Seven personal stories about abortion

I’m the first reader of articles submitted to The Post’s op-ed department — and part of my job is rejecting the many we are unable to publish. The task is hardest when the pieces are personal and painful, and my professional response can feel inadequate. When we get so many personal stories on one subject, it threatens to numb us to their power. But the outpouring is itself significant. Below are excerpts, along with audio of the authors, from some of the hundreds of abortion stories we received after Roe v. Wade was overturned this summer. About 1 in 3 American women age 15 to 44 have largely lost access to abortion.

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Awaiting my abortion,
I attended Mass

Deanna Giersmann, Midlothian, Va.

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When I was 21, the condom broke. A few weeks later, my period was late. When my pregnancy test came out positive, I immediately called to see about scheduling an abortion. I was told that it was too early and my uterus could be damaged. So I waited, and contemplated.

During that time, I attended Mother’s Day Mass. The sermon was about the importance of mothers. I recognized how deeply I identified with that. I knew that when I brought a child into the world, I wanted to be the one responsible for leading them through life, for educating them, for loving and providing for them.

I had an abortion. Even in the room where I had the procedure, I waited and contemplated, knowing that other women changed their minds. I didn’t.

That choice, among myriad others, is essential to the mother I’ve become.

All of us are
accidents of fate

Anonymous (Name withheld at the writer’s request under The Post’s policy to generally avoid identifying victims of sexual violence.)

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Yes, if my mother had had the option for a safe abortion and she had chosen to take it, I would not exist. But also: If my mother had not gone on a date with that college classmate’s brother who smilingly and charmingly pretended he didn’t understand her English as she turned him down, I wouldn’t have existed. If she had made it out of his apartment before he penetrated her and ejaculated, whether he kept her there with seductive words or with force, I wouldn’t have existed. That’s life. Very literally, that is how life works.

All of us are accidents of fate. Do I identify with that clump of cells in my mother’s uterus in the fall of 1958? Not particularly. It was no more than a possibility, just like so many clumps of multiplying cells that are washed out of wombs for a multitude of natural causes every minute across the world.

I love my life, and I’m happy I’m alive. But would I have supported forcing my mother to bear me against her will, if I had been able to influence this? No. Not in a million years. No more than I would have directed her feet down the hallway to my future father’s apartment or locked that door to keep her inside.

Basically,
she poisoned herself

Erin R. Jbour, Troy, Ill.

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With three children to feed and unstable income from my grandfather, my grandmother made the decision to illegally terminate the pregnancy. She saw no other choice. She couldn’t feed another child, and felt it wrong to bring a life into the world that she couldn’t provide for.

The method she employed was an old wives’ tale that amounted to concocting and ingesting a mixture of chemicals. Basically, she poisoned herself; it nearly killed her. When she became pregnant again, the scare of having nearly died and leaving her three children motherless was enough to convince her that she needed to carry the new baby to term and try to find a way to raise it with little money or resources.

That baby, Mary, was never robust. My grandmother thought she had damaged her prenatal environment through her self-induced abortion, and that was the reason Mary failed to thrive. In reality, a lack of nutrition stability and access to health care were likely to blame for her lack of hardiness.

The saddest thing I have ever heard was my mother telling me that my grandmother went to her grave believing that God took Mary from her for the sin she committed by terminating the pregnancy of a child she could not provide for. She carried that sin within herself for decades. She lived with it every day while bringing up her six remaining children. She sat with it every Sunday at church.

I inherited a strong faith.
I also inherited a
genetic blood-clotting disorder.

Melanie McCoard, Provo, Utah

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As a fifth-generation member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I inherited a strong faith in the tenets of my religion. I also inherited a genetic blood-clotting disorder that causes what is called a “missed abortion” — intrauterine death without subsequent miscarriage.

Following the deaths of three babies, at 24, 20 and 16 weeks, without my body actually “miscarrying” the fetuses, I was familiar with the symptoms when, again, I simply stopped feeling pregnant. An ultrasound confirmed that I had lost another child. I had a same-day hospital procedure to remove the remains from my body. Then I went home to mourn.

