I can’t remember a time that I wasn’t pro-choice. It never occurred to me to be anything other than a supporter of reproductive rights. Being raised by a family of nurses with few boundaries, there was always talk about birth control, pregnancy, abortion and birth in our house. As I got older, I understood more about the conversations going on at the dinner table. Although my Grandmother was a faithful Catholic, she supported birth control and safe, legal abortion. My mom told stories of her pre-Roe v. Wade college years when she would take friends for illegal abortions. She talked about how frightening it was just to be ‘the friend’ of the woman getting the abortion.
They’d brought us into a little room and made us lock our purses in a box to make sure we couldn’t leave. Then they took my friend into the other room. I don’t think they used anesthesia because I could hear her cry out. I was so scared. It seemed like she was in there forever. When she came out, she was drenched in sweat and pale. The people threatened us to keep our mouths shut and shoved us out of the building. I thought she might die on the car ride home. She didn’t, but it took her weeks to recover physically.
Even worse was when we would go over the border to Mexico. We didn’tspeak the language. The rooms seemed so dirty. I was afraid we would be caught and arrested. My friend ended up getting an infection and I had to take her to the ER. She was in the hospital for a few days. After that, if anyone went to Mexico for an abortion, we tried to get one of the guys from the med school to give them antibiotics before we went down there.
After hearing stories like that, not only did I want to ensure that abortion remained safe, legal and accessible, but I wanted to try and prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place. As a teenager, I pestered my friends, who I knew were sexually active, to use birth control. I made appointments for them at Planned Parenthood, I took them to their appointments, and I even bought condoms and sponges for them if they were too embarrassed to do it for themselves.
While in nursing school, I had no health insurance. Planned Parenthood was the only healthcare I had. It was at that time that I first encountered anti-choice protesters. I had found a lump in my breast and made an appointment to get it checked at my local clinic. I was terrified I had cancer and I had to endure harassment from people who knew nothing of my plight. They assumed I wanted an abortion. They yelled horrible things at me. Those vile people made one of the scariest times of my life worse. Everything turned out fine for me and I started working at an abortion clinic a few months later.