I was 16 years old and realized I couldn’t remember my last period. I heard that the drug store tests were rarely accurate and was afraid to waste the money. Looking in the yellow pages (this is 1987), I saw a Planned Parenthood ad for a free pregnancy test and called. The testing center was far away and I didn’t have a car. But, they had a volunteer that would give me a ride. I made arrangements to be picked up at a convenience store near my boyfriend’s house.
When they told me I was pregnant at 10 weeks, I didn’t know how to react. I just said I needed to go outside and have a cigarette. I paced back and forth for several minutes. My boyfriend just watched me.
The Planned Parenthood Center was under a federal mandate and couldn’t discuss abortion options with me. They gave me a counselor’s phone number, several brochures and offered a room full of baby items to choose from. I went home in a daze.
I did not want to carry a baby to term, let alone raise one. I was a mess-up kid. My boyfriend slowly pulled away from me. He didn’t share any thoughts, and was relieved when I mentioned abortion.
Not that I need to give any explanation, but I was a 16 year old kid. I had struggled thru my parent’s nasty divorce, an alcoholic father, 2 rapes, and a suicide attempt. I felt trapped. I couldn’t tell my friends, not that I had many. But, I didn’t even confide in my closest friend. I just couldn’t talk about it. I was scared it would become known all over school. I knew if word got out that I was getting an abortion, that I would be caste out. I already went thru that at my last school with slut-shaming. And I wasn’t going to let it happen again. The only person I would talk to was the counselor that Planned Parenthood referred me to. I would call and just cry on the phone. I can’t do this. I can’t even manage my own life. How can this happen to me? She would listen, offer hope and ask me questions. These calls got me thru the shock.
When I was ready to approach my mom, she didn’t want to talk about it either. When I told her I needed an abortion. Her reaction was pretty much. “OK, you can use your savings account to pay for it.” She didn’t offer any comfort. My older sister told me where her friend went for the procedure, and I booked an appointment.
It was obvious I disappointed my mom. A voice in my head told me I did a horrible thing. If it wasn’t horrible, I would be able to talk about it openly. Not long afterwards, my boyfriend left me for someone else (who he was cheating on me with).
Today, I’m 41 years old. I’m still at peace with the choice I made. I have no regrets and I am finally no longer ashamed. I made a decision for me and my body and it was the right thing to do at the time.
However, I would never wish for anyone to feel so alone and scared as I did. That is why I volunteer at my local Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood offered me a free, safe pregnancy test. They actually had a volunteer come and pick me up. They gave me consulting help, when I was so confused. They gave me someone on the other end of the phone line. I am so very grateful for their support thru such a difficult time in my life.
I’m also no longer ashamed to attach my photo and name to this story. We need to break abortion stigma. Abortion is part of basic health care and it should be safe, accessible and affordable for all!
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