For more on the future of abortion, check out our special edition.
It should come as no surprise that in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic that has killed nearly 200,000 Americans and caused the financial ruin of countless more, Republican senators would continue to attack access to abortion care. It’s even less surprising that they’re hanging their attacks on outright lies.
On September 1, a group of 20 GOP senators, led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, signed a letter to the Food and Drug Administration asking the agency to ban medication abortion from public use. In the letter, the senators described Mifeprix—otherwise known as mifepristone, one of two medications used to terminate a pregnancy by blocking the pregnancy hormone progesterone then triggering contractions to expel the pregnancy from the body—as an “imminent hazard to the public health” that “poses a significant threat of danger.”
Studies have shown that medication abortion is not only extremely effective, but undeniably safe. It is certainly much safer than childbirth—in a country with the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed nation, a pregnant person in the United States is 14 times more likely to die in childbirth than due to an abortion complication. And it is certainly far from astonishing that even though the vast majority of Americans support legal access to abortion care—including 55 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of voters who supported Trump in 2016—anti-abortion Republicans are ignoring the will of the people in favor of their tireless pursuit of government-sanctioned forced birth.
Rewire News Group, with the help of Shout Your Abortion, asked 20 people who have had medication abortions to share their experience.
Each experience, as with any other form of health care, was unique to the person having it. But they all have a few things in common: The people are thankful they had the ability to have their abortion at home, they knew it was the right decision, and they do not regret their choice to have a medication abortion when they wanted and needed it.
Here are their stories:
Natasha Lynn, 32, Chicago
It was 2017, and I was 28. I had been dating my partner for about half a year at that point. I made an appointment at Planned Parenthood to get an IUD, as I was terrified of what could happen to my reproductive rights as Trump was taking office. At every IUD appointment the nurse will do a pregnancy test as a requirement before the procedure. I don’t think I can express how utterly devastated and shocked I was when the nurse came back saying my test was positive. I immediately burst into tears, and the level of anxiety that came over me was unlike anything I had felt before. I had decided at a young age that I did not want children, and as things got more serious with the person I was dating at the time, he confided that he did not want them either.
I was six weeks along so I had only a short amount of time I could still get the medication abortion. Luckily, I have a very strong support group—my friends and my partner helped me quickly make the necessary appointments and get the funds together for the medication abortion. My mother, who has always been open and told me about the several abortions she has had to have in her life, and aunt drove me to the appointment.
I was given a pill to take in the office, and then an additional prescription to take the next day. I was given a list of precautions and things to watch for, but honestly I felt fine! I ordered pizza and went to see a horror movie with a close friend that evening. The second day I took the second pill, and my partner came over with a heating pad and what he thought would be helpful supplies. He sat with me through it all until I was tucked in to sleep.
Three years later and we are now married and very happily childless.
Phylicia Davis, 34, Nashville, Tennessee
I was 33, and I was five weeks along in my pregnancy. I had just moved to Nashville from the Bahamas because of Hurricane Dorian. I told the guy I was seeing that I was pregnant, and he told me he supported any decision I decided to make. I went online and found different places that offered low-cost to free abortion help. I went to the Hope Clinic [a crisis pregnancy center] first and they gave me a pregnancy test and ultrasound. Sadly they don’t offer abortions but abortion alternatives. So I went to Google again because I remember seeing the name of a place called Carafem. They had positive reviews and excellent customer service.
The appointment-making process was so simple and effortless. I went there on two separate occasions. The first appointment was to take a pregnancy test and discuss any questions and concerns I had about a medical abortion. I was very nervous about the process because I’ve only had a surgical abortion in the past.
The date of the second appointment came, and my anxiety level was sky-high. The guy who got me pregnant was there every step of the way with support. The doctor gave me a pill to take in the office and some pills to take at home. They gave me a care package with pain pills, a heating pad, and various other things. Everything I needed was in the package, including a Carafem journal to document my procedure at home. I left the appointment feeling anxious but calm because I knew this was what’s best at this point in our relationship. He took me home and told me to call if I needed anything.
I took the pills that night around 7; it took about two hours I think for it [to] start. I had to insert them vaginally. I also was in bed during the whole process. I felt some cramps and a little pressure. The pain, for me, was bearable. I went back to my Carafem journal to make sure my process was on track. I was lying in bed and I felt like I leaked through my pad so I went to check. And while checking is when the clots started to pass. It took a few hours for the big pieces to pass, but once they did, the pain was virtually gone.
The next morning, my pregnancy symptoms were virtually gone. I was able to make breakfast and tend to my children normally. My anxiety was gone—I felt confident that I followed through with my decision.
Alexandria, 28, Los Angeles
I was 25 when the rape took place. I still feel weird calling it “rape,” because at the time, I just knew I was very uncomfortable. I was scheduled to go into work at 8 a.m., but I totally thought I was supposed to be in at 5 a.m. Rather than sleep in my car (I thought that was scary because it was still dark), I texted a “good friend” and asked if I could sleep on his couch since he lived a few blocks away.
