‘The right choice for me’: North Carolina residents share their abortion stories

LR featured photo: Myra Dancy Doyle, Natasha Smith, Abby Catoe and Autumn M. (courtesy photos)

In Mississippi, people are eagerly waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on a case that could limit abortions to the first 15 weeks of pregnancy. In Texas, lawmakers have already imposed a six-week abortion ban.

Now in North Carolina, people are watching the news and their social media feeds as state lawmakers introduce copycat legislation with similar abortion restrictions. The bills are called “trigger laws,” meaning that if the Supreme Court decides to change precedent on abortion access, they will almost certainly become law. An example of this is HB 31, which prohibits the abortion of any fetus with a beating heart.

TCA spoke with five North Carolina residents who shared stories about their own abortions. Each of their experiences was different, but all five explained that they did not regret their decision and that it was their choice to make. Some people have only been identified by their first name for reasons of confidentiality.

Myra Dancy Doyle (courtesy photo)

On December 3, Myra Dancy Doyle was angry. She was angry reading the news; she was angry listening to conversations about who deserves an abortion and who doesn’t; and she was angry at the nine Supreme Court justices who were debating whether or not to strike down Roe vs. Wade.

So Doyle turned to Facebook.

“I’m one of those women who had to get triggered early to save my life,” she wrote. “My granddaughters, yes that’s plural, all died in utero and poisoned me. This happened in four different pregnancies. In some states I would have been forced to carry to term, even though I had developed sepsis.” Sepsis, or blood poisoning, can develop with some miscarriages.

Her Facebook status drew overwhelmingly positive responses, but Doyle says she didn’t care anyway.

“People need to know,” she said. “Women have had abortions since time immemorial. And if we don’t have the medical procedure, we’ll go back to hangers in the alleys. More women will die.

As long as his rights are debated by the federal government, Doyle will remain angry. Both a sociologist and a Christian, she says those who call themselves pro-life do not consider the life of the mother.

As a mother of two sons, ages 30 and 23, Doyle stressed how important it was for her to have an open dialogue with her children early on. Her sons learned about safer sex when they were eight years old, and they know about Doyle’s abortions, all of which took place between their births.

“For me, I had to reconcile the fact that my life as a mother to my living child was what prevailed,” she said.

Natasha Smith (courtesy photo)

Natasha Smith considers herself lucky. When she needed an abortion, she was able to get one at Planned Parenthood in Greensboro. She was in law school at the time caring for a mother with a terminal autoimmune disease. Having a child was not an option then, she said.

Seven years later, she had her son. Now, she says, she feels rage every time she sees someone threatening abortion rights.

“When Trump got elected and we knew he was going to do everything he could to pack the court, I went to get an IUD,” she said. “Having given birth the IUD was still ridiculously painful that after three attempts to put it in I had to stop because I was in so much pain.”

If abortion hadn’t been legal in North Carolina when she needed it, Smith said, “I probably would have been willing to drive as far as I had to. There was a part of me that was trying to find a way to see if it was possible to have this child, and there was no way. There was no mental gymnastics I could come up with that made sense.

“I liked being pregnant when I wanted to be pregnant,” she added. “It all comes with being pregnant, if that’s not a choice I can’t imagine how awful it would be. I can’t imagine giving birth if you didn’t want to. It’s not not something I would put on anyone.

As a queer, non-binary person, Jess said she’s used to people saying nasty things about her. Still, seeing the abortion debate on social media over the past few weeks has been difficult for them.

“I never planned to have kids and never wanted to give birth, even though I work with kids and love them,” Jess said. When they found out they were pregnant, Jess said: ‘I immediately went looking for places where you can get an abortion. It was never even a question.

Planned Parenthood of Asheville was their only local option, but there was a long wait. They traveled to Charlotte and Greensboro and found a faster appointment at the clinic in Greensboro.

