abortions and showcase a wide range of stories from Utahns of all ages who had abortions in different decades and stages of their lives.

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of communication. Before we learn to read or write, we tell stories. We encourage you to open your heart and mind as you witness each storyteller’s truth. We hope this zine helps expand your perspective of who has abortions.

Right now, reproductive health and rights have never been at greater risk. Abortion access is hanging by a thread. Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian people, LGBTQ+ people, people with low income, people with disabilities, and other communities that already face barriers to accessing health care, have been leading the fight for reproductive freedom for decades. That includes addressing the intersecting issues that place barriers to abortion and reproductive health care — including but not limited to systemic racism, voter suppression, policing, and immigration enforcement.

Say Abortion: Stories from Utahns Who’ve Had Abortions showcase abortion stories from members of our own community with the goal of expanding perspectives of who has abortions and destigmatizing the word itself – abortion.

Throughout the zine are images from the Say Abortion art exhibit (photographed by Maru Quevedo) and Say Abortion, On Stage production (photographed by Sharah Mservy), both of which happened in 2022. Thank you, An Other Theatre Company, Plan-B Theatre, and PYGmalion Productions for their efforts to bring the stories showcased in the Say Abortion art exhibit to the stage.

Thank you to all the storytellers who have trusted our team with their stories. Storytelling is sacred and no one is entitled access to someone else’s story. We appreciate each contribution and recognize how fortunate we are to have this compilation of stories. It has been an honor to work with each storyteller this past year and to get to know them along the way.

We encourage everyone reading this zine to have more conversations about abortion and to join us in the fight for abortion access. Join our Ambassador program, the Birds and the Beehive, to stay in the know about reproductive freedom in Utah and to receive information on upcoming storytelling workshops and opportunities.

For verified information about where to access abortion care, visit abortionfinder.org

For more information about abortion funds, visit abortionfunds.org

& thank you to Aline A. Bustios-Donoso for the design work

in the US will have an abortion in

HELLO?

It didn’t feel like it was just my choice. I thought I was in love, and if I didn’t do what he desired then he wouldn’t love me anymore. But, I just knew that I wanted my life to go a different way.

It was not the life I envisioned for myself. I had to figure it all out — at 17 — at the end of my senior year. I worked on the play my Humanities class was putting on for our final project.

I went to prom with a different date than the one I thought I loved. I tried to act like nothing had changed. But everything had changed.

I was pregnant and only two people knew about it. I felt alone. There were other girls there; all of us there for the same thing. They only did abortions on Fridays. I started in a waiting room and moved to a room where they got me ready. Then I moved to another waiting room that was playing “Miss Congeniality.” And the clinic was congenial.

The nurse held my hand the whole time. She asked me about my puka shell necklace. It felt like I had always known her. But it hurt. Physically and emotionally. The emotions hurt more. I still wasn’t sure if I was making the wrong decision.

I felt like I was letting people down while also keeping a big secret.

I still think of that day 20 years ago. How would my life have been different? Would it have been easier to make the other choice? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter because I chose what was right for me. And I had to make the choice again a few more times. I always knew.

It was only happening to me. It was always just my choice.

-Caitlin, 37

ISTHISMICON? ISTHISMIC ISTHISMICON?

“Strength Through Struggle” | Painting by
Antoinette,
age 49

Twenty years old, and 4 months

into my first serious relationship, I found myself in my room, cradling my fluffy little white dog, staring at two pink lines. I couldn’t feel anything save the soft and steady breath of Chay snuggled up in my arms. I knew my life would never be the same. I didn’t know how to tell him,

I didn’t know how to tell anybody! There was no going back. I had two possible outcomes, and I couldn’t begin to fathom how I was going to navigate this, regardless of my choice. Working multiple jobs, living in a small apartment with two roommates, I could hardly afford to feed myself after paying bills! I wasn’t equipped to have a baby, though I had dreamt of this day since I could remember.

I wish I could describe to you the incessant thoughts racing through my mind during that time. The duality of emotions that overtook my body, the countless and tear-filled calls to my mother. I want so badly for you to understand the prolific internal cataclysm that unintentional pregnancies can produce!

My decision to have an abortion solidified while walking my dog. Oceans of tears had opened my heart to a conversation with this little soul that was to be my child. After this wondrous and spiritual experience, free from the echoes of judgment and stigma that plagued my thoughts, it was clear that these were not the circumstances or the relationship to bring a child into.

