Let me preface this by saying I am pro-choice.
Pro-choice is different than pro-abortion. Being pro-choice doesn't mean I would definitely get an abortion, nor does it mean I actively want one. It means I want the choice. I think women should always be allowed to decide what happens to their bodies. It's not women's rights — it's fundamental human rights.
When Alabama's government voted to criminalize abortion in the state and ban the procedure in almost every case (including rape and incest), the backlash was immense. Women across the country are sharing their abortion stories and speaking out against the new, harsh law with #YouKnowMe.
I was inspired. For so long, there has been a stigma attached to abortion — a stigma that silences women for simply choosing what was best for their lives and health. Abortion is a personal choice, but women across the country are talking about it like never before.
I decided to do a survey on abortion. Most responses were pro-choice; it would be remiss to exclude the pro-life comments I received, although they made up a small minority (less than 12%), which is reflected in the comments. Age of the participants and geographical location may have been factors in the results, as well. Disclaimers aside, the comments I got appear indicative of the passion and desire for change that has been exhibited by the rest of the nation.
I asked 100 women their opinions on abortion. Here's what they said.
— Of the respondents, only 6% of them had had an abortion
— 68% know someone who has had an abortion
— only 10% were due to medical necessity, the others were due to the inability to raise and care for a child
— 84% would consider abortion a viable option for themselves
— 77% know where to get safe abortions in their state
— only 62% know their options for abortion
Do you have an abortion story to share?
"A friend of mine had an abortion and, in the process, had an allergic reaction to one of the pain medications. Other than that, it was a positive experience and she does not regret it, as she did not have the means… to raise a child. Another friend of mine had an abortion as a result of rape; having a child on top of dealing with the trauma would have been horrible."
"My mom had an abortion before I was born due to financial reasons, not being able to support a child, and my dad not wanting kids. When I was younger, I was mad about it — I really wanted a sibling — but as I've gotten older, I've realized that she struggled feeding me, let alone another [child]. We were very poor, and honestly too poor for her to have kids, period."
"My aunt recently told me that she got an abortion at 18 after the very first time she had sex and didn't tell anyone because it was even more taboo than it is now. She's glad she didn't keep the baby because then she would've had to stay with the boyfriend who got her pregnant and wouldn't have met my uncle and had my cousins later in life when she was actually ready and enthusiastic about having children."
"My brother is adopted and I still support abortions. You can advocate for better foster care systems [and] adoptions, and still be pro-choice!"
How does Alabama's abortion law make you feel?
"Disgusted. Why are men deciding what women do with their bodies?"
"The law is unethical and functions as nothing but an attack on women, as it puts us in danger, takes away rights, and leaves men's roles out of the discussion. The law assumes women are the only advocates of the right to abort, even though many men view this as a viable option, punishing only women for a decision potentially made by both parties."
"It's really an attack on women."
"It's frustrating for me to have close friends that live in states that have harsher laws because it is [becoming] increasingly difficult to get the medical attention they need."
"I feel like it's a great law. They are protecting the life of an innocent baby, but also allowing for some instances when an abortion is medically necessary to be able to happen... We need to stand up and protect the most innocent life among us. Ending someone's life should never be someone else's choice or right."
"Livid. Shocked. Disappointed. Annoyed. Is this even real life?"
"I'm pretty much just hopeless and resigned. I'm glad I live in Washington state, I'm glad I have insurance, I'm glad I have an IUD. If I hadn't already committed to the idea of a Ph.D., this would make me go to law school."
"Pro-lifers only care about having control… they don't give a fuck about the women and they don't give a fuck about the children. They just want to control what we do."
"As someone who believes that abortion is murder, carried out mostly for selfish reasons (rape and incest make up a very small portion of abortions), I like the statement that Alabama values the lives of children… I think the best way to legally approach abortion is to limit it [to a certain number of weeks], stop funding abortion clinics, or make it more difficult to receive an abortion."
"I think it is sad that women can't have a right over their bodies! Especially if they were raped."
"To be blunt, it is fucking horrific."
"It scares me. While I'm not sure I would ever get an abortion, not having the choice and having abortion be criminalized is terrifying."
"I would be for it if women and their children were completely supported."
"…it's made by a bunch of old, white men who have no business policing women's healthcare and probably don't even understand basic anatomy. I feel this is incredibly regressive."
