The Big Question: Your abortion stories
By Julia Furukawa
As New Hampshire's new 24-week abortion ban and ultrasound requirement went into effect this month, NHPR spent January collecting stories of how abortion has touched the lives of Granite Staters.
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We heard from over 20 people from across the state, some of whom had never shared their stories before.
Here is a collection of stories about your experiences with abortion. Many who shared wished to remain anonymous, and others shared their name.
"Afterward, all I felt was relief"
I had an abortion in my late 20s. I was on the pill at the time but missed taking a few. When I was late I took a test right away and went to a [Planned Parenthood] clinic for confirmation. When they told me I was definitely pregnant I told them I didn’t want to be. I wasn’t in a serious relationship and did not want kids. I opted for a medical abortion. I had to have an ultrasound which was invasive and a little demoralizing.
I had to take one pill at the clinic and another at home. The process wasn’t too bad. Basically felt like bad cramps. Afterward, all I felt was relief. Shortly thereafter I met my husband and we’ve been happily married for over 15 years. We’ve never had children and don’t plan to. I don’t regret the decision at all. In fact, I am grateful because I would not have the life I do now if I hadn’t ended the pregnancy.
"The only way to get a legal abortion was if the mother’s life was threatened"
It was 1969. I was in a relationship and we were having what we thought was protected sex. I got pregnant. I was ready for marriage and a child, but my partner was not so I didn’t want to have a “shot-gun” wedding as this didn’t look like it could work out long term. At the time I was 27 and my partner was 24, still in school as a graduate student. Roe vs. Wade had not been passed then and the only way to get a legal abortion was if the mother’s life was threatened.
As I am a middle-class white woman, I was able to go to my physician who gave me the name of two psychiatrists. At the time this was the only way to get a “legal” abortion. A woman would have to be in danger of dying either, I suppose because of medical conditions, or because a woman would commit suicide rather than have the child. As the two psychiatrists were recommended by my doctor, I was under the impression that they would do this “favor” of giving me the necessary diagnosis so that the abortion could be performed. It didn’t turn out this way. In each office I was questioned with probing, personal, intimate questions for the full hour before I was allowed to leave. This was the worst part of the whole experience, harder than telling my family, harder than learning of the pregnancy in the first place, harder than having and recovering from the abortion, harder than going through the abortion alone without my partner.
To realize that today we face the very real possibility of losing the rights spelled out in Roe v. Wade is a horror to me. Even those with means will have to endure the challenges imposed by regulations that don’t take any account of the people involved. Naturally, those women who don’t have the means to pay two psychiatrists let alone have a personal doctor to advise them, those women who can’t take time from work, who can’t pay the costs of raising a child, who don’t have a family to bring the child into, who are not emotionally equipped to deal with raising a child, etc. These women will suffer much greater traumas.
Getting back to my personal story…to make ends meet, my mother took care of children in our home. In all we had 39 children (never more than six at a time) who lived with us for differing lengths of time, calling my mother, “Mommy-Eva”. From my early childhood, I saw that some children are unwanted. If life is so precious, it should be given to those who are ready to nurture it. Bringing into the world babies who don’t have this birthright is cruel. I hope by collecting these personal stories some power will be given to the voices that plead for a woman’s right to decide whether or not to bring a child into the world.
"Because of society’s taboos, very few people actually know that this happened to us"
In 1997 I had an abortion at week 21. We were expecting our fourth child, and during a routine ultrasound we found out that the baby had trisomy 13 or Patau syndrome. This means that he had three copies of the chromosome 13. Median survival of trisomy 13 babies, if not stillborn, is under one week. Over 90% of babies don’t survive their first year. My baby showed severe birth defects, among others a small head, cleft lip, and other malformed organs.
The staff at Dartmouth-Hitchcock gave us professional counseling, and it became clear to us that there was no chance of saving the baby. We decided to abort. Labor was induced and I gave birth to a stillborn baby, a traumatic experience I will never forget. The hospital staff was thoughtful and supportive. They cleaned the tiny dead fetus and clothed him with tiny clothes someone had made for a little dead baby just like him. They were ready with a Polaroid camera so that I would later have at least one tangible memory. They even showed me how to use the back stairway to exit the birthing pavilion without having to pass by the newborn babies.
The grieving process was long and hard with all the hormonal changes that occur after birth while having to care for three young children at home. I knew no one of similar circumstances. At the time we were committed Christians, and we felt we couldn’t talk about the experience without being judged. Most of our Christian friends thought I’d had a spontaneous late miscarriage.
I have never regretted my decision to have an abortion. I never felt that I had “killed” my baby, just felt that I had saved my family from a long road of emotional suffering. Because of society’s taboos, very few people actually know that this happened to us. I have a feeling that there are many women like myself who would benefit from support but because it is a political issue, they keep quiet. That also leads to the false impression that there are fewer late-term abortions than there really are. While I don’t have data, I’m sure that the majority of mothers who have late-term abortions are in similar circumstances and would love to give birth to a full-term baby.
"I was pregnant again, and this time, it didn’t feel like the right time."
When we got pregnant with our son, we took some time to decide if having a baby was right for us. We were both young, not well established in our careers, but something led us to believe it was the right decision to have him, and I still agree. He is what brought our family together and showed us both love like we never knew possible.
Yet eight months after his birth, we were faced with another tough decision. I was pregnant again, and this time, it didn’t feel like the right time. We had taken precautions, used birth control, and I was pregnant. We had recently moved, started repaying college loans, and we sometimes both worked two jobs at once to try to make ends meet. I knew that bringing another baby into the world would make things exponentially harder for us.
When we made the decision together to have an abortion, I remember talking with a counselor prior to the procedure and I told her about our 8-month-old. She said “Wow, you must have your hands full.” And we did. I knew that this decision was going to be right for our family.
And I believe I was right. 7(ish) years after my abortion I am proud to say that my family is doing great. My husband and I got married. We worked hard and moved up in our careers. We had a baby girl (when it felt like the right time), I graduated from graduate school, we bought a house, and a dog. We have an 8-year-old and 5-year-old who are healthy, funny and smart. I’m proud of the tough decision we made because it was the right thing for us. I only hope that women who want or need abortions have access to them.
"I was received with professional and compassionate care — covered in total by my insurance"
I am almost 70 (August of this year) married for some 44 years, and with three adult children. I became pregnant when our second was not quite two. At the time I could not imagine carrying a pregnancy, caring for a toddler and young 5-year-old, and working. I told my husband I wanted to terminate the pregnancy and he was totally in support of my decision. I went to my OBGYN and received the same support and [they] set me up with an appointment in Hanover at Dartmouth-Hitchcock where I was received with professional and compassionate care — covered in total by my insurance. NOBODY questioned my decision, asked me to justify it or tried to change my mind. NOBODY judged me. My husband and I later went on to decide to have a third child.
I convey this story to you because I feel that EVERYONE, not just someone as privileged as I am, deserves this right to choose and to receive the kind of emotional, medical and financial support that I did.
Read more of your stories here.
Design production by Sara Plourde and editing by Gabrielle Healy.