It is only now, years later, that I can truly see the impact having an abortion had on my life, those closest to me, and what likely would have unfolded had I chosen differently. Had I not been fortunate enough to have a legal and accessible abortion, I may never have realized the excessive abuse present within my relationship until it was also part of this child’s life.

You see, this isn’t a decision filled with selfishness or fueled by irresponsibility. Bringing a child into this world affects everyone and everything and was not a simple choice. I unequivocally believe it should ALWAYS be a CHOICE! Never something forced by law, religious views, or the judgment and stigma that is so extensive, it’s almost impossible to withstand.

I hope my story and vulnerability gives you the courage to bring the topic of abortion into your conversations to allow the 1 in 4 women the safety and support to share their experience and why it was of utmost importance that they had access to a safe and legal abortion. I am just one of numerous women who need this health care for countless reasons.

Open the conversation, demolish the stigma and judgment, spread awareness and fight to retain the freedom to choose! SAY ABORTION!

-Jennica, 27

My story starts long before I had my abortion. I grew up in Cottonwood Heights, Utah in a non-LDS family. I have recently been able to pinpoint a lot of my issues with low self-es- teem, insecurity, and a longing for others to validate me towards my efforts to involve myself in the LDS church.

I was made to feel lesser because I wasn’t like the other girls. I didn’t know the songs. I didn’t know the lingo. I didn’t understand the rules (and there are A LOT of rules). This affected my friendships, my relationships with men, and my relationship with myself. I didn’t like being around myself, and I understood why oth- ers didn’t either. It wasn’t until I was introduced to alcohol that I realized that I could use that to minimize my insecurities and inhibitions. I began to associate alcohol with men liking me.

My first sexual experience was non-consensual. I had been drinking, I tried to say no, and he persisted. That’s how I lost my virginity. I woke up crying, alone, in a pool of my own blood. I vowed to treat myself better and to not let another man make me feel like that.

Unfortunately, that vow didn’t last. I continued to long to feel wanted, however temporarily. I continued to be frivolous with sex and my body. In 2014, I returned to Utah after spending two years serving in the Peace Corps in Senegal. My re-entry into the United States was MUCH rougher than I expected. I returned to old habits of letting men treat me poorly and using sex to seek external vali- dation.

I started dating one man who convinced me that the “pull-out” method would be fine. I tried to be persistent about us using protection, but I wanted those fleeting moments of feeling wanted, so I agreed. Turns out, that method wasn’t fine. By the time I found out I was pregnant, I wasn’t even in contact with this man and I had to tell him the news via Facebook messenger. He wasn’t surprised, and he even joked that I was the 2nd girl he had gotten pregnant who needed to get an abortion.

I knew right away that I couldn’t raise a child with this man. I couldn’t go through pregnancy in this mental state.

I knew that it wasn’t a healthy environ- ment for nurturing a new human being. He didn’t even come to the appointment, and I could barely convince him to pay for half the cost. We never spoke again.

It wasn’t an easy decision, however, it was the RIGHT decision for me. I am in a much better place now. I am happily married and considering getting pregnant again. I am in consistent therapy and working on being my best self be- fore bringing a new life into this world. I am eternally grateful for the support had at the time and for the opportunity to go to Planned Parenthood for a safe, legal, and accessible abortion.

-Alexx, 33

I danced a lot of dances with first trimester abortions in my mid 20’s.

10 years later, I found myself ~happily pregnant.~ I was in a show, loosening my costume; expanding the waistline.

I was well into my third trimester.

Due to an inability to get testing in UTAH, I flew to LA for amniocentesis.

The results were CHROMOSOMAL ABNORMALITIES.

I called my mother; she went over to the public library, looked up the specific diagnosis: KLEINFELDER SYNDROME, and said you must terminate.

Initially, I thought maybe I was being punished because of my previous voluntary abortions & irresponsibly getting pregnant in my 20s.

When it was over, I felt how lucky I was to have the testing; & to be able to make the appropriate decision.

EVERYONE should have that right.

I recall feeling relieved that my mother, my spouse & I were all on the same page as me.

I was also well aware that I had access to the best medical care, a lot of support around me, & the resources to make the best decision for me.

Seeing THE JANES & CALL JANE via Sundance Film Festival reignited my passion for women’s rights advocacy, abortion rights & PLANNED PARENTHOOD.

