Celina Perez, 34
Los Angeles, CAAspiration: 8 weeks
When I found out I was pregnant in my early 20s, there wasn't even a second thought for me [about choosing abortion]. I worked as a waitress during the day and a bartender at night. I didn't have health insurance.
Going into the surgery, I was nervous. The meds started working, and I felt sort of detached from my body, like I was watching myself. I have a lot of tattoos and it hurts to get tattooed, but there is a point when you think, I am getting something out of this pain. The abortion felt sort of the same. It was uncomfortable and strange, but my brain switched to, It's fine because after this pain I get this [positive thing].
Having an abortion saved my life then, and it made my life now. Something I hear a lot is, "What about adoption?" How was I supposed to carry a kid for nine months when I worked two jobs that are physically demanding? People don't think about what it really means to make these choices when it isn't them. I wouldn't be the person I am—a successful, happy person—if I had to have that baby. I would be somebody stuck in poverty with few options to dig out of it. I didn't become a heart surgeon or win a Nobel Prize. I just became an independent person who was able to find happiness. The opportunity to do that is the least anyone deserves.
Holly Bland, 21
Cleveland, OHAspiration: 7 weeks
I have polycystic ovarian syndrome [PCOS], so my periods are usually irregular. When I didn't get my period, at first I was like, "Whatever, that happens all the time." It's hard for someone to get pregnant with PCOS. Then I felt weird, but I told myself I was taking the pregnancy test "just in case."
I was 19. My boyfriend at the time was 18. We were scared. He's in the military, so he was not home often. They were talking about sending him overseas, and he would be gone for almost a year. I thought, I can't do this by myself. I don't come from a wealthy family. I was working 40 hours a week, and I'm really dedicated to school. I was studying to be a physical therapist's assistant. There was just no way.
When we pulled up to the clinic, there were protesters outside. It was 7 a.m. My boyfriend was like, "Oh god, this is so stupid." He was so angry at them. There was a security guard out there too, and he let us into the building. I thought, At least there's not going to be any violence. It made me feel better.
Shanelle Matthews, 31
Oakland, CAAspiration: 8 weeks
I was in college, I was a full-time student athlete, and I relied on my partner, who was a few years older than I was, to take care of the birth control. I assumed he was using condoms. Whenever we had sex, it was dark, and I was unsure of the mechanics of sex—I had very little sex education. I think my parents were afraid to provide it for fear it would exacerbate my sister's and my desires. Instead, there were scare tactics, like "boys only want one thing from you."
You can't divorce my race from my experience. The doctor at the clinic had a nice bedside manner but did make a sort of racist comment—"Are you in school? You're really articulate." I had a family member who would remind me time and again that [getting pregnant] was the expectation in society for black teen girls. There's a perception that black women are sexually promiscuous. I think that was part of the shame I felt and why I lied to my track coach about why I had to take a week off.
I didn't buy into the stereotypes people had about me as a young black girl. I just didn't feel capable of raising a child at that time. For me, having a baby was a significant responsibility to be taken seriously. There are people in my life who were excellent young parents. And every year, more and more of my friends get pregnant. I watch with admiration how carefully they make those decisions. No matter what decision you make about having a baby—younger or older or by yourself or with a partner—there are critics who think they know what is best for your life. We need to empower people to make choices based on their own convictions.
Jaimielynn Lake, 32
Whittier, CAMedication abortion: 8 weeks
As soon as I took the pregnancy test, my husband and I sat on the edge of our bed and Googled "family planning." We were like, "No, we can't do this again." We already had three kids, a set of twin boys who were 5 at the time and a 2-year-old girl. We love our little family and are super happy. I was teaching during the day and working for a global executive production company at night—I staff bodyguard services, celebrity protection, and residential security for a lot of executives in Palo Alto, California—staying up late, trying to be a working mom. It was crazy. My first reaction was feeling scared. How am I going to do this?
I do regret not thinking and talking about it more [before having the abortion]. I wanted to get into the hospital the next day. I didn't come to terms with what was happening before rushing off. We kind of glazed over it. We handled it like a business transaction.
Recently, I babysat for my sister-in-law. She has a 2-year-old and an infant, and I was like, No, no, no, I don't want to do this again. So, no, I don't regret the decision, and I don't want to have seven babies to make up for it.
Samantha Romero, 26
El Paso, TXMedication abortion: 7 weeks
My sister got pregnant when she was in high school, and I immediately thought, Oh she's going to get an abortion…but she didn't. It really upset me because she was so young. I knew if that ever happened to me, I would get one. I just didn't expect that I would be in love and in a committed relationship. But I had just graduated college, and my boyfriend at the time and I knew we couldn't afford a child. He was unemployed. I was underemployed.
We went to one of those crisis pregnancy centers. We didn't know it was one at first—we had just looked on Google, and it was free and it was nearby. The woman used words like "your baby." It was awful. If I had been 16, I would have just done anything she told me. Luckily, I was old enough to know that she wasn't presenting me with the full facts. I went back to Google and found a clinic, and I called first to ask if they performed abortions. We decided I would get my master's and he would work on his life, and we would both have a child when we were ready and we could be good parents. It was the right decision for me.
I keep saying I'm lucky. I had an abortion in early 2013. Later that year, the state government started shutting down clinics. I had to spend my life savings on the abortion—$500 at the first visit and $300 at the next. That was a lot of money for me. I can't imagine having to pay for transportation or [incurring the cost of] taking more time off work, like some women have to do today.
Loren Clark-Moe, 31
Portland, ORMedication abortion: 8 weeks
At the doctor's appointment, I had the sonogram, and [the nurse and ob-gyn] asked, "OK, what are you thinking here?" And I said, "I think I need to schedule an abortion. I don't know how to do that." The ob-gyn and nurse were there and I remember them saying, 'No problem, just sit tight. We'll be right back.' I had my health insurance through the federal government. They came back five minutes later and said, "Oh, we didn't realize you're a federal employee. We're not allowed to schedule the abortion for you." I burst into tears…It felt like they were saying, "The career that you are so proud of and work so hard in, because of that, we are not allowed to help you."
After that, the nurse gave me this big hug. She wrote the number for Planned Parenthood on a Post-it and said, "Go call them." According to the sonogram, I was eight weeks and three days pregnant. I didn't know how important those details were until that moment. If I wanted a medical abortion, nine weeks was the cutoff. It was 4:30 in the afternoon and she said, "If you want to do a medical abortion, which is less invasive, you need to call them now and get in in the next two days—and also their appointment line closes at 5 p.m." I was thinking, Oh my god. I just learned a whole bunch of information, and I don't have any time to process it.
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