I was very tired and instantly fell asleep when I hit his couch. I remember falling deep into sleep and then being woken up by someone pulling my pants down. I said stop; I made it clear this wasn’t what I wanted.
It all gets pretty hazy from there. I think subconsciously that was my way of coping—just trying to forget. This friend is someone that I had sex with maybe twice prior to the incident, but both of us gave consent those other times. I think it’s important that I mention this: I had not given any consent to have sex, for him to touch me, for him to take off my clothes, nothing of that nature that day. I remember being so sleepy and pushing his hands away. I am only 5 feet tall—he is 6-foot-3. I was never scared he was going to kill me or anything, but that day I became paralyzed with fear and confusion. I couldn’t wrap my head around a “friend” doing this. It all just happened.
I remember saying, “Just let me know when you’re done.” I remember feeling uncomfortable and being in pain. I don’t know the correct terminology, but my walls were dry, and it felt like the inside of my vagina was being clawed apart.
I didn’t feel like a human, I felt like an object—especially after he came inside me. Again, no consent to do that either. I ran out so quickly and went to work as if nothing had happened. I didn’t want anyone to know or run the risk of someone telling me it’s not rape because we had had sex before. As soon as work was over, I went to buy a knock-off version of Plan B. I took this generic brand seven to nine hours after it happened.
Seven weeks later, I [found] out I was pregnant. By the time I found out, I had already turned 26 and had just been kicked off my parents’ insurance. I was scared that my paperwork that I submitted for new insurance would be denied. Luckily for me, it wasn’t. I went into Planned Parenthood and asked to have an abortion.
Everyone was very polite and made me feel comfortable. The sensitivity the staff had brought me to tears. It was every detail, from explaining the billing, to just walking in to make an appointment and coming back days later to go through with an abortion—everyone was beyond polite and nonjudgmental. The general atmosphere in the room, the nurses calling me mija (a term of endearment in my Mexican culture), the doctor using “English” instead of medical terminology that I probably wouldn’t understand—everything. My parents did not know at the time, so I was alone. I was scared walking in, but the staff took care of me.
I wanted to do a medication abortion because I wanted to be with my loved ones or at least in the comfort of my home. I wanted to be around my parents and feel safe, even if they didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t want to do surgery because I honestly couldn’t think of a lie to cover it up. I was also just terrified.
I had my abortion at home, in my living room with my two best friends. I felt safe. I felt like all the bad shit that happened to me couldn’t reach me. I never underestimate the power of human interactions. Leaving Planned Parenthood, going home to loved ones, I felt untouchable.
Taylor S., 34, St. Louis
I was 30 years old when I had my abortion. I took a pregnancy test at home in November, which came back positive, and scheduled an appointment at Planned Parenthood to confirm the pregnancy and discuss options. I was seven weeks along when I terminated my pregnancy by having a medication abortion. In the state of Missouri, there is the 72-hour mandatory waiting period between when you consent to having an abortion and the procedure.
It wasn’t a walk in the park: lots of cramping and bleeding, just like a really heavy, hard period. Luckily, the pain and anti-nausea meds they prescribed helped a lot. I basically spent the weekend in bed, but towards the end of it, felt fine. I didn’t experience any complications, pretty much went through what I expected to happen—and everything had been explained to me and from what I’d read about what would happen—happened. I feel so grateful to [have] had the option to have the medication abortion.
I think when it was all said and done, I felt a huge amount of relief, but also I think a part of me will always wonder if I did the right thing. I’m like 98 percent sure I did, there’s just that still little pesky 2 percent that wonders what my life would be like if I’d decided to have it. But [I’m] incredibly thankful that I had the choice, and that I made it on my own, without any interference from anyone, which is how it should be.
Melissa, 37, Chicago
I was 31 at the time, and I was six weeks along when I discovered the pregnancy, seven when I had the abortion. I was in a new relationship with a man I already knew was my person (we are now married!), but we were barely two months into our relationship when I got pregnant. Not only was I unsure at the time that I ever wanted to have kids, but I knew that this early in a new relationship, when I also wasn’t in the most financially secure place, it absolutely was not the right moment.
I was panicked, of course, when I discovered the pregnancy, but I never once wavered on the decision. And my partner’s support and cool, steadying hand was, to me, the first indication that we had the chops to make it through the hard stuff.
So, strangely enough, it ended up being a wonderful early test for us. Because I live in a major city, calling a clinic to schedule the procedure was incredibly easy, and I did not have to wait long to go in. The privilege of that is not lost on me, and neither is the fact that I had access to both the resources to pay for it and a supportive partner to hold my hand through the entire experience.
Michelle, 25, Albuquerque, New Mexico
I remember this time period in my life as clear as day. It was June 2017, and the moment I found out I was pregnant, I was sitting on my restroom bench in complete shock. Why the shock? Because I was on birth control and had taken Plan B. Although I had strived for A-pluses all my life, this plus sign, on this test, was not one I wanted to see. I was 21 years old and in nursing school. This was the absolute worst time to be pregnant, for me at least. I was also in an unstable, toxic, and difficult romantic relationship at the time, and I was scared.
