I decided to have an abortion when I was 16 years old.
I remember the night that I got pregnant. It was after homecoming. I had recently switched birth control, and the condom my boyfriend and I were using broke. We stopped after that, but it was too late.
I was two weeks late for my period when my grandmother (who I was living with) told me that I needed to take a pregnancy test. It was positive.
Everyone in my family said I should have an abortion. No one wanted me to have a baby. I was 16, my boyfriend and I had a toxic relationship, and we really had no way to properly support a child. I didn’t want to go that route at first. I thought I could raise it myself, or at the very least go the adoption route. But once I started looking into my options, I realized that adoption is way more complicated than how it looks on TV. I knew that I wasn’t truly capable of bringing human life into this world and taking care of it the way it should be. And I knew that even if I did have a child, all the people who would have judged me for an abortion would have judged me for going to the welfare office or leaving the child with my parents. It’s a double-edged sword.
I’m from a small town in Georgia, where there’s no Planned Parenthood or anything like that. So my mom made me an appointment at a clinic in Atlanta. It’s three to four hours away from my hometown, depending on traffic. The other nearest option for an abortion was in Tallahassee, Florida, which is three hours away. The people at the clinic said that I had to be at least six weeks pregnant in order for them to perform an abortion. I was five weeks along when we called the clinic; we made my appointment for the first day of the sixth week mark. The abortion would cost $800. My mom and boyfriend’s mom split the cost.
Arriving at the clinic was very traumatic, to be honest. It did not look like how it did in the photo online. It was very small, run-down, and in a bad part of town. Then we got out of the car and were greeted by a bunch of protesters outside of the clinic entrance carrying graphic pictures and signs, screaming at me that I was a murderer.
I’ve always wondered if the clinic was better funded if I would have had a better experience.
My mom couldn’t be with me during the actual procedure. I understand why. But it was still really upsetting to go in there alone. The technician did an ultrasound to see how far along I was, and asked if I wanted to see it but I didn’t, so she covered the screen behind a curtain so I wouldn’t have to look. Then I was put under so they could perform the abortion. I’d never had anesthesia before, so I woke up super disoriented, confused, and scared. I’ve always wondered if the clinic was better funded if I would have had a better experience.
I don’t regret my decision at all. I try not to treat it as a shameful thing so if people ask about it, I bring it up. But I do have feelings. Immediately after the procedure, I dealt with a long period of depression and grief. I still think about what could have been. I recognize that it was a potential life being taken away. But the quality of that life wouldn’t have been good. I was just a child myself, only 16 years old. My mom had me when she was 16, too. My dad was abusive and didn’t really want much to do with me. Why would I want to have a child born into that same situation? I would never want my kids to go through what I went through. I made a mistake, but I decided to be responsible and have a different path than my parents.
It’s been 12 years since my abortion. My boyfriend of eight years and I are currently thinking about trying to have children. But I have some reproductive health issues, and now with the new law in Georgia, we worry if I have an ectopic pregnancy or other issues, would we safely be able to treat it without going to jail? That’s a terrifying thought.
That’s what compelled me to share last night on Twitter. I saw the hashtag #YouKnowMe was trending, so I clicked through the stories. Some of them were so heartbreaking—people being raped by their family or friends and then having to have an abortion. And yet those people were still being attacked by trolls. I wanted people to know that my story, while not necessarily traumatic, is just as common. No one is owed a reason as to “why” I got an abortion, but what I did is valid, too. Maybe some 16-year-old girl like me who is debating whether or not to hide her pregnancy will read my tweet and make a different decision. I hope I can help in some way.
As told to Jessie Van Amburg.
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