“I feel very privileged to have been able to drive somewhere, and also to have been able to afford it,” they said. “I went there the day after payday. I was living paycheck to paycheck at the time. I had just acquired a new car a few months before. What if I still had my old car that couldn’t drive that far? »

Jess met all kinds of people in the waiting room, some of whom had previous abortions and others who already had children. Inside, an excused nurse told Jess all about their other options, including adoption. Then they offered to show Jess the ultrasound pictures.

In North Carolina, it is not mandatory to show people having an abortion their ultrasound pictures, but it used to be. It is the law in several other states.

“It wasn’t difficult for me,” they said. “It wasn’t something I dwelled on, but I know it’s for others.”

If abortion hadn’t been an option for Jess, they say they would have traveled elsewhere.

“I wasn’t going to give birth,” they said. “It wasn’t an option for me. I’m originally from Illinois, so I probably could have gone, but I don’t know if I could have done it financially at the time. I had some just enough because I had just been paid, but to drive or fly, I don’t know if that would have been possible, I couldn’t afford to miss work.

Autumn M. (courtesy photo)

For Autumn M., being a mother has only reinforced how important it is that people have the right to terminate their pregnancies.

“Being a mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone who doesn’t,” she said. “I was raised by a mother who didn’t want me, and I know what it is. The only reason I’m able to be a capable, loving mother now is because I had my abortions.

Autumn became a mother almost three years ago. She wants abortion to be accessible in case her daughter needs it in the future.

Autumn had three abortions – one in Alabama, North Carolina and one in Maryland. Each time, she said, she was in bad shape with her mental health and unable to protect herself against unwanted pregnancies.

This second abortion, which she had in Charlotte, happened after she ran away from a relationship in which she had been abused since she was 18. She was 22 or 23 at the time and found herself in another abusive relationship. She was pregnant within the first six months.

“It was like a reality check,” she said. “It was a, Oh fuck, I have to get out of here. I made the decision to end at about eight or nine weeks. I went to the clinic in Charlotte. I don’t remember how I paid for it. I remember there were no escorts at the clinic at the time.

If she got pregnant now, Autumn said, she would absolutely have another abortion.

“I remember before my second, I was Google ‘home abortion methods’ and I remember reading calcium overdose was one of them,” she said. “I can’t say that I wouldn’t try a very dangerous method if I couldn’t access it. I also know you can get the abortion pill online, and that would probably be my first choice.

“It’s like any medical decision,” she continued. “You don’t have to take it lightly. I didn’t take any of mine lightly. I made the right choice for me, not for anyone else.

Abby Catoe (courtesy photo)

Abby Catoe was 15 for her first abortion and 16 for her second.

“Both times it was unplanned and I was way too young to have a baby,” she said. “I chose to end the pregnancies and I made the decision on my own.”

Catoe was able to get both abortions in Winston-Salem in the 1970s. It was a decision she didn’t take lightly, but ultimately decided she had to do for herself.

Today Catoe has two daughters and grandchildren of both. One of her daughters also had an abortion at the age of 18 or 19.

“I remember going to the clinic with her and I kept crying and crying about losing my grandchild,” she said. “But I understood why she needed to do this. She now has a son whom she loves very much and I can’t imagine how his life would have been different.

Catoe says she would have had a lot of love and support had she had a child so young, but her life would have been very different.

“My family was not a family that valued education,” she said. “We were very poor. I think I would have been stuck in this cycle of poor single mothers not getting an education and it would have continued.

Today, Catoe is a Christian pastor at First Christian Church in Walnut Cove as well as a supporter of Planned Parenthood and pro-choice movements. She has listened to Supreme Court hearings when she can and struggles to understand the opposition.

“They kept dodging the questions put to them by the Supreme Court justices,” she said. “I understand how people feel the way they do about taking a life at this point. It’s a life. I believe him. But I know that God wants the best for every person who comes into the world.

To learn more about what it’s like to have an abortion in the Triad, read our 2019 article here.

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