After proving I was pregnant, my abortion was scheduled for July 17, 2017. I was eight weeks along. To this day, I still have the ultrasound photo with my little baby on it. I keep this photo on my nightstand and talk to the baby as if he or she can hear me. This might be creepy, but if you know me as a person, this would all make sense.
I was very impressed with Planned Parenthood—they did everything professionally during my appointment, and one of the most important aspects is [that] not one of the medical staff judged me. Having one of my friends with me also helped. This day was long and the night was even longer because of how much pain I was in, both mentally and physically. Since I had some regret shortly after (which is completely normal, by the way), I didn’t take the pain medication as they prescribed, so I experienced everything natural.
A whole year went by and I experienced a range of emotions. I thought about the baby every day, I thought about if I made the right decision, and I was so angry with [my partner at the time for] not being there for me during the most challenging times of my life. It still hurts me to think about the apology I never received from him, but it has been three years and I am finally able to wish good for him.
I want to say I truly do not regret my decision. I am grateful I had the ability to have an abortion in my own home, with privacy. Medication abortion allows you to feel every emotion in a space of your own and is less invasive than a surgical abortion. I knew this route was right for me, and I am lucky to have had this experience. My abortion has changed me in many ways—it has made me resilient, thankful, and stronger.
Anonymous, 33, New York
I was 25 [and] eight weeks along. I went to Planned Parenthood for care. I took the second pill at home.
The major takeaways I come back to are: The shock of taking a pregnancy test that is actually positive. Being grateful [that] the guy I was with and I were on the same page. [We] both weren’t ready to be parents, [and] both agreed it was ultimately my choice what to do. The amount of time I spent on the phone with my health insurance company gathering info. [It was] a lot of time [and I’m] unsure if this was necessary honestly, because Planned Parenthood offers so much financial support. But I didn’t have the money at the time to carry a heavy medical expense. The coverage was high and in my favor, [but I] can’t remember the percentage. The care I got at Planned Parenthood that day, and every day since, was outstanding: The nurses, doctors, people at the front desk were all extremely patient and informative and respectful. I felt really prepared and informed after I took the first pill there and got home.
I was living in Washington D.C., at the time and the center downtown was a magnet for anti-abortion protesters: You had to go through the gauntlet to get in and out, [and it’s] still one of the strangest experiences I have had. People were touching me and followed me—super intrusive. I had to wait some time to get an appointment, a few weeks I think, and it made me glad that I took action when I did. I was operating under this “hurry up” cloud because I didn’t want to miss the window of time where I still had control over my body.
Things started pretty quickly after taking the second pill. [The] pain lasted for an hour and then started to subside enough that I ended up napping. It hurt for sure, but it was manageable. No lasting or residual pain or discomfort. Bleeding afterward, but they told me that would happen and it was comparable to a medium period bleed.
Anonymous, 33, San Antonio
Last September, I was traveling for work when I realized my period was over a week late. When I returned home to San Antonio, I went straight to [grocery store] HEB and bought a pregnancy test. I tested positive and called my husband. We had been married six weeks, lived in different states because of our work, and had seen each other once since our wedding, which is when I got pregnant. I told him the news, and we promptly agreed that it was my decision, and we both knew that [by] having an abortion I’d be making the best choice for myself, my career, and our family. I was 32, and it was my first pregnancy.
My next call was to Planned Parenthood. I took the first appointment available, which was five days later. When the doctor examined me, they told me that I was six weeks and one day pregnant. I made a follow-up appointment for a medication abortion because I thought it would be less invasive than a surgical one. By Texas law, the doctor was not allowed to make a recommendation, which made me feel like I might be making the wrong choice. The doctor at Planned Parenthood was kind and patient. I’m in my 30s, I donate to Planned Parenthood, and I work in Democratic campaigns, and the entire process was so bizarre, even for me.
By Texas law, the patient is required to view the sonogram. After I agreed to a medication abortion, I was required to listen to a litany of unscientific warnings, some of which only apply to surgical abortion. The doctor did a great job explaining to me what was required by state law versus what was accepted medical information. I understand the politics around reproductive rights, but I cannot imagine how scared and confused I might [have been] if I were younger or had less exposure to the movement for reproductive justice. I had to schedule a second appointment to get the abortion pill. That visit was really quick and easy, and by that time my husband was in town and he went with me.
There were right-to-life protesters outside of the clinic both times, but the building felt very safe and secure. I filled my prescription at the CVS pharmacy near my house. It was a Friday, and I took the first pill then and the second on Saturday. We had breakfast tacos, I took the pill, and we hung out watching movies in bed. After a couple of hours, I felt cramping and started bleeding really heavily.
Leah Handley, Detroit
I found out I was pregnant on December 29, 2019, which was one day after my sister and father’s birthday. We had gone to the DIA [museum] the day before, and I knew something was wrong with my body because I was very nauseous and had extremely tender breasts. I took the pregnancy test the next day at my parents’ house, and it came back positive. I am in a three-year-long committed relationship with my partner, Louie, and we have no children and do not really plan on having them. I immediately called him and told him, and the next sentence out of my mouth was how I was on the Planned Parenthood website to schedule the abortion, as we had discussed we would do if we ever found ourselves in this situation.
