Sharing abortion stories at Speakout aims to reduce shame and stigma

“For too long…stigma and shame have been used to silence people who have had abortions,” said Julia Reticker-Flynn, associate director of youth organizing and mobilization at Advocates for Youth. “One of the reasons for the silence around abortion is that people are afraid of being judged.”

No kidding. I could only name one friend who had an abortion, but a request on Facebook revealed startling truths when half a dozen women, some of whom I had known for decades, told me their stories. . As one wrote, “Why would anyone talk about it? It’s just too emotional of an issue and no one feels good about it, even though they’ve chosen it as the best option. Plus, we live in such a conservative, male-driven society.

The women will talk about their abortion on Thursday, and I spoke with two of them. Here are their stories:

When Marycruz Figueroa told friends and family about her abortion, she said one person lambasted her. “You should never have said that to me or anyone, it’s something you take to your grave.”

Figueroa wants people to understand why she made her decision. “I knew when I saw the plus sign [on the home pregnancy test]I knew I wasn’t going to have the baby,” said the 24-year-old, who lives in South Carolina and works as a producer and project manager for an independent production company.

She wasn’t ready to become a mother, emotionally or financially, she said, and her partner was still in college.

Figueroa had stopped taking the pill due to side effects and admits having sex without contraception was “an irresponsible decision”. But she tried to fix that mistake by making “the most responsible decision for all parties involved”.

She lives where there is nearby access to abortion services, but she had to walk past protesters outside the building. It was “overwhelming,” she said, and one of them kept yelling, “You don’t have to do this!”

Yet her decision was made before she walked through the door. She kept a picture of the ultrasound, but at six weeks and three days the fetus “looked like a dot,” she said.

After the procedure, Figueroa felt a sense of relief as well as a “little bit of sadness,” but “the sadness I felt is not the same as regret,” she said. . “I have no doubts, no regrets.”

Her other point, she stressed, is that her decision doesn’t make her a selfish person: “My well-being matters.” She worried about the risks to her mental health in carrying a child and giving it up for adoption. She wanted to wait until she was ready to be a mother, which would benefit both her and her child.

“I’m not my abortion,” she said. “I have wants and needs, fears and hurts…when you’re ashamed, when you stigmatize the woman who has an abortion, you only add to the pain.”

Figueroa will tell his story around 5:50 p.m. Eastern Thursday during the Speakout.

“There’s a lot of gray in what seems like a black-and-white problem,” Julie Bindeman, a psychologist in Rockville, Maryland, said of her experiences. She tells her story at 1:10 p.m. Eastern Time during Speakout.

She and her husband wanted to have another child when their son was a year and a half old. She got pregnant easily, but miscarried at eight weeks. It was “pretty terrible”, she said, so in the next pregnancy she worried during the first trimester, but all the routine screenings were normal.

Until the 20-week ultrasound, where she and her husband would find out if they were having a girl or another boy.

“It was the Friday before Thanksgiving,” she recalls. They were told it was a boy, but to go to the OB office.

“The doctor’s first words were ‘I’m so sorry,'” Bindeman said. She thought the doctor was talking about the sex of the baby, as Bindeman had hoped for a girl.

No, the fetus had a serious brain abnormality called ventriculomegaly involving overgrown ventricles that caused cerebrospinal fluid to build up, leaving no room for normal brain development. A flurry of appointments with specialists and additional tests, including a fetal MRI, followed.

His choices ? Terminate the pregnancy or carry it to term and either have a stillborn child or have a child with the developmental quality of life of a two-month-old child. Going through the pregnancy would mean a C-section, which carries risks for the mother, and Bindeman pointed out that she already had a child who needed her.

“It was a pretty dark picture,” Bindeman said. Based on the expected quality of life – if the child even survived – she and her husband decided to terminate the pregnancy.

But that was in 2009 and Dr. George Tiller, who had specialized in late-term abortions, was shot and killed at his church in Wichita, Kansas. The only doctor in Maryland who performed late abortions had stopped practicing after his murder.

“I couldn’t get a surgical abortion in my state,” she said. So, at almost 22 weeks, she suffered an induced labor and delivery.

Bindeman was assured the severe deformity was “a total fluke”, so she and her husband tried again after five months.

“It was a very anxious pregnancy,” she said, and a routine scan at 17 weeks showed the same brain abnormality occurring.

“Once again we had to make a heartbreaking decision,” Bindeman said. “And she was our daughter, so that was an added layer of heartbreak.”

She was able to get an abortion at 18 weeks.

More trials. No more doctor appointments. They came to the conclusion that a combination of recessive genes had caused the defects and that each pregnancy had a 25% chance of it happening again, but Bindeman wanted more children.

His story has a happy ending. In July 2011 she gave birth to “a healthy daughter” and in June 2013 she had another son.

She changed her practice from psychology to one specializing in reproductive loss and trauma. “I’m very lucky to have the outcome we were hoping for with healthy, living children,” Bindeman, now 36, said.

For the sake of accuracy, I dispute the “one in three” figure, which refers to data indicating that one in three women will have an abortion during their childbearing years.

That was true in the early 2000s, explained Megan Kavanaugh, senior research associate at the Guttmacher Institute. She co-authored a study, based on data from 2008 and published in 2011, which found that “nearly one in three women” or, more precisely, one in three and one-third, or three in 10 , women will have an abortion. .

But these sentences do not have the same punch as one out of three.

With the drop in abortions, that number could be closer to one in four.

But maybe it doesn’t really matter whether it’s one in three or one in four. The women who made this decision want the world to realize that this is their decision to make. By sharing their stories, they hope to be viewed as individuals, not just statistics.

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