I was raised in a very religious household. I had been
taught at a young age not to have sex until you’re married. I also have autism,
a developmental disability, and as a result, my education about sexuality and
the reproductive system in the public school system was minimal. I was the last
person you’d ever think this would happen to because of my religious views. As
a high school student, I had had several boyfriends. However, my boyfriend my
senior year of high school was one that I seemed to give more importance to.
I told him early on in the relationship that I didn’t want
to have sex until I was married, which initially he agreed to. Four months into
the relationship I started thinking about if that was really what was right for
me and started talking to him more about sexual activity. At first I told him
that being sexual was something that I wanted, and then immediately before it
happened I asked if I could change my mind and he said no because I had led him
on. When I told him I was uncomfortable for a variety of reasons, potential
pain being one of them, he just said he could give me drugs so I wouldn’t feel
it. He talked me into taking an overdose of synthetic morphine. It happened
soon after. Luckily he wore a condom, but at the same time this made it so I
didn’t have any proof of the incident.
Due to my lack of sexual health and consent education, I
didn’t know that it was rape. I told him that it made me uncomfortable and if
he wanted that so bad we could break up because I didn’t want to have sex
anymore. He said once you’ve had sex you can’t say no and must continue, or
else he would kill himself and it would be my fault. So I stayed in a
relationship that was unhealthy to my sexual and reproductive health for two
As the relationship dragged on, slowly he quit automatically
putting on condoms. I had to ask. When I did, it turned into an argument that
he won. Sometimes I would say things like, “I am not really in the mood for
this right now but if we have to at least put a condom on.” And he wouldn’t.
Eventually, I just quit asking because I was scared to and didn’t want to go to
verbal war with him about it anymore. Around this time, he encouraged me to not
have an abortion if I ever got pregnant, because he was “pro-life” and having an
abortion was killing a living thing. Because of my religious background, I
agreed with him.
By this time, I was into my first semester of college.
Shortly after winter break started, my period was late. My period was never
late. I took a pregnancy test and got a very faint positive. I didn’t want to
believe it and took several more. I told my abuser that I thought I may be
pregnant. He seemed nervous – so I took that to mean he would support me in
having an abortion. It was important for me to please him. I told dad I thought
I was pregnant and didn’t have any money to keep buying pregnancy tests and
asked him if we could go to the store to buy a brand that I had used in the
past and liked better than the drug store kind.
Sure enough, it was positive too. My dad didn’t believe it,
and after some discussion we agreed that I should have a blood test. I did some
research about pregnancy testing and found Planned Parenthood. I didn’t have
much familiarity with this organization, but chose it because I read that the
amounts that they charged were good for low income families and college
I made an appointment for a blood test and my dad agreed to
go with me. I told the staff member who did my blood test about my situation. I
was totally freaking out. She reassured me that since I had just finished
finals, it was probably stress, and that if I was pregnant, I was less than four
weeks along and there wasn’t even a procedure they could do yet and asked if we
could wait to talk about abortion until after my pregnancy test came back. I
said I wanted to talk about it now and that I had done a lot of research on the
topic and wanted a medical abortion because I thought it would be less painful.
She laughed and said she had heard from patients who had both
that actually the medical was more painful than a vacuum aspiration, and
continued to describe how the medical version worked. “So basically, this would
force me to have the period from hell,” I said. She agreed. This same staff
member called me a few days later confirming that my pregnancy test was
positive. Immediately I started asking about when an abortion could be
scheduled, and she told me how to set that up but reminded me it would have to
be a little bit later so the procedure could be performed. I decided I would
That night, I told my abuser I was pregnant. “How long have
you known?” He asked.
“Just a few hours,” I replied.
“How’d you find out?”
I told him about the better quality home tests and blood
“What are we going to do?”
“I’m having an abortion with Planned Parenthood. I’ll need
your help and emotional support.”
“WHAT?!” He said, surprised.
“I thought you said you’d support me if this was my
decision, which it is.”
“I just said that to make you happy. That’s not what I
“What?! You want to keep it?” I said, surprised.
“Yes. You know what I believe. It’s a living thing. This was
decided without my input.”
Then I felt bad. “Will you still care about me if I do
“I’m really sorry about this,” I continued. “You know that
with my disability and how I wasn’t in the regular high school classes, I had
to fight to get into school. I am going to my dream college! I don’t want or need
Then I cried. He started pushing me into sex – and that was
the last thing I wanted. I was too scared to say no – but I didn’t say yes
either. To me, at the time, I thought my relationship was healthy and
Shortly thereafter, I decided to stop eating. My objective
was to hurt the baby. I thought maybe I could justify abortion if the baby
wasn’t alive. My dad asked me later if I had made the Planned Parenthood
appointment and asked how much the abortion would cost. This reminded me, and
so I called and asked them. To my delight, it was only $400 for a medical
abortion. I had heard horror stories about women who had had medical abortions
dying from the pills or having to have another abortion later. When I set up
the appointment, the staff member reassured me that stories like that weren’t
very common instances and that in her experience the medical abortion usually
My dad and I went back to the clinic together. I remember
thinking how glad I was that this clinic was only eight minutes from my house.