Their earliest appointment was January 2, in Ann Arbor, which is about two hours away from my house. We spent New Year’s Eve with our friends, and I carried this secret with me for five days, with only Louie and my sister knowing. When I had my appointment, I found out I was between five and six weeks pregnant. They asked if I wanted to see the ultrasound, and I started to cry and said I didn’t know. I’m very grateful to the nurse at Planned Parenthood because she printed it out for me and put it in a sealed envelope. I have it in my jewelry box now. They also let me know that I had a benign tumor in my uterus that I would not have known about had I not gone there. It cost me about $500 out of pocket because I did not have any insurance at the time, though I don’t think it would have covered it anyway even if I did. Louie and I paid it together.
That day, they gave me the first pill, which ends the pregnancy. I cried harder than I ever have. I told the life inside of me that I was so sorry, and that I loved it so much, and that I would not have been able to give it the life it deserved and that I was doing this out of love. I swallowed the pill and went home. When I woke up the next day, my body knew I was no longer carrying a viable pregnancy. That was hard. Two days later, I drove to my boyfriend’s house and took the second set of pills there. My parents still do not know to this day.
The experience was traumatic. I know that I have a low pain tolerance, but I did not expect the level of pain I had in my wildest nightmares. The Motrin 800 did not work. I began to bleed and cramp about an hour after I inserted the pills vaginally, and was almost immediately in so much pain that I was throwing up and blacking out. I made Louie drive to the nearest urgent care, and it was closed when we got there. He then drove to the next one he found online, with me screaming and writhing in pain in the passenger’s seat.
I entered the urgent care and gave the front desk a pamphlet I was given at Planned Parenthood describing the medication I took, and was ushered back into a room. I was crying and telling the doctor (a young girl, about my age) that I was sorry and to please not judge me and to please just help me. I’m not religious, but this woman had to have been sent by the universe to me. I will be forever grateful for her kindness and her care. I told her I didn’t have insurance, I couldn’t afford anything. I just wanted the pain to stop. She charged me the absolute bare minimum she could, $100, and wrote me a prescription for a higher pain medication. She hugged me. I will never forget that she hugged me and told me that I would be OK. We filled my prescription at a CVS, and I took the pills in the car. The rest of the day is a blur to me of changing pads, fitful sleep, and pain.
But I am grateful that I was able to choose to do this, no matter how much it hurt me physically or emotionally. It was the right decision. I made this choice and went through this experience out of an overwhelming love for the cluster of cells that was inside of me, the cluster of cells I would not be able to provide with the life it deserved.
Kayla Ballenger, 26, Atlanta
I had my medication abortion in 2016, when I was 22 years old and in my last year at the University of North Georgia. I was fortunate enough to find out early on that I was pregnant and knew immediately that I needed to have an abortion. Even though I personally drove a good friend of mine to an abortion clinic in Atlanta when we were in high school, I still had little knowledge about what resources were available for me because growing up in the South, abortion was never an option talked about and is considered murder in my family.
There was a lot of fear put in me through propaganda in scripture and church, and I decided to seek services at Planned Parenthood because I knew they are well-known and knew I could trust them to take care of me. I actually had never even heard of a medication abortion until I called to make an appointment and the receptionist said I could have one if I turned out to be less than nine weeks along in gestation. I chose to go that route because I was scared of surgery and I knew I needed to be discrete between having a full-time school schedule, work, and my roommates having no knowledge that I was pregnant.
Taking the medication was simple, [but] the whole process beforehand was pretty traumatic. I sat for at least four hours in the office waiting while a preacher with a megaphone shouted across the parking lot praying that all of us inside would change our minds about our decisions. I was also forced to watch a video about the dangers of having an abortion, and the ultrasound technician used a condom on the wand when performing the ultrasound, which has made sex difficult for me now because of the mental correlation. It was convenient though, to be able to pass the pregnancy at home where I could curl up in my bed. I was so relieved the next morning because I was able to get up and go to class.
Unfortunately I ended up needing a blood transfusion and a D&C three months later after being told I had an incomplete miscarriage and seeking out help but doctors not taking me seriously until then. But I wouldn’t change anything. I was able to graduate and have a very successful career specializing in geospatial technology.
Marissa, 27, Los Angeles
I was 21 years old at the time and had been dating my boyfriend for a few years. I was off birth control because I had tried it before and didn’t like the side effects. I didn’t think I could get pregnant because that’s kind of the mindset of a lot of young girls that get pregnant their first time: “That wouldn’t happen to me.” Unfortunately, I wasn’t so lucky.
I was two weeks late getting my period and told my boyfriend about it. He drove me to Walgreens, where I took a pregnancy test in the bathroom. He waited in the car while I texted him from the bathroom. I sat in the stall waiting for the test to change colors or do anything. The symbol finally popped up, and I’m not sure if I read it wrong or I just didn’t want to believe it. The test looked as if it was blurring between a plus sign and negative sign. I texted him a photo and said maybe it’s wrong and it’s negative. He assured me that it was positive and I was probably pregnant. I felt sick to my stomach.