A few days later, I got a phone call from a man employed by the system that provided my health insurance. He proceeded to question me — about my menstrual cycle, my sexual activity, my family relationships and my mental health. I wondered aloud what right he had to ask me these extremely personal questions. He suggested that if I had participated in a voluntary abortion, my coverage could be terminated. In tears and horror, I hung up.

Despite my condition, I was able to bear three healthy children. Decades later, the memory of the strong feeling of injustice that man’s questions caused within me still affects my stance on the current debate. The right to make the decision about whether or not to bear children is given to a woman by nature itself, and cannot be taken from her by bureaucrats with power.

I remain a firm adherent to my faith’s position on abortion; I am against it. I object to using my taxpayer dollars to fund a practice that I oppose. But above all else, I adhere to my religion’s devotion to the principle of free agency — that we each are responsible for the choices we make.

I was a child
conceived out of rape

Brenna Horner, Washington

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My mother became pregnant as a result of long-term sexual abuse. But my identity extends far beyond how I got here, and I have never once wished that I was aborted.

And that’s because I was chosen.

Had my mom not been up to raising a child conceived out of rape — which, to be clear, I wouldn’t in a million years do myself — she would have had the choice not to. That she decided to have me is the reason I can sleep at night. If I walked through life knowing she did not want me but was forced to have me, the pain and confusion and self-loathing would, I speculate, be endless. It stands to reason her parenting would have looked a lot different, too, the resulting impact of which would have been far-reaching.

I was carrying
a dead, growing baby
inside me

Amanda Shapiro, Alexandria

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One of the babies in my identical twin pregnancy was essentially dead — she was missing limbs and had no heart of her own to sustain life outside of my uterus — but she was growing. I was carrying a dead, growing baby inside me. The other twin was pumping her own blood into the non-living baby, which caused it to grow. This “perfusion” of blood put a strain on my living baby’s heart that put her at risk for heart failure and death or intense heart surgeries in utero or after birth. She was also at an increased risk for genetic abnormalities, some of which she could live with and others she could not.

I was told that I would eventually have in-utero surgery to ablate the veins connecting the twins, which would stop the perfusion. They didn’t want to do it too early, as it would have almost certainly killed the healthy twin. At the point of surgery they would also perform genetic testing through amniocentesis, and we were offered the choice of abortion if the baby would be born with a condition that would make her incompatible with life.

I spent most of the next few weeks immobile from grief. I cannot describe the feeling of growing a baby inside me who I already knew could not live, nor the grief I felt about potentially losing the living baby. This pregnancy was the culmination of six cycles of IVF.

But then we had the extremely rare luck that the perfusion of blood between the fetuses spontaneously stopped. This almost never occurs. The non-living twin stopped growing, and eventually its tissue mostly got absorbed. We decided not to do the genetic testing, since things generally looked good. So I was spared the abortion decision in the end, but came close enough to intimately understand how necessary having access to such a decision can be.

The viable twin, born at 37 weeks, turned 2 on July 1. She is completely healthy!

You can have
another child,
they told her

Andrew Fedynsky, Cleveland

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At age 7, I was puzzled when my mother told me that she had bribed an aid worker at the post-World War II refugee camp where I was born to not give me immunization shots. The puzzle was solved 31 years later, as my mother was dying of cancer, and I sat at her bedside in a Cleveland hospice. It was my birthday, and I asked her about the day I was born.

Oh, I was so happy, she said, but also terribly scared. Scared? I asked. Why? “I was afraid they would do away with you,” she said, explaining that when she became pregnant, officials at the camp had pressured her to have an abortion. You’re a refugee, they had said, with an uncertain future, but you’re also young. Once your family establishes a stable home, you can have another child. After my birth, my mother — having endured Nazi and Soviet atrocities in war-ravaged Ukraine — did not trust authorities to stick a needle in her baby.

Rootless, destitute and pregnant, my mother chose life and for that I am eternally grateful. The point is, she had a choice.

About this story

Editing by Rachel Manteuffel and Nancy Szokan. Audio production by Julie Depenbrock and Charla Freeland. Design and production by Danielle Kunitz and Yan Wu. Design editing by Chris Rukan. Copy editing by Chris Hanna and Lydia Rebac.