I had read online when I did abortion research that some women had to drive
crazy amounts of time just to have an abortion. When I got there, the staff
seemed happy that my dad would go with me.
The staff did a sonogram on me and showed that the baby was
fine. I still was giving myself a lot of guilt about having an abortion due to
my religious views. I remembered those bumper stickers my friends had that
read, “Abortion stops a beating heart.” I started asking the staff if the baby
had a heart beat yet. “You’re only four weeks along and just at the exact
amount of time we could do this. Any earlier and we would have to tell you to
go home. There isn’t a heartbeat yet but that’s not unheard of this early,”
They sent me to talk to another staff member to talk more
about my decision and the paperwork that I had signed. I told them that I felt
really bad about my decision. The staff member asked, “Are you sure that you
want to do this?” And then continued to explain that once the first medication
was taken, I couldn’t back out. I explained that I didn’t see a better
alternative. She walked me through what the medical abortion would be like,
explained what each medication would do, and eased my nerves about meeting the
abortion doctor. I had heard scary stories about people who performed
abortions, but she convinced me that he was super nice, explaining that he was,
“like a big kitty” and not what I was expecting.
Then I met with the abortion doctor who walked me through
the process and got more specific about the series of medical pills, explaining
that after the first pill, I would need to wait ten to 24 hours before taking
the rest. He encouraged me to keep a lot of menstrual pads and water on hand. I
took the first pill and went home with a bag of more pills. I didn’t have the heart
to tell my dad the baby was okay, I got the impression the abortion made him uncomfortable
even though he was trying to be supportive. So I just told him that it didn’t
look like the baby would have made it anyway. He seemed relieved.
Afterwards, my boyfriend and I went out to eat and went on
some holiday shopping. We came back home when it had been just over ten hours
since I took the first medication. I decided I wanted to take the rest of the
pills and complete the abortion.
I took the rest of the pills and then my boyfriend and I
decided to watch a movie. About half an hour later, the cramping started. It
hurt terribly. I asked him to take my dog into the other room and leave, since
even feeling them breathing on the bed hurt. I cried myself to sleep from pain.
The next morning, I woke up relieved. Not long after, I went
to Planned Parenthood for my follow up and they confirmed I was no longer
pregnant. They gave me some birth control and I was advised to continue
abstaining from sexual activity, which I had been doing as instructed due to
the sensitive nature of my body after. They recommended I continue to abstain
to give the birth control time to work, and that if I was going have sex before
I had had a chance to complete a full month of birth control pills, I should
use a condom.
I explained this to my boyfriend and even educated him on
proper condom usage, explaining that he should be holding the base of the
condom and told him what Planned Parenthood had said. I told him I didn’t want
to have any type of sexual activity for a while until I knew my birth control
was working. It happened anyway, and he didn’t use the condom appropriately
like I asked. I had to go back to college the next day, and arranged to get
emergency contraception at the school’s health center. I called Planned
Parenthood in a panic to tell them what happened asking if there was anything
else I needed to do. They helped me relax a little.
In the weeks to come, I came to regret my abortion because
of the guilt trips my boyfriend put me on for “killing his kid”. I grieved and tortured
myself for the abortion ever sense. Soon we moved out of my dad’s house, and
the violence escalated to physical, and he shoved me into a wall for hugging
him when I saw him cry. His excuse was I wouldn’t “leave him alone”. That was
the first time I ever started feeling any kind of gratitude for having had an
abortion, because I knew he would have done the same thing to my baby.
Later, he broke up with me because of reasons such as my disability
made me “hard to talk to” and the “sex wasn’t good”. What he wasn’t realizing
was often, I didn’t want to. I had to scramble to find a place to live. He
basically kicked me out of our apartment. Being so close to the end of a
semester, it was difficult, and slept several nights in my car or the library.
A little while after, my doctor and I had some concerns
about me having STI’s (Sexually Transmitted Infections), including HIV, because
my boyfriend likely cheated on me and a girl moved in with him right after. I
started getting sick a lot near this time so we thought this was a good idea to
rule everything out. I ended up going to Planned Parenthood again to get tested
and learned that luckily I was fine.