The following day I made an appointment at Planned Parenthood to get a second test. “You’re pregnant,” the woman told me. This time it was real. I asked her what my options were, and she told me I was lucky that I was early on and “caught it early” so I was able to take a single pill for the abortion. I was relieved that it was that simple.
They gave me the pill and told me it would just feel like a heavy period but [that] I wasn’t allowed to wear tampons like I normally do, pads only. I took the pill and went home and laid down and waited for something to happen. Throughout the following weeks I bled profusely. The lady wasn’t lying—it was a very heavy period. I went back for a checkup after a couple weeks, and they assured me that I was fine and the abortion was a success. They also gave me birth control and condoms.
I was extremely relieved the process was so easy and that the staff at Planned Parenthood made me feel so welcome and not judged or like a terrible person. I had great health insurance under my mother, however I was terrified of going to my regular doctor for fear of her finding out. From then on, I frequented Planned Parenthood for reproductive and preventative services because my mom is incredibly conservative and didn’t even know that I was having sex.
Planned Parenthood provided me everything and all services completely free of charge. I truly do not know what I would have done or where I would be without the access I had to Planned Parenthood and abortion services. At the time, I was living at my mom’s apartment and sharing a room with my sister. My boyfriend was living in a tiny two-bedroom apartment with his parents and three siblings. There was no way that we would have been able to support a child, let alone ourselves, at the time.
Since then, we broke up, I graduated college, found a great job in the field I studied, and moved to Los Angeles and have a wonderful career and lovely new partner. I probably would have had to drop out of college and would definitely not have the career and financial stability I have now. I sometimes reflect on that experience and think, “Wow, I could have a 6-year-old right now, and I would’ve been stuck with that guy forever and living at my mom’s.” I’m so thankful that is not my situation. I’ve now been on birth control for several years and am much more careful.
Melanie Corrales, 21, Oakland, California
I was 19 at the time [and] had just left my hometown for college [for] more opportunities for my future.
I met a guy my first week here at the job I started. He took me to meet his family over Thanksgiving and I had forgotten my birth control and that’s how I got pregnant. I had missed my period in December but was in denial about being pregnant, as I had risked my luck before and had gotten lucky. I went home for Christmas and the first thing my aunt, who pretty much raised me, asked was, “Are you pregnant?” I’m not sure how she knew, but since I still hadn’t gotten my period, I decided to take a pregnancy test and it was an immediate positive.
It was overwhelming because I have huge goals about being a midwife and making sure women of color are receiving proper reproductive care. My partner and I were definitely not in a place to have a child and we were both on the same page about that.
As soon as I found out, I immediately made an appointment online with Planned Parenthood for the day after I returned. My partner drove me and sat with me in the waiting room until it was my turn. I was called in, and my vitals were taken like any regular medical appointment. I never felt any judgement or shame at all throughout my experience. They brought me to my room and someone came and asked me a lot of questions, made sure this is what I wanted, and educated me on the process. They then did an internal ultrasound to see how far along I was and that it was a normal and single pregnancy. I was ten weeks along. She let me keep a picture of the ultrasound, which was special to me because I would’ve loved to have been able to keep the baby, but we were not in a place to care for a child.
After the exam, the nurse practitioner took me to her office and explained the whole procedure to me. I was to take some pills there with her, and in 24 hours, I was to take four more at home. She explained exactly what would happen, that I would feel cramping, maybe experience nausea and vomiting, and then bleeding. She sent me home with instructions with visuals and explained if I experienced anything abnormal, to come back. I paid absolutely nothing. About an hour later I did begin to feel nausea and threw up maybe once or twice, I don’t really remember.
The next day I took the next round of pills in my room with my partner and just stayed in bed. To be 100 percent honest I was prepared for the worst, and it was definitely not that bad. The cramping was like a period, and there was a lot of bleeding, but I was expecting a lot more. I was never a heavy bleeder, so I would classify the bleeding as just a very heavy period.
A few days later, while I was at work, the remains came out just like the nurse practitioner said it would. It literally looked like a huge clot—no face, no eyes, no arms and legs. I bled for, at most, a week. About a week or so later I went back for my follow-up. They made sure everything came out and were very pushy about me leaving there with birth control. At first I didn’t want it, but they were very insistent and I gave in (got the Nexplanon), which I am thankful for because although I had a pleasant experience, it was not something I would want to go through again.
I also want to mention that I am still with my partner and being able to choose what was right for us at that precise moment was such a privilege, and we are forever grateful we had the control of what was going to happen in our lives.
Amanda Kelly, 30, Charlotte, North Carolina
I was 28 years old when the pregnancy test I took was positive. It looked defective, so I peed on two more. I went to the store and bought more tests because the disbelief was that strong. I cried on my bathroom floor for a couple of hours.