My husband & I marched in the RALLY AT THE STATE CAPITOL. We need to keep the momentum / advocacy going!

-Joann, 64

If You Were Me

I could spend my time trying to convince you that I did the right thing when I found myself at the wrong path.

I could spend my breath trying to separate the right words from the wrong. Would it even matter if I told you…

How unprepared I was?

How scared?

How alone? How my life was just beginning and over, all at once? Perhaps the only thing that could make you understand is if you were me.

If you had lived my life If you had worn my shoes If my heart was on your sleeve

And if you were me, I’d tell you I love you. You owe me nothing. The path you take is your own.

I recently gained some closure on my abortion, which happened three years ago mid pandemic. It’s taken me a long time to be able to talk openly about my experience because I had so many people who didn’t know.

I’ve been scared, even though this was my choice to make.

A choice my partner and I made together but one that had ultimately come from me. The choice hurt. I’ve since learned that my abortion is an “and both” situation.

Where something can be the right thing, and still hurt really bad.

After the abortion I was heartbroken so people would ask me if I regretted my choice. I would say no, because I didn’t. It was the first time in my life that I had finally chosen myself. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t grieving the girl I was before I became pregnant.

Before I had no choice but to make a choice. I was grieving all of the patriarchal ideas that I had been taught all my life of what a woman should be. It is healthier for my mind to choose not to be a mother and I grieved that too. I felt grief from head to toe. And today I feel love, peace, grief, and gratitude all at once. A friend of mine recently said “I bet it feels nice to close that chapter.” I’ve thought about this because I haven’t wanted to close the chapter. I wanted to hang onto it as if it fed some sort of life into me.

Closing the chapter on my abortion meant to truly let it all go… So here’s where I’ve landed. Sometimes, it’s okay to close the chapter on our grief. It doesn’t mean it’s the end of the book. That chapter made it into your story.

-Amber, 32
-Tawni
Joy, 31

I would classify myself as a planner, someone who loves lists and well thought out plans. I like predictability. I got pregnant because my IUD somehow dislodged, falling out of place without my knowledge. Definitely not in the plan.

I decided to have an abortion; I was just not at a place in my life where I wanted kids. I was about to take off for the summer to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, something I had been planning for some time. Backpacking has always been where I feel most myself; most at peace with the person I am and most connected to a community.

The decision to have an abortion was not a hard one. My partner and I may have children one day, but the timing was just not right.

It was the steps that followed my decision that made the process difficult. The mandated in-person class, the 72 hour waiting period, the 2 week additional wait to even schedule with a provider. So I made an appointment and went on with my life. Those two weeks were long.

All that was on my mind was that I was pregnant and that I did not want to be. Being out of control of my own body was a hard feeling to sit with. When it came time for my appointment, I was met with a large bill and an appointment that felt like a waste of time for me and all of the health care staff. All I did was take a pill then go home and wait.

The education and support from everyone at the clinic was great, but we all could have saved our resources if I could have picked up that pill on my own. The emotional stress would have definitely been lessened if I had been able to meet with my primary care provider rather than a new doctor. I then went home and completed the abortion with one more pill, moving forward with my life and processing it all.

It left me feeling so vulnerable. On the surface was anger, really just masking my fear, anxieties and helplessness.

I spent the next 5 months backpacking and thinking about how strong and connected I feel to my body in that space. I still carry the fear of feeling out of control of my body like I did in those two weeks. No amount of backpacking will shake that.

-Melissa, 30

I’ve had two abortions, at two completely different stages and times in my life.

I grew up in the bible belt of the South. Also, having come from a long line of women who had been assaulted, any “sex talks”

I had with parents were rape talks – these talks were not very informative. In school, I received abstinence only education. Again, limited information.

At 18, I found myself in an abusive relationship, with no knowledge of how my own cycle worked, pregnant, and alone. I chose abortion. At the clinic, to my surprise, I found myself surrounded by diverse and strong women. Strong was something I didn’t feel I was at the time. These women have become a bit of a focal point for me in the decade since.

My abortion story here gave me freedom from bad people and bad places. By choosing abortion, I chose life.

Years later, I was married with a steady income and living close to my family again. I wasn’t expecting to feel what I felt when I peed on that stick. Only 18 months prior, I had experienced a traumatic and almost life ending second trimester miscarriage. I had wanted her, and I was excited. After I lost her, I attempted to take my own life. I thought getting pregnant again would solve our problems. But when I held that stick in my hands, I realized I wasn’t ready.

