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Not Ashamed to Say It: I Had an Abortion

Keep-abortion-legal, state abortion restrictions, pro choice
By , 22, Contributor Originally Published: January 18, 2007 Revised: September 11, 2013

In the fall of 2006, Ms., the largest feminist magazine in the country, e-mailed me a weekly update about a petition called “We Had Abortions.” The women who signed the petition were going public about their abortions, and I was being invited to join them. I sat in front of the glowing screen and considered for a long time whether to sign the petition or not.

To Sign or Not to Sign

I have always been openly pro-choice, but it’s one thing to be pro-choice and another thing to be open about my own abortion. I stalled in front of my computer monitor. I realized that although I’m a pro-choice activist, I was still scared and embarrassed for people to know I had an abortion.

Even in an age where abortion is legal, it’s still taboo. Although people may not often say it, many people believe that women who need abortions are immoral or irresponsible. When was the last time you were talking about women’s choice and somebody you casually know said, “Well, I had an abortion.” I felt embarrassed that people would know, like it was a dirty secret. Although even now I feel a little scared for people to know, I signed the petition to show that I’m not ashamed of my actions, to put a face on an important issue and ultimately to try to break the silence about the real women, like me, who have abortions.

I signed the petition to show that I’m not ashamed of my actions, to put a face on an important issue and ultimately to try to break the silence about the real women, like me, who have abortions.

I Had an Abortion

I had an abortion when I was 20 years old during my second year of college. Even though I took birth control, I still got pregnant. I want to speak honestly about the emotional part of abortion since that part is skipped over in the political debate.

Having an abortion was not an easy decision or a painless process. I had feelings of guilt, depression and shame. I felt a connection with the fetus—this being that was causing me morning sickness. This made the decision hard. Abortion was no longer an abstract political idea but a real option in response to my pregnancy. Even though it was a hard decision, I decided that an abortion would be the best option for me. Having a child would have made it hard for me to finish school, and I wasn’t ready to give up my dreams. And I wasn’t ready to be a mother at 20 years old.

My parents were involved in the decision. They were worried about how badly I felt about myself. During a phone conversation, my mom said, “Jordan, you had sex, and there is nothing wrong with that. Sex is a beautiful thing that I did not raise you to be ashamed of.” I did not feel ashamed about having sex; I felt ashamed about the abortion I knew I was probably going to have. “It’s your body,” my mom said, “and you are the only one who gets to say what happens to it. Don’t let other people’s ideas make you feel bad about yourself.” I never again felt guilty about having an abortion, although I sometimes feel grief for the child I didn’t have.

Why Take Action for Choice?

Since having the abortion, I’ve interned for the Feminist Majority Foundation, gone to conferences and protests and become a full-fledged activist. Some people think that the right to a safe abortion isn’t an issue we have to worry about. It is legal to have an abortion, so what am I fighting for? My father asked me why I’ve become such an activist for choice. Surely not all people who have an abortion become activists.

I became an activist because of the new restrictions on abortion and some Supreme Court justices that are openly against abortion who could reverse Roe v. Wade—the landmark case that made abortion legal. There are states that are limiting women’s access to abortion. In some places, women have to be over 18 to have an abortion or have to tell their parents if they are under 18. Some states only allow abortion for women after a certain amount of time, if their lives are in danger or in cases of rape or incest.

Even though abortion is “legal,” it’s not available to everyone. Mississippi, for example, only has one abortion clinic, making access to abortion impossible for poor women who cannot afford to travel across the state for two consultations. Also, repeated arson, attempted murders of abortion providers and picketing of clinics make abortion dangerous and force some clinics to close. The increasing limitations on abortion are undeniable, and many people are activists simply because of those facts.

Making a Difference for Choice

But, like most people, I also became an activist for personal reasons. I felt badly when I found out I was pregnant. The fact that I felt ashamed was evidence of how our culture has ingrained in us the belief that abortion and premarital sex are morally wrong. Preventing other women from feeling as I did motivated me to join the hundreds of other women who signed the petition. I never want another woman to feel ashamed or embarrassed about having an abortion.

Every person has his or her own reasons to act, to give a voice to his or her own convictions. Young people especially have so much power to make a difference. Through talking about issues, protesting, writing letters, joining advocacy groups and spreading awareness, we make a powerful impact on society and shape the country. We allow things that we don’t believe in to keep happening by doing nothing. It’s hard to believe that you actually have the power to create change, even if you aren’t old enough to vote. But sometimes it only takes one signature to make a difference.

Contributor Jordan, 22, is a college student.

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