This item is part of POPSUGAR’s 50 states, 50 abortions, a large-scale storytelling project that aims to make the voices of people who have had abortions heard. For more information on how to find an abortion clinic near you, please visit The Cut’s abortion services search engine.
Content Warning: The following essay contains text descriptions of domestic violence.
When I missed my period in December 2011 I thought it was probably just because of stress. But then I missed my period in January and had a hunch I should take a pregnancy test. It came back positive.
I was angry that something had taken root in my body without my permission. I felt bitter and mad. I was in a abusive and traumatic relationship at the time, and I was very young – I had just turned 21. I didn’t know enough to recognize the problems I was in. Later, after the relationship ended, my ex admitted that he intentionally gave me antibiotics to mess up my birth control because he wanted to keep me in the relationship. He told me he was surprised I didn’t get pregnant. He didn’t know that I had an abortion; I didn’t tell anyone about it for a long time.
I think the only reason I have kids now is because I was able to get that health care when I needed it back then.
I knew I wanted to have an abortion. I was also finishing my high school diploma, and I couldn’t juggle that and a baby. I was enrolled in a poetry class and I vividly remember doing a writing exercise about the anger I felt about something taking hold in my body, like a flowerbed infested with weeds. And all I wanted was a diligent gardener to take care of it.
The abortion cost just over $600. I only worked part-time at university, so I didn’t have any money to spare. It was for a surgical abortion; it was already high time for me to get a medical abortion. Even if it wasn’t, I still had no money and nowhere to go for help. At the time, there was no organization like the Arkansas Abortion Support Network in the state for me to fall back on. My family was deeply religious. I couldn’t tell anyone, because then I would have to confess that I had sex before marriage, which was a big no-no. According to them, having an abortion would be like killing a baby, an even bigger no-no.
So I waited for my tax return to arrive, and when it arrived, I made my appointment. A really nice person who worked at Little Rock Family Planning Services, where I scheduled the procedure, told me I was days away from the deadline to get an abortion in Arkansas, which at the time was 25 weeks. If I was further away, I probably should have had the baby. I knew I was dangerously far away, but I didn’t know How? ‘Or’ What close I was. Before my appointment, I had drunk an espresso and randomly taken way too much ibuprofen and muscle relaxants that my handicapped mother had in the pantry, hoping that I would abort spontaneously. Now that I’m older, I realize it was dangerous and misinformed, but I was in a very scary place. (Editor’s note: Pregnant women are recommended to limit their caffeine intake, avoid ibuprofen and certain muscle relaxants, and generally consult their doctor for nutritional and medical advice.)
During the suction procedure I had a male doctor and a much older woman was in the room with me – not sure if she was a nurse. She had curly white hair and she was about my grandmother’s age. She held my hand and dabbed the sweat from my forehead, telling me how strong I was and what was happening as it happened. I felt like I had judgment coming from all over the place, so this woman’s kindness was just what I needed.
Afterwards, I was so relieved that I was no longer harboring a stowaway or something that had taken root against my will. But hormonally, I was dealing with the after effects of the abortion. I felt empty. I was relieved, but I still had to deal with the elimination of all the pregnancy hormones from my system.
My friend had come with me. She sat in the waiting room to be there for me. She lives in another state now, and we’re not as close, but I still really appreciate that she was there for me in that way. Right after leaving the clinic, we went to an On the Border, and I ordered a sangria. I realize now that drink alcohol right after is probably a very dumb idea, but I did it anyway.
It should be mentioned that the doctor who performed the procedure was able to tell me much more about my anatomy than my gynecologist at the time. The doctor informed me that I had uterine didelphia, which basically means I have a double barrel – I was born with two wombs. He said to me, “You are going to have a gynecologist examine this, because if you want a child in the future, it could cause very heavy bleeding if you have the baby naturally.” That’s why I had to have a cesarean when I had my daughter later. This doctor’s care was truly medical care in the purest sense of the word.
I think the only reason I have kids now is because I was able to get that health care when I needed it back then. And now that choice has been taken away from millions of people across the country. Maybe it will be restored, or maybe not. But a lot of people are going to die, whether by suicide, intimate partner violence, or in childbirth – people are going to die.
Today, I can be the support person I hope my daughter would have if she were in this situation. When I had my abortion, my friend and I were yelled at and harassed and called the worst possible things, both entering and leaving the clinic. It was so hard. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been a clinical escort for three years.
Things have changed with the pandemic and since Roe was knocked down – Doctors are unable to perform abortions in Arkansas at this time. (Editor’s note: The only exception to Arkansas’ near-total abortion ban is when it is necessary to save the life of the pregnant person, according to AbortionFinder.org. It is legal to go out of state for an abortion, however.) But when the clinic was open, I stood in front of the protesters to allow people to safely enter the clinic parking lot in their vehicles. I would block protesters with my umbrella and, in a calm, soft voice, ask people entering, “Hey, do you have a date? Is this your first or your second? I would give them instructions on how to enter the clinic.
When they left, I gave them follow-up instructions, which the clinic staff don’t always have time to go through. I would give them advice. Or I would tell them, “You don’t have to stop for the protesters. They have nothing to give you. I told them to be careful and that they were brave. I would reassure them that what they had done was not wrong; that they made the best choice for themselves.
If you or a loved one is experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline toll-free 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233, or text “START” to 88788 .
– Anonymous (she/her) (Arkansas), as told to Mirel Zaman
Image sources for “Click for stories from each state”: Aaron’s Unsplash / Burden, Getty / Sergii Yaremenko / Scientific Photo Library, Unsplash / Manik Roy and photographic illustration: Patricia O’Connor