There’s a strange misconception that most abortions are had by young, "promiscuous" women, women who cheat on their spouses, or uneducated women who are somehow "ignorant" and “irresponsible." That common misconception, of course, is false. Abortions are had by young women, older women, white women, women of color, educated and uneducated women, rich and poor women, able-bodied and disabled women, by those who do not identify with motherhood, by women who wish to remain child-free, and even by mothers. That’s why I spoke with a number of moms on why they had an abortion, either before or after they became mothers.
Full disclosure: I had an abortion, and it was after I became a mother. I’d lost my first baby to preterm labor and premature birth at just 22 weeks. The following year, I became pregnant again and endured an incredibly difficult and high-risk pregnancy. It took a major toll on my physical and mental health. Once my son was born, he had to stay in the NICU for two long and difficult months. So, when I got pregnant again the following year, I decided it was not the right time. I wouldn’t be able to endure it mentally or emotionally, and there was no guarantee that my pregnancy would even make it to term.
Not wanting to risk another loss or another sick child, I knew that termination was the best option. But these were just my personal reasons. As evidenced by the mothers below, every person — whether they've procreated or not — has different and valid reasons for ending an unwanted pregnancy.
“I've had three abortions. The first one, I was 23, scared, had an unsupportive partner, and decided I needed to be a kid still. Abortion number two, I was 24, had the same unsupportive partner, but went through with it again because I knew that he'd be a bad dad. For the last one, I wanted to keep the baby. My partner at the time (the father of my daughter) begged me not to have the baby, said that my life was in his hands, so I told him, ‘Fine, I'll do it this time, but I'm never aborting again.’”
“I had an abortion when I was 18. I already had a small child I was struggling to care for while I was trying to leave an abusive partner. It was not a hard decision for me because I knew it was the best decision I could make for my son and myself at the time. The hardest part was when the crisis pregnancy center I received my pregnancy test from tried to bully me into carrying the pregnancy to term.
Only when I lied and said I would not get an abortion did they let me leave, (after giving me a pair of tiny baby shoes, I might add). It was humiliating and degrading. At the time I had no clue, I was just looking to get a free pregnancy test and resources to get an abortion. The title of those places were so misleading with names like 'Birth Choice.'”
“I'm the mother of two. I've [had] two abortions. The first was when I was 15. The second was when I was 25. Both times, I felt so trapped by my body, and so ill-prepared for parenting. At 30, I became a mother. I was ready. I have no regrets. The same man that was with me at 15 became my kids' father at 30. We were able to live, grow, and be ready to be good parents. He has no regrets either.”
“As a 20-something-year-old woman, with aspirations and ambitions and my media career taking off, there was no way I was going to be a youngish, single mother in New York City. At the time, I was working as a magazine editor, having already risen in the masthead from editorial assistant to production editor. I got pregnant by a man who I was casually dating/sleeping with, i.e. not ‘husband material.’
At the time, I didn’t even consider keeping the pregnancy, but in the intervening years I have often fantasized about ‘what if.’ If I kept the pregnancy, I would have a 25-year-old child. If I kept that pregnancy, would I have ended up with the man I married and the child we consciously chose to have?”
“I had an abortion because my pregnancy was ectopic. I was date raped in 2013 and took Plan B within hours to prevent anything from happening. I tried to move on with my life. I had sporadic bleeding that I thought was two separate periods. I started having a lot of abdominal pain with the bleeding, and went to my doctor to see if I was having some sort of adverse reaction to the Plan B. He told me that morning that I was pregnant, and that more than likely my body was already miscarrying.
I went to my OB-GYN a couple of hours later and they reinforced the news that I was pregnant, and that I needed an ultrasound immediately. They told me I needed to start preparing to decide whether or not I was going to keep it. Both doctors warned me of the extremely slight risk that the pregnancy was ectopic, but didn't pay it much attention.
From the OB-GYN, I went to the ultrasound office. Several technicians and doctors poked around for what seemed like an eternity before telling me that I had an ectopic pregnancy in my right fallopian tube and it was hemorrhaging into my abdomen. They told me I had to be rushed to the ER immediately. After hours of doctors contemplating what to do, they sent me down to the maternity area of the hospital and decided to treat me with methotrexate, a chemotherapy that can be used to abort a fetus growing in the wrong area.”
“[I was] too young, still in high school. I couldn't support a kid and go to school. It wasn't even a choice. I just knew no right away. I never had a single regret. I was able to go to college, get a (good) job, meet and marry someone successful. Meanwhile, I would have been single, in a codependent relationship that was toxic, and likely would have ended up in a break-up as it did anyway. Single best decision of my life.”
"I was 23 when I had an abortion, fresh out of college and in a really unhealthy relationship. My at-the-time boyfriend and I lived together, managing to survive paycheck-to-paycheck as we constantly fought. I was miserable and he was miserable, we just didn't want to admit it. Then I found out I was pregnant, and that positive pregnancy test was the magnifying glass we needed in order to examine our relationship and our individual lives. He didn't want to be a father (at least, not to any child of mine) and I didn't want to be a mother. I knew we would be horrible parents, we wouldn't work, and I would be bringing a potential child into an unstable environment.
Thanks to that abortion at 23, that toxic relationship ended, I met the love of my life and father to my now-2-year-old toddler, moved to New York City for my dream job and am financially stable enough to provide my son with the life he deserves. That abortion, and the doctors who provided it, gave me my life back, and make it possible for me to give my son the life he deserves too."