I am not nameless.

I am not faceless.

I am one in three American women.

I am no longer content to listen while others project their apprehensions, fears and misguided intentions onto a real choice I was forced to make. I reject anonymity and I defy the condemnation so many would have me endure. My situation is too common to be ignored, bumper-stickered or hushed conveniently as a private matter.

It’s time to get honest about the word “choice.”

$80 per month. That’s the cost of my birth control through the health insurance I pay for out of pocket. With two jobs, that’s relatively doable. After losing three jobs in less than a year, however, that $80 started to look like bread and potatoes and orange juice. I like bread and potatoes and orange juice.

I decided I’d chance the return of monthly migraines in order to eat. I remember clearly what it’s like to be hungry and, not being fond of it, I made a choice.

The circumstances surrounding my subsequent unplanned pregnancy aren’t interesting or unique. I thought I was being safe despite the lack of a birth control safety net. A few weeks later I was in my doctor’s office discussing my options.

While he does not personally terminate pregnancies, my doctor was exceedingly supportive, sympathetic, understanding and ultimately helpful in deciding between the medical and surgical procedures. He did not force me to view an unnecessary ultrasound or attempt to persuade me. He respected my decision and the overwhelming, wildly fluctuating emotions I was feeling. I know that makes me luckier than many women in my position.

With my specific medical history, my doctor recommended the surgical option. I agreed and made the choice that was right for me. I then called my insurance provider, BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois, to find out if they would cover this legal, out-patient procedure.

“Oh, no, darlin’…your plan doesn’t cover abortions of any kind,” said the customer service representative. I said I’d figured as much, but had wanted to call anyway. I mean, if they barely covered a portion of my birth control, what were the chances they would be any help now?

“Ya know, somethin’?” the rep said as I was about to hang up. “I take more calls about women’s health care than anything else.” She tisked and I could almost hear her shaking her head, arms crossed as she glared at her computer screen. “Seems they don’t cover hardly anything. In fact, the only plan that covers the termination of a pregnancy is the maternity plan.”

I nearly choked on my shock. “Wait, so unless a woman is shelling out hundreds of dollars a month for prohibitively expensive maternity coverage – presumably because she plans to become pregnant, BlueCross doesn’t cover elective abortion?”

We shared an uncomfortable half-laugh before she wished me well and apologized again on behalf of her employer that she couldn’t do more for me.

Thanks to Planned Parenthood, I did have a place to turn. As they assisted me through the hardest month of my life, I began to understand the catastrophe that is women’s health care in this country. Planned Parenthood relies on charity to fund 750,000 life-saving breast cancer exams every year. They have to fend off statements that “aren’t intended to be factual” to retain funding for pap smears and birth control.

These roadblocks have been deemed necessary because 3% of their services are comprised of a stigmatized legal procedure. And every day, despite the hurtles, the courageous staff and board members make a choice. In some places the doctors live as targets of wanted posters and crosshairs. In some places they’ve died standing up for my rights.

So I’ve made a new choice: to honor their sacrifice. Right now, I start seriously discussing the health of our nation and the direction our elected representatives seem determined to steer us. The discourse in this country is driven by shame and antiquated notions surrounding gender and sex. Even progressives in Congress and the media lack the tools and terminology to speak openly on a subject many of them care deeply about. I think it’s time that changed.

The backlash against the Susan G. Komen Foundation has awakened a silently complacent majority. People across the country stood up and screamed that women matter. I matter. You matter. Your sister, your best friend, your aunt. We all matter.

And we have demands: Education. Access. Affordability.

I plan to speak until I’m heard. I invite you to join me.


Wow. Voices supporting women’s rights have grown exponentially louder since this piece posted! It’s so amazing watching men speak out — some even calling themselves feminists and joining the fight — and women standing up to fight a stigma that encourages shame and fear. Abortion services are a basic part of women’s health; it’s a Constitutionally protected procedure; and it’s being legislated away by an extremist minority. Our silence is their power; when we speak, we deny them the ability to control the narrative and our choices.