I never wanted kids. I’m married, great job, and I was looking to buy a house. In much respect, I was ready as any adult could be, but it’s just not what I wanted. I found the number for an abortion clinic called A Preferred Women’s Health Center of Charlotte to see what my options were and the protocol to take. The pill was cheaper and seemed easier, so I went for it. Only after I had an entire plan did I inform my husband.
The clinic had a counselor call me a few days before the appointment. She provided general information about the abortion and other options I’m sure, but I was sick from my pregnancy and too overwhelmed to really remember the consultation. My appointment was at 9 a.m., but I arrived at 8:30 a.m. in the morning on December 1, 2017. As we drove up, I could see people dressed as old English carolers. I thought they looked so cute, and being unfamiliar with the area, I assumed there was a theater hall nearby. It turned out to be pro-life protesters. They were harmful and ruthless after their coy attempts to persuade didn’t work. Kind women with rainbow umbrellas escorted my husband and me into the building where other women were waiting.
Six of us were sent to a room where we waited for a couple of hours, during which time we began to share the story that brought us here. One was a 45-year-old woman who was done having kids, she was a nurse. Another had found out she was pregnant after being dumped by her ex, and since she already had a daughter she didn’t want to add to her situation. Another was 20 and attended a Catholic school, so she was terrified of them finding out. She was dating an older man who was well established in Charlotte and convinced her having a baby would be throwing [away] her life. Another was also young and in college. She had been dating a boy in secret because her family disapproved of him. She felt too young and wasn’t ready. The last woman had been seeing a man who turned out to have a whole secret family. Needless to say, she wanted to remove herself as much as possible from that drama.
They became my tribe, the only women in the world who understood how I felt. No one in my life could identify with my situation, and here I had five women who became my greatest blessing, my sisters.
I was the first to receive instructions, my abortion pill, and pain medicine—after 24 hours, take the pill, the medicine, and ride it out, basically. I turned to the women before I left. Hardly able to hide my emotion, I thanked them for their compassion and for their presence. Still to this day I think of them and wish nothing but happiness and love for them.
Deseree L., 31, Long Beach, California
My first abortion I was 28 and was finishing up my second year of graduate school. I had been feeling off, not at all like myself for a few weeks but could not place what was going on. My period was late, but I attributed it to being extremely stressed between working full-time, going to school full-time, and thinking about how I will be adding an internship to my already chaotic schedule in the next few months.
I decided on an impromptu solo trip to Portland during the upcoming Memorial Day weekend to get my mind off things. I remember becoming more and more concerned about my ever elusive period throughout the trip, but I had cramps on and off, so I thought it was only a matter of time. On the plane ride back to L.A. I had an epiphany of sorts and became 100 percent certain I was pregnant. My roommate picked me up from the airport and I had her drive me to the nearest Rite-Aid so I could purchase a pregnancy test. As soon as I got home I took the test and got a positive result.
I cried and cried. I cried because I was angry. I do not want children, I had been careful, and I had this ridiculous notion of “this isn’t supposed to happen to me.” I don’t know what made me think I was so special—things happen all the time, and it just so happened that this time it was happening to me. There was no doubt or second guesses about what I would do next: I started seeking out abortion options.
I called the first place that came to mind, Planned Parenthood. I called to make an appointment for the next day, but the only available appointment within 24 hours was in San Diego, which was ridiculously far from me. I opted for the next available appointment in the greater L.A. area, which was in about three to four days. I was so miserable, sick, and anxious while waiting for the day of my appointment.
I called my mom the day before my appointment to let her know what was going on and to applaud her for having three children because I was absolutely miserable. She was supportive and even considered getting on a plane to be here for me, but I told her to stop being dramatic and I would let her know when it was all over.
I went to my appointment alone. I had a vaginal ultrasound done; I was about nine weeks along, which was absolutely insane to me as I had only started to feel weird/off about two weeks prior. They asked me if I wanted to see the ultrasound or get a copy of it; I said no. They were not great with that because I totally saw the monitor from where I was lying. I was still in time to have a medication abortion, so I opted for that option because at the time the thought of a D&C seemed terrifying to me. I’ve taken Plan B before, what was the difference, right? (Disclaimer: It’s very different, y’all!)
After the pregnancy confirmation and discussion of my abortion options, they gave me antibiotics and mifepristone, which I took at the clinic. I was then provided with a prescription for ibuprofen and given a small envelope containing four misoprostol pills, which I was to take 24 hours later by placing them on my gums and allowing them to dissolve. Before I left, I was also given a bunch of informational documents and a follow-up appointment a week later.
To my dismay I found myself in a similar situation a year and a half later. I was a month away from turning 30, I had finished graduate school, and I still did not want children. I still don’t.
This time I realized much sooner and did not panic. I went through my insurance provider and was linked to a local clinic. The second time I was about four weeks along and opted for the medication abortion again. This time the process went much smoother, was a lot less painful, and was over much quicker. At the follow-up appointment for my second abortion I opted for an IUD, since condoms and birth control pills were doing me no favors.