What do you think will happen where abortion is illegal?
"I think back alley abortions will become more common, and more women will be put in danger due to unsafe medical practices. I also think it will send a message and set a precedent about restricting the rights of women."
"I think the [number] of abortions will decrease but it will still happen and be dangerous."
"Women will end up having to secretly go to another state or perform one themselves."
"… without clinics and professional medical help, these abortions will be extremely risky and will prove to be a significant threat to these women's lives."
"Doctors will not be allowed to oversee abortions. Some women may attempt [it] on their own. However, I think overall the abortion rate will decrease."
"I think there will be a rise in teenage pregnancies, female death, children born into poverty, and children being brought into the foster care system."
"… women's rights will take a huge step backwards. We will continue to make cents on the dollar, and old white men will continue to feel that they have the right to make decisions for women."
Why do you think abortion should be legal?
"My beliefs/religion shouldn't be imposed on others. It's none of my business what people choose to do."
"Life is more than a collection of cells. I believe defining life this way is destructive to personal autonomy and strips life of meaning."
"For a woman to have the choice over her own life. Most women don't use abortions as a form of birth control, but rather a way to save her own life... or the child's potential life."
"To try and appeal to more conservative views, abortions are never going to stop happening, so if they're going to happen, why [wouldn't] you want it to be as safe as possible?"
"Women have the right to choose. However, it depends… if the baby is already full term then I don't think abortion should be allowed in that context."
"Because my body is none of your fucking business, duh."
"It's about choice. Maybe you don't feel fit to be a parent… why bring a kid in the world if you're aware that the child would suffer."
"I think abortion should be legal in most cases and under most circumstances. However, I believe that very late term abortions where the baby is fully or almost-fully developed should not be legal, unless deemed a medical risk to either mother or child."
"Because [my] uterus, [my] choice. If you don't have one, it's none of your god damn business."
"Women shouldn't be forced to carry to term if they are physically or mentally unable to carry out the pregnancy. Some women cannot financially support a child."
"I think maybe in the case of rape [or] incest it should be legal. However, I believe legality and morality are separate entities and that it would still be immoral."
"Simply because it's a right to choose and there are many health, ethical, and moral reasons to choose abortion."
"My body, my choice. There shouldn't have to be a valid reason to get one. If you feel unprepared and can't care for a child or just don't want to care for a child, you shouldn't be forced to bring one into the world. Adoption isn't an option for everyone… so many kids who are in the foster care system are being abused, and women shouldn't have to put their bodies through so much pain to then go through the emotional distress of having to give their babies up."
"[Abortion should be illegal] only if it is being used as a form of birth control. Like when people just get abortions all the time because they don't want to use birth control."
"It's a woman's choice if she should sacrifice her body for a pregnancy or not."
"It's a woman's right to choose what happens in OUR bodies… I've heard of men getting women pregnant to trap them into staying in abusive situations."
"Just like being raped can take away the feeling of being safe in your own body, I know it would be awful to feel like you're mandated by the government to do something that is hurtful or physically unsafe to do."
"Rape, incest, [pregnancy] will hurt the mother, father won't support the mother and mother can't afford it. But it really isn't my place to judge — people can decide for themselves because it's their body."
What do you want to know more about regarding abortion?
"How many [abortions] are done vs. how many kids are in the foster care system."
"What are the actual costs of getting one?"
"More about the procedures."
"How abortion laws affect other aspects (birth control, sterilization surgeries, women's healthcare in general)."
"How it works, what my options are… pretty much everything. My sex ed class didn't even mention it as an option."
"Cost/what it entails."
"… the recovery process, the privacy, the care, the effects on the body and mind, and payment plans."
"If more states outlaw abortion, can there be any safe option for these patients, or does it have to be all under the table and possibly very dangerous?"
* * *
The responses I received were overwhelmingly candid. Women were honest about their experiences and fears and didn't hold back. The fierceness of their solidarity and the honesty in their answers reminded me of the start of the "Me Too" era (something I wrote about then and received the same passion and honesty as when I spoke to women this month).
I cannot say with any certainty when the controversy over abortion will end, or if it ever will, but I do know this — women will continue to support one another, especially when their rights as human beings are at stake.
To the women who participated in my survey, thank you.