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Categories: Finding My Voice

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30 replies

  1. Even though PP turned me away during my time of need (barely 16 and pregnant) I still support them financially because they do so much good work for others. I can’t help but be a tad bit bitter that they turned me away for a silly reason: I was on Ritalin and there was a lot of misinfo going around about it. I remember clearly arguing with the PP person on the phone: “but it’s out of my system in 4 hours-I just won’t take it the few days before the procedure!”

    This left me to leaf through the yellow pages (my useless boyfriend refused to help me find a clinic) by myself and make the appointment. I was very frightened because I knew PP was a place I could trust, and here i was finding a clinic from the phone book inside of a huge office building.

    The whole experience, which I will write about in depth someday, was the moment when I knew I’d REALLY started on this adulthood thing-I had to be able to rely on myself to get through it.

    The one thing that I think is different from other abortion stories I’ve read or heard told is: I had NO feelings of regret about it. I had no tugging at my conscience, religious or otherwise. I knew from the moment I found out I was pregnant: not with this guy, and not now! There was no doubt in my mind I was doing the right and responsible thing. I feel ZERO guilt to this day. I want more women to grow up feeling as I did. I was lucky enough to grow up in a progressive family, and though I hid everything from them (I knew the sadness my mom in particular would feel on my behalf was too much) I knew if I needed to-I could have come to them and they would have ferried me to and paid for the procedure.

    We need to raise all our daughters to feel this way. That they have reproductive control over their bodies.

    • EN — I’m sorry you had that experience, but it’s inspiring to hear that you didn’t let it prevent you from supporting the broader work of PP! Thank you for sharing your story. The majority of us who terminate pregnancies don’t have regret about the decision — a narrative that needs to be heard in order to end stigma. (Most of us have some regrets about circumstances that lead up to the pregnancy, but not about our decisions to end it.)

      Agreed that we need to raise our daughters to feel no shame about their bodies and their decisions. And to know that they have support!

  2. Title is misleading. Abortion not needed to save your life?

  3. You are amazing xx

  4. It was 1964 towards the end of the year, I was 21years old. My parents refused to let me go to college so I was working. Many of my High School friends were in college and sexually active. I was very curious and not dating. An older divorced man was attracted to me and I to him. We eventually had sex once and I instantly became pregnant. I did not want to marry him and he did not want to marry me. I was living in the midwest and abortion was illegal; although the pill had just come out you had to have a marriage lic. before your Doctor would give you a prescription. After much research I found a Doctor in a neighboring state, one would drive to his house in the country and spend the weekend there cared for by his wife. I called on Friday afternoon as instructed to confirm my arrival that evening; the Doctors wife answered the phone and said “Oh my dear, I am so sorry the good Doctor died last night.” I was completely stunned as my research had not turned up anyone else. Finally I went to the south side of Chicago to a second story walk-up under the “L” with a sign that read something about marriage help. There was a black man who packed my uterus with surgical tubing and gauze. I was to leave this inside me for 3 days and then remove….nothing happened. After some time I went back to the same man and he repeated the procedure….again nothing. Towards the end of 4 months I became very ill with an infection. I was taken to a Catholic hospital given anti-biotics and a muscle contracting fluid which induced the most horrific pain throughout my body; it seemed as though everything from my nose to my toes was contracting but not my uterus The hospital put me in a cleaning closet and shut the door on my cries of pain. I passed out for a time and awoke to have my body expel twin male fetuses inside the cleaning closet. Eventually someone checked on me. My emotions were disparate and traumatic; there was a sense of euphoria that I had given birth to twin boys and a sense of relief that I was not pregnant. I was fired from my job for “moral turpitude” (turpitude defined as depraved wickedness) because the boss discovered my pregnancy without marriage. My mother called me a whore within two weeks and I left town for California. It took years to recover my self-esteem, my 20’s were ruined.

  5. I really admire you for coming forward with your story.

    • This is the saddest story I’ve heard. I’m so sorry for your pain. With everything that I am, I promise I will work to the end of my days to make this an experience the generation after mine cannot relate to. Much love, Katie

  6. From my personal experience, anti-choicers are all about subjugating and shaming women’s bodies. No one has any business telling another person what they can or cannot do with their own bodies, bottom line.