I never knew that the relationship was considered abusive. I
believed the things he had said to me about having an abortion, and talked to
my best friend about it for several years, who was also my college roommate
once I was able to find a place to live. After years of talking about it, one
semester, she was also in a Women’s Studies class, and learned more about
sexual assault, domestic violence and women who had abortions.
She suggested that I wasn’t really beating myself up about
the abortion but that I was feeling confused from experiencing 2 years of
abuse. She encouraged me to talk to one of her friends about what happened. I
did, and we decided I would go talk to the Victim Advocate at my college campus. After talking to her, I started to give myself permission to stop
beating myself up about the abortion because of how unhealthy the relationship
was. She also helped me find a therapist, and I was able to resolve these
feelings as a result.
Eventually, I joined a faith community that had a
theological statement that was more accepting of women who had had abortions. Soon
after, I openly preached about my abortion and led discussions in my college
faith community about abortion to try to encourage others to talk about theirs
if they had one and make sure that sex was discussed more positively and what
consent should look like. I also became the Public Relations Chair of of the sexual violence student activist group on campus. I decided I would only finish my music
degree because I was nearly finished with it and decided to explore women’s
studies or social work in graduate school. My grades improved and I was invited
to an honor society for students with disabilities. A couple of years later I
gained admission to a local Master of Social Work (MSW)
program specializing in community and advocacy social work. I focused my studies on women’s
rights. I graduated in May 2014 and passed my LMSW exam (Licensed Master Social
Worker) in November 2014.
Now, I can acknowledge that even though abortion was a
difficult decision, in the end it was probably what saved me and allowed me to
go for my dreams and be in a place where I could start my career. I can only
hope that I can provide women and others impacted by victimization, disability,
and reproductive health concerns the same compassion and empowerment that
Planned Parenthood provided me.
do you have advice for emailing senators/congresspeople? maybe even a convenient copy/paste?
Here is the email I sent to both of my senators and my local congressman, with the correct name added in. (I took a lot of it from a post I saw on my dash recently.)
I am writing you to urge you to vote in opposition of the reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule, a dangerous piece of legislation that would ban health organizations around the world from receiving US funding if they so much as mention abortion, as well as banning them from providing abortion services – even though, due to the Helms Amendment, other funding sources must be used to pay for them. The GGR is not a budget cut; it is a special stipulation for funding targeting reproductive health organizations specifically.
I understand that abortion stops a beating heart*, but the GGR would cost far more lives in the long run than it would save. We saw the devastating impact of this policy when President Bush signed it into effect in 2001. Take Ethiopia, where unsafe abortion is the second-leading cause of death after HIV/AIDS. Organizations there decided they could not turn women away, and thus experienced a massive birth control supply crisis as punishment. 16 other countries also saw US donations of contraceptives and condoms abruptly cut off. When birth control access is cut off, more pregnancies occur, and when access to safe abortions are restricted, those affected turn to unsafe and potentially deadly alternatives. Every year 50,000 women die from a lack of access to safe abortion.
As one of your constituents, I would hope that you would not show support to this dangerous ruling that would jeopardize the lives and well-being of thousands of women around the world.
Thank you for your time and attention.
*I don’t really believe this but shhh don’t tell anyone
The pro-choice movement often treats with contempt the pro-lifers’ practice of holding up to our faces their disturbing graphics. We revile their placards showing an enlarged scene of the aftermath of a D & C abortion: we are disgusted by their lapel pins with the little feet, crafted in gold, of a 10-week-old fetus; we mock the sensationalism of The Silent Scream. We look with pity and horror at someone who would brandish a fetus in formaldehyde – and we are quick to say that they are lying: “Those are stillbirths, anyway” we tell ourselves.
To many pro-choice advocates, the imagery is revolting propaganda. There is a sense among us, let us be frank, that the gruesomeness of the imagery belongs to the pro-lifers: that it emerges from the dark, frightening minds of fanatics: that it represents the violence of imaginations that would, given half a chance, turn our world into a scary, repressive place. ‘People like us’ see such material as the pornography of the pro-life movement.
But feminism at its best is based on what is simply true. While pro-lifers have not been beyond dishonesty, distortion and the doctoring of images (preferring, for example, to highlight the results of very late, very rare abortions), many of those photographs are in fact photographs of actual D & Cs; those footprints are in fact the footprints of a 10-week-old fetus, the pro-life slogan, “Abortion stops a beating heart,” is incontrovertibly true. While images of violent fetal death work magnificently for pro-lifers as political polemic, the pictures are not polemical in themselves: they are biological facts. We know this.
–Naomi Wolf, “Our Bodies Our Souls”, The New Republic, 1995