Alli Reyes, 23, Denver
When I had my medical abortion I was 19 years old, unemployed, and going to school. I had it at around seven weeks along in the pregnancy. I had gotten pregnant by an emotionally abusive boyfriend that I had finally cut ties with just days earlier. Unfortunately/fortunately for me, I became aware of my pregnancy before even having missed a period as a friend had left a drugstore pregnancy test at my apartment, and never having needed to use one, did it solely for the experience of “peeing on the stick.” Shocked, I immediately went to my local Planned Parenthood to get a real test done, knowing already that if it was true I would plan to get an abortion.
After a month and change of struggling with my abuser attempting to guilt me into keeping [the pregnancy and] holding the money over my head, I eventually relented and told my mother, who was an amazing and nonjudgmental support for me throughout the process. I got everything scheduled/done through Planned Parenthood, and had the actual abortion safely at home.
I have always loved Planned Parenthood for their dedication to providing access to sexual health care to anyone who needs it, but after my experience, I credit them with quite literally saving my life in a way.
I have never felt an ounce of guilt for my decision, aside from the societally induced shame in speaking [about] it openly. I am incredibly grateful to have had the support and resources to have had access to it, and have quite a feisty fire in my heart to support others who share my experience, regardless of the circumstances of their unique situation, as well as anyone who currently finds themselves at that crossroads, and those who will at some point down their timeline. I have so much love and admiration for them all, whoever and wherever they are, because it is one hell of a shared human experience.
Taryn Swopes, 30, El Paso, Texas
The first time, I was 18 when I found out I was seven weeks along. I had just graduated high school and was getting ready to start my undergrad for civil engineering. My boyfriend at the time was getting ready to go off to the Air Force and get stationed who-knows-where. I made the decision not to risk the distraction in achieving my undergrad while doing it alone (it was a young relationship [and I] didn’t know if he would stick around). I went to a local women’s reproductive facility to fill out/pay for it and had to wait the 72 hours to actually receive the pill set, which was nerve-wracking. I was sure I wanted to go through with it, and waiting only made my partner more unsure. I took the pills at my house that weekend and spent the weekend alone.
The second time, I was 23 [and] also seven weeks along and was about to graduate college this time. My longer-term boyfriend, who would become my husband a year later and my ex-husband a year or so after that, took me to the same clinic to get the pill set. Same 72-hour waiting period, but I was older and knew what to expect, so it was just inconvenient more than anything. I had the abortion at my house, alone again, but this time because I was sure I wanted to go through the experience alone. I slept it off and got back to my normal studies by the following Monday.
The experience to get the pills was frustrating because there were protesters outside, and the process requires you go once to apply and pay and then once more to receive the pills. Even though I was confident in my decision, it was uncomfortable to have strangers yell at you. This clinic also took care of other reproductive needs for women, so I can’t imagine how difficult it was for those women to walk into that clinic getting yelled at for something they actually had no relation to.
However, it is so much more private and time-convenient than in a hospital. I was able to have both of mine basically in secret. The actual feeling of the medication abortion was physically uncomfortable. It was the most intense set of cramps I’ve ever had. I thought I would pass out the first time to be honest. However, I would take that pain and privacy over a surgical abortion any day. It allowed me to go through the process privately (for better or worse). It was so helpful when I was younger because I myself didn’t know how I felt about it or how others would perceive my decision.
Looking back and forward, I don’t regret either and am glad I made the best choice for myself in both instances. It brings me comfort to know it is an option available to women who are unsure that they want a family, can’t commit to one at the moment, or simply don’t want that for their life track. Knowing my own personality and habits, I made the best decision for me, and having a clinic in my city that offered medication abortions helped provide me the access to the type of journey I wanted to take personally and for my care.
Anonymous, 29, Pasadena, California
I have had two medication abortions. The first was when I was 24 years old and I was seven weeks pregnant. I had been dating the father for a little under a year and wasn’t sure I was ready to have a child with him. I had a surgical abortion a few years prior and knew that I didn’t want to go through that again. My significant other had taken me to the clinic as he supported me in my choice to terminate the pregnancy. He was not excited that I wanted an abortion, but he was fully supportive of my decision. I took the pill used to terminate the pregnancy at the clinic and returned back to his house afterwards. It was the weekend of the Fourth of July and I had spent the whole day in bed and in pain.
The second time I had a medication abortion was when I was 27, just a year after having my first son. I was not ready for another child, so my significant other and I decided together to have another abortion. This time I was apprehensive of going through with it, as I felt that maybe we could make it work. Mind you, my significant other was the same man I had the previous abortion with and the father to my son. He had been incredibly supportive and understanding of our situation, but he brought up many logical reasons as to why we could not go through with this pregnancy and I agreed. Again, he took me to the nearby clinic and I took the pill there. He brought me back home and I recovered in our own bed.
