It was 1967 and my mom was seventeen years old, alone and scared–navigating an unregulated, underground system of people claiming to be able to help her to end the pregnancy. She had nowhere to go, no one to call, no national hot-line for women considering an abortion or to even get information about what her options might be. All she had was the address of a dirty apartment in a big, unfamiliar city with enough money to get there and back.
Once there, she had no one to listen to her, no one who cared about why she made the decision to end the pregnancy, no one to hold her hand and wipe her tears. She didn’t have sterile equipment and trained physicians, nurses, and support staff. No one checked her vital signs or monitored her bleeding before letting her make the trip back to her college town — alone.
She didn’t have anyone with her at all. If she had, she wouldn’t have nearly bled to death alone on the bathroom floor in her dorm. Later at the hospital, they told her she would go to hell for what she had done. She lost so much that day.
I am often asked why I do this work and the image of my mother always comes to mind. I simply must do my part to ensure that nothing like that happens again. At the end of the day it’s not the politics that keeps me fighting or the discourse and conversation about this topic that fuels my desire to keep abortions safe and legal. The reason I get up each day is that I believe that all women deserve better than what my mother got.
Working with abortion care patients and staff has made me a more compassionate and loving person. I am given the gift of supporting women who have made the difficult decision to end their pregnancies. I hold space for them to feel whatever they need to feel, I hold their hands, and I always listen. I am blessed and lucky to do this work.
It’s true, women’s lives are changed by having an abortion, but not in the ways that anti-choice rhetoric wants us to believe. They are changed by the empathy, quality of medical care, and compassion they experience. Women are different when they leave because they have been listened to, respected, and understood. They leave empowered to take good care of themselves. They leave with dignity. I wish my mom could have had that experience.
I can only tell her that things are different now. And I can hope she knows just how many of us are out there, working each day to be sure that what happened to her won’t ever happen again to another young women.
So many people say, “I can’t imagine what we would do if abortion became illegal.” I can. And I never want to see that day realized.
This is worth fighting for.
~ Abortion Care Specialist