Sometimes there’s no way to know where you’re at until you’re there. I looked at my self in the mirror, still in pieces from the year before, still broken to the core and suddenly realizing a baby wasn’t going to fix me. I knew that if something bad hap pened again, I wouldn’t make it out alive this time.

I chose abortion. I chose my mental health. I chose my physical health. I chose to wait to be a mom until I was physically and emotionally ready to show up for a child. My abortion here gave me freedom from a me that was struggling to become a person again.

My abortion gave me the freedom to later become an attentive and doting mom to my now 13-month-old son who I can be present for. Now I am strong enough to raise him, instead of hoping that he could help fix me. My abortions gave me the freedom to make safe spaces for me and future children. My abortions gave me freedom from bad situations and partnerships. My abortions helped me find myself. Abortion gave me time to learn my own sexual education. Abortion gave me freedom over my own female health care. Abortion gave me freedom and space to heal. Abortion gave me freedom from fear.

-Kaitlyn, 27

My mother and two older sisters became mothers at a young age, and it seemed that that was an unspoken expectation. I had just turned 18 when I found out that I was pregnant and the thought crossed my mind that maybe that was in store for me. I was ready to graduate high school, and I could hardly wait to start college in the fall. I looked at the lives my family had built - they were happy - and yet I still saw something that I wasn’t ready for.

After I took a pregnancy test, I did not know where to start. I grew up in Utah where public schools did not talk about sex - or sex education. Coming from a conservative family that did not talk about sex left me feeling afraid, lonely, and confused. I told my partner and while he was supportive, he was just as clueless as I was. I confided in the woman I worked for, telling her I was pregnant. She had become like family to me and offered me the support that I needed. She shared with me the story of her illegal abortion in 1967 and what she went through to get it. The way she spoke about how it changed her life, and how she had fought for abortion rights throughout her life gave me hope for my future. She told me about Planned Parenthood and encouraged me to explore my options.

I went to Planned Parenthood in SLC and took the steps for a decision that changed my life. It gave me the opportunity to build the life I wanted. I went to college. I became a social worker. While it took me years to say that without feeling that I was selfish, I know now that whatever the reason, it can be for you and only you. Fighting for reproductive rights means fighting for the ability to achieve career and educational goals, and therefore financial freedom. As I write this, I know that access to abortion and other reproductive rights continue to be attacked. It is painful to know there are still countless people who are unable to access abortion and how that will impact their lives. I am grateful for Planned Parenthood which continues to fight for access to abortion and gives people like myself opportunities to fight for abortion rights.

In 2012, I was a thriving college student. I’d done everything I was supposed to. I had achieved honorable grades; I was the president of a communications club on campus; and I was in the final year of my Bachelor’s program. It had taken 22 years to get here, but it took just two words to turn my entire life on its head – “you’re pregnant.” It felt surreal. Surely, this couldn’t be happening to me. I was overwhelmed with the decision to move forward with my pregnancy, make adoption plans, or have an abortion. Every choice felt like a losing option. Ultimately, we chose to terminate the pregnancy. I’ve never regretted this decision. Yet, guilt and shame would profoundly affect me for years to come.

The stigma of abortion made me feel I couldn’t safely talk to anyone about what I was experiencing. What would they think of me? Overcome by grief, I put my degree on hold, just one class shy of graduating. Feeling disempowered, depressed, and alienated, I silently struggled.

I spent a decade working to gain back my selfworth. I grew to understand that my abortion doesn’t diminish my value. I’m a strong and determined woman fully deserving of all the good things that come my way. Still, I kept my abortion a secret.

That is, until Friday, June 24, 2022, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Suddenly, like a wave, we began to speak up. We began to say “abortion.” I knew then that I had to break my silence. I had to be the person I needed at 22 for other young people facing the news of an unplanned pregnancy. Nearly one in four women in the United States will have an abortion by the age of 45, according to the Guttmacher Institute. With odds like that, no one should experience their loss alone. The grief that comes from terminating a pregnancy is real, it’s valid, and it’s time to talk about it.

-Monica, 34
-Angie, 32

In 1971 before Roe V

Wade, I was 12 and pregnant! My grandfa-

ther had raped and sexually abused me for years. Because I was pregnant the shame, guilt, and fault were mine to bear. I was beaten to secrecy by my grandmother and mother.

