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My Abortion


Michelle, 62
New York, 1968
It was November. I’d just graduated high school and was working, going to college at night, living with my mother in Queens. I didn’t believe I could tell my mother without her killing me. At work, a wonderful older guy, a father figure, told me about a doctor on the Upper East Side. I had to go late at night and pay $800, a fortune at the time. My father died when I was 5, and from a wrongful-death suit I’d inherited $1,000. That money was very special to me, one of the only things I had from my father, and it made me feel like a criminal that I had to spend that money that way. I was four months pregnant. The doctor inserted a metal tube and said I’d be uncomfortable. The attending nurse said, “You’ll never have children after this.” I was to return the next night, with clear instructions not to call the office. On the subway ride home, I could feel the blood seeping through my jeans. I was so relieved to be wearing a coat so I didn’t leave blood on the seat. When I took off my jeans, blood covered my thighs. I couldn’t let the sheets get bloody, so I wrapped towels around me and stayed in bed, with incredibly painful cramping. I realize now that I was in labor. I thought I might die there in my apartment. In retrospect, I should’ve gone to the hospital, but I thought I would be arrested. It’s such a horrific thought that anyone should feel that alone again.

Alex, 24
New York, 2006 and 2012
I’m pro-choice, but for some reason I still hold a stigma for people who’ve had multiple abortions, and yet I’ve had multiple. The second time I was ashamed of becoming “one of those people,” although I know that thinking is wrong. When I was 17, the toughest part was being asked if I wanted to see the ultrasound. That was the first time it was really presented to me, real. I went on birth control right after, but it gave me mood swings, made me feel terrible, so after a couple of years I went off it. The second time was harder because I got pregnant with my boyfriend. We’d been using protection. I was in my twenties, more prepared to take responsibility, but he’s from a strict Muslim family, and a child would’ve meant immediate marriage or maybe him going home. My boyfriend couldn’t comprehend my shame of having to go through it again. He’s used to girls having to hide things. I took the pill overnight, hunched in bed, cramping unbelievably, and he sat up with me all night. Well, I think he fell asleep once, but I woke him up. I went to work the next day. I think a lot of girls in my circle look at each other and think no one else has gone through it. It does affect you. Sometimes you regret and sometimes you feel good. You think, The baby would be a year old now.