Ashley Romans, 36, Colorado Springs, Colorado
When I was 34 years old I found out I was pregnant. I had just started medicine for an autoimmune disease I have been dealing with for 14 years. I knew my body could not go through being pregnant again, and I couldn’t care for a baby on top of my two other children. My husband went through our insurance company to find the most affordable option for having an abortion. Our local Planned Parenthood offers both surgical and medical. I was six weeks along by the time I had found out I was pregnant. I would have been 13 weeks by the time I could have made an appointment for a surgical [abortion]. Because they were booked so far out, on top of the tremendous cost difference, l choose a medical abortion instead of surgical.
I am glad I did it that way, though. I was home. My sister was able to come to stay with my kids so my husband could be with me at Planned Parenthood for the appointment to get the first medicine and stay the next couple of days to help keep the kids busy.
I remember being scared because by the time I was able to get that appointment, I was almost ten weeks and I thought I’d end up having to go back in case something went wrong. The Planned Parenthood staff was amazing and gave me so much information and listened to me, so after my nerves calmed down I was glad to be going through the process at home. I was able to think and be comfortable in my own bed. Even though there was a lot of getting up and down to the bathroom, it was OK because I was with my family and able to change clothes or move if I was able. I was glad to be able to be home and go over my choice in my own way. It made me so thankful to be able to choose, even though it meant not adding to my family.
I would choose the same option again. I was able to wait until the kids were in bed to go through the first hours, which were the most painful. I was able to watch whatever I wanted or try to sleep. Once it was over, I felt and still do feel relief and peace with the process.
Michelle V., 32, San Francisco
I was in my second semester in college when I found out that I was pregnant. I took two at-home pregnancy tests, then made an appointment with New Generation Health Clinic to figure out my options. I was six weeks in and had just missed my period, even though I was on birth control pills. I had to find a way to deal with this pregnancy with the support of my high school boyfriend and the free programs San Francisco offered. As a desperate and clinically depressed young woman, I knew that I was not ready to be a mother. As a teenager, I was not ready to be a parent.
I took my first round of the medication at home. I had already been feeling under the weather, but shortly after taking the pills, I became very nauseous and threw up. Unfortunately, this meant that not enough medication had gone into my system, so the abortion process started but I was not sure if it had finished. The second round was also taken at home, and that one ended up doing what it was intended to do. I broke down and cried in the bathroom, with the support of my boyfriend.
The whole process was emotionally draining. I chose medicine over the in-office procedure because I thought it would be more secretive and I would be more in control. I felt like it would be more comfortable at home, and I ended up being about to let out the emotions that I was being overwhelmed by.
Anonymous, 30, Puerto Rico
My medication abortion happened when I was 29 years old. I was six weeks pregnant, and I had no idea. The pregnancy test that I took never came [back] positive or negative, so I got a blood test, and that’s when I found out I was pregnant. My symptoms were very light, only my breast felt tender, and I was very sleepy. I never thought I was that far along.
My pregnancy also happened [at] the beginning of COVID-19. Puerto Rico had at the moment the strictest lockdown. I could only go out certain days of the week and for emergencies. The clinics [were] only open three hours Monday through Friday. My parents had no idea that I was pregnant, so I scheduled my appointments for the days I went out for groceries—since the lines were so long, I had a good excuse about my timeline.
I was given the pills at the Planned Parenthood office of Santa Rosa, Bayamón. The staff over there is amazing, the most caring and sweet nurses. They treat you like family. I’m so glad I had them for support. I ended up buying them a box of Krispy Kreme during my many visits.
The doctor gave me a pill at the office and said to take four other pills under my tongue in 24 to 48 hours. I locked myself in the bathroom in my parents’ house and did what I was told. I got extremely nauseous after 15 minutes, and unfortunately I threw up some of the pills. They still did their job—they [stopped] the pregnancy. I started feeling horrible cramps for two hours, and the next day I was bleeding like crazy. I spent two weeks bleeding but no cramps—it was very similar to a heavy period. I had to wear the Always maxi pads and I would change them in three to four hours because I was bleeding that bad.
After two weeks, I had to visit Planned Parenthood again. The doctor told me that the pills [stopped] the pregnancy, but that I still had all of the tissue inside of me and my hemoglobin levels were too low and I was probably having internal bleeding for the last two weeks. He decided to do the [procedural] abortion after that.
I paid initially for the whole pill process: $300. That cover[ed] the [procedural] abortion as well. I only paid $40 for my follow-up visit that day. The doctor put local anesthesia and the process was about five minutes; it was a bit painful and uncomfortable, but it stop[ped] my internal bleeding almost immediately. The nurse was so caring and sweet because I was alone during all of this process. She would caress my hair, ask me very gently to stop crying, and she even help[ed] me clean up. After that I got two pills for the pain and had to sit on a couch. My [blood] pressure got very low and I almost fainted, [but] again the nurse was there to take care of me. After an hour of being stable, they let me go.
I hope this helps other women in this situation, and during COVID. It’s extremely sad and difficult to do this process alone, but they will feel a great relief after getting it done, especially with everything going on in the world. I couldn’t imagine myself with a baby due in a few months, living with my parents, having no job due to COVID and the “baby daddy” being the most disgusting human being that ever came to this world. I’m glad I have options for a safe and legal abortion in this little island.