My grandmother drove me to a house where the abortion was performed. It was dirty and I remember the smell of incense. I was frightened; I didn’t know what was going to happen. This was a surreal experience. After it was done, I tried to stand. I was dizzy; blood ran down my legs and got on my bobby socks. At twelve all I could think was I was going to be in trouble. I was in pain. This was torture. This experience was horrific and emotionally painful. Somehow, I lived through it. After some time, my body healed. Mentally it’s a wound that festers from time to time.

In 1975 I was 15 and pregnant again! My childhood was gone! I felt that I needed to escape, break free. I hopped on a Greyhound bus to Los Angeles. The feeling of freedom overpowered the fear, but not the anger. I was not going to let them (my family) take the rest of my life!

Once I got to Los Angeles, I went to a Planned Parenthood clinic. In 1975 women and girls had an individual choice; a fundamental right to have a SAFE legal abortion without government restrictions. At the women’s clinic, I received the utmost care from professionals. I felt safe and they assured me that it was confidential. If I were forced to give birth, I would have lived a life of hardship and sorrow, just like most of the women in my family. After my safe legal abortion, I walked out of that women’s clinic with dreams of hope and a better life. It was my choice! And for the first time, I felt that my body belongs solely to me!

What happened on June 24, 2022, is unjust and a crime! This policy impacts the marginalized population of women. Abortion is essential healthcare it allows women and girls who are pregnant to make their own decisions about their lives. I am a voice! You are a voice!

for reproductive justice for all people.

We are the force
-GG, 63

Staring down at the positive pregnancy test in my apartment, so many thoughts went through my head. “How is this possible?” - ”What am I going to do?” -“My student insurance doesn’t cover maternity care.” - “I’m going to start interviewing for jobs in a few months.” - “Where is this baby going to live?” - “I wish I could tell my mom.”

I was 26 and in a rigorous graduate program at the University of Utah. I had always considered myself to be pro-life but had never found myself unexpectedly pregnant and feeling the full weight of what that meant for myself, my new boyfriend, and the future child.

My sister had an abortion three years prior, and I was unsupportive, I told her that she knew my “stance”. She was 19 and scared, and I scolded her. I can’t tell you now how deeply I regret that to this day. My apology will likely never make up for how I made her feel during that time.

I went to the student health center to get a confirmatory test. The nurse practitioner told me that if the urine test was positive, there was no need. She asked me if it was planned. “No”. “Bummer”. I’ve never heard this word spoken with such empathy. She handed me a sticky note with the address and phone number of Planned Parenthood in Salt Lake City.

I told the father that night. We both cried. I told him that I was going to end the pregnancy; have an abortion, because this was not the right timing for either of us. I remember specifically telling him “I like you, but I don’t know if I love you and if I want a child with you.” Thankfully, he was supportive.

I called the clinic, they scheduled me for the following week for an ultrasound. The ultrasound confirmed I was 6.5 weeks along. The next available day to have an abortion was more than a week away. I was told that I could have a D&C or medication abortion. Because of the graduate program I was in, I knew that both were safe and effective. We had a lecture on termination/abortion the year before. I chose the D&C.

My classmate drove me to the clinic. It was the week before Christmas. It was a Thursday. My boyfriend met me there. With no car, he took public transit and had to walk the rest of the way. He was late, and I was scared. I was afraid that there would be protesters outside to make me feel shame. I know many Planned Parenthood health centers are plagued with people who think they can guilt someone into keeping a pregnancy they are not prepared for. To my relief, there was no one outside. I was given anti-anxiety medication, and something for pain.

I waited in a room with other women. Women of all ages, races, and economic status. I wondered about their stories but knew each was valid.

The procedure itself was fast. The clinical staff and the physician were so nice and made me feel like this was something routine, not something shameful as I had thought my entire life. They placed a birth control implant in my arm at the same time - my oral contraceptives had failed, leading to this pregnancy.

Unplanned pregnancy lead me to have an abortion at 26. Many of my friends were already mothers, but it was not the time for me. It was absolutely the right decision. I do not regret it for a moment. I have a child now. I chose to get pregnant and I am able to adequately care for and provide for my child. I wouldn’t have been able to then. Access to abortion was essential to my ability to make decisions for my own life and should remain accessible to anyone in need. -Maureen, 33

ppacutah.org @ppacutah

=·■ nr.. n■Ku�= \._ Published January 2023
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