  7. Although I don’t necessarily think abortion would be good for my life or situation, and I may feel bad for what could have been, I’ve always maintained from the beginning (from the time I could think beyond sunday morning cartoons) that it’s not my right to tell someone else they can’t have rights. It’s insane to believe that you can take rights away from women who should be in charge of what happens to their bodies. I’m glad that you’re so well spoken about your situation, there’s a no-nonsense approach, and you get to the point- I like your sight and what it stands for 🙂

    • Thank you, Nathan. A lot of Americans feel that way — it’s why you get skewed poll results when you ask people if they’re “pro-life” or “pro-choice,” Full Stop. When you break down the stance of people who ID as “pro-life,” they say something very similar to what you did. They wouldn’t have an abortion (as far as they can imagine), but they wouldn’t legislate or outlaw someone else’s decision. Thank you for adding your voice to the chorus of those who understand what’s at stake.

    • Thank you, Nathan. A lot of people are personally “pro-life” but politically pro-choice. They recognize that you can’t legislate or dictate for another person. Your empathy shines through.

  8. Amazing. Thank you!

  9. Carrie,
    I love that you still support Planned Parenthood even though you have other options! You clearly have your own voice, but I am happy to make it a chorus. As a nurse, you know better than anyone the degree to which our system is broken. I don’t claim to have the solution. I do know that nothing changes unless we demand it. So, that’s where I’m starting.

  10. Applause to you. It’s crazy how our society here in AMERICA, in 2012, can undermine the female spirit by keeping it oppressed, beating it down with opinion and politics. Having been through the heart wrenching, terrifying, and confusing decision to end a pregnancy myself, the lack of resources and support was almost enough to push me over the edge.

    I returned to Planned Parenthood, as I had been many times before, and they referred me to a PP site that could help. Not only did they give me ALL the options (ie: adoption, etc.), they did so without judgement, without EVER influencing my decision one way or the other, and provided me with a lot of education. At 20, PP was the guidance and support I needed. It would be a TRAGEDY to lose their services…..all of them.

    I have insurance, but still choose to pay full price, out of pocket costs to Planned Parenthood–because I know they need my support, just as they had supported me.

    Also, for those that think terminating a pregnancy is wrong, we are pro-CHOICE, not pro-ABORTION. It is NEVER an easy road, whichever road you take. And until you are PERSONALLY in that situation, you will NEVER understand. You have to do what’s right for you and thankfully, we still are free to make our own decisions in this country.

    Katie, I’m glad that you have found your voice and the means to communicate it. You are very brave and not alone in this fight. I support your efforts and with the enthusiasm for change, well articulated articles, and compassion for women’s rights/equality–you can be my voice.

    –Carrie, RN

    • I completely agree that people forget the importance of the work CHOICE. Good point. My experience with PP was the same, and I shudder to think that their services could be lost. They are a great resource for women.

  11. Shawn, thank you so much. And you’re very right; it isn’t just American women that face this issue. I promise this won’t be my last post. I really do hope that this becomes a conversation.

  12. Okay, choked me up and brought me to tears. You are so honest, so courageous, and so right. You have nothing to be ashamed of, although we all know that there are people in our world who will think and say that you do. They are wrong; and so many of our world’s governments and societies have such misguided values and just plain wrong policies and laws that prevent all of us, but especially women, from living in a what could be a safer and more respectful world. Will definitely share your post like crazy. More people need to read it. Thank you for sharing and hope you’ll write more just like it!

  13. Thank you! That’s my hope. Even if only one person who needs this finds it, it will have been worth it. Secrets feed fears; it’s significantly harder to condemn a real person than a “choice.”

  14. So well written. So moving. So impressive. If only more people would speak out like this… Maybe you gave some the courage to do just that.

  15. This is an extremely well written example of the choices women are forced to make. I am incredibly impressed with your bravery in writing this post, and on behalf of women everywhere, I thank you.

    • Thank you so much for your kind response! I had a small circle of support, but thought of myself as part of a tiny minority at the time. I wasn’t ashamed, but still felt like I’d be an outcast if people knew. I had never been forced to face the reality of our approach to women’s health care in this country. Now I know how typical my story is. Unless we talk honestly about what health care should be, women will continue to rely on the process we call “choice.”


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