Two Lawrence women who faced unintended pregnancies in their 30s — one in a thriving, long-term marriage and the other in the midst of a toxic and abusive relationship — shared their personal accounts of terminating their pregnancies by abortion.
There was nothing easy or simple about the decisions they faced, but years later, they feel certain they made the right ones for their personal and family situations.
The women, referred to as Lynette and Autumn, shared their stories on the condition that we would not use their real names or certain identifying information in this article.
Today, Lynette has been happily married for more than 25 years. The mother of two children, she said it felt like her “stomach dropped” a decade ago when she received a positive pregnancy test. She cried as she told her husband the news.
Lynette had experienced a traumatic birth during their second child’s delivery and had resolved to not have any more children. On top of that, the couple already managed a full plate after years of parenting a child with special needs.
“So many doctors appointments, so many questions, so few answers.”
The possibility of parenting another child with special needs terrified her, she said. And with so much of the couple’s focus on their child with special needs, Lynette already struggled with guilt about “not giving enough attention” to their other child, whom she described as typically developing.
Feeling the pressure, Lynette’s concerns grew not only about the impact raising another child would have on their family but also on her mental well-being.
“I knew for myself, that I could not, for my own mental health.”
Lynette’s husband stood with her.
“My husband was very supportive in that, ‘I’m gonna do whatever you want to do. Whatever you want to do is what we will do and I’ll support you, whatever you say.’ And he suggested that I try to call somebody, so I called my sister.”
Autumn was in her early 30s when she learned of her pregnancy — her first and only. She and her ex had “kind of ended things right before” the news.
“He was very charming, very loving at first, and then just the most hateful, angry, awful person you have ever seen.”
Autumn estimated she had probably seen him a dozen times during their brief relationship. She described an unhealthy relationship wrought with emotional abuse, including threats of suicide.
“He would beg me for money, tell me that I was making too much money. And I wasn’t working hard to make the kind of money that I was making.”
Now in her mid-30s, Autumn looks back on the situation and feels very grateful to have made it out of the relationship safe and alive. She recounted how the thought of having an abortion six weeks into the pregnancy brought her sadness, but the idea of having him in her life forever scared her.
“I told him that I didn’t want to. But I also told him I didn’t want him in my life anymore.”
Autumn said she hadn’t realized how bad the relationship really was until it ended.
“The wool has been pulled in front of my eyes. And now I see everything very clearly, and this is even more messed up than I thought,” she said. “And obviously, I would never be getting child support out of that.”
In a personal essay she wrote about her abortion, published below, Autumn described hearing her ex-boyfriend’s voice replay in her head during her appointment at the abortion clinic.
“I can’t and I won’t be a father right now. And you can’t do it by yourself because you travel for work.”
Despite the latest research that shows abortion is a common occurrence with as many as 1 in 4 U.S. women having had at least one abortion by the age of 45, the stigma of the health care procedure persists.
For Lynette, religion enhanced that stigma. At the time she learned of her pregnancy she described herself as a “very faithful churchgoer and religious woman.”
“In my mind, I thought if I chose to end the pregnancy I was a horrible person.”
Those feelings spawned a decade of secrecy.
“There are only three people that know I had an abortion. I don’t want the judgment.”
Lynette’s sister, whom she confided in and also described as religious, tried to waylay the shame often placed on women who seek abortion care.
“My sister goes, ‘You get that out of your mind right now, because this has nothing to do with the church or anybody else. This is you. So whatever the church may say, whatever other people may say, you can ignore that, because this is you. And you have to do what is best for you.’ And that was what got me to the point where I thought, ‘OK, this is what I have to do.’ So, it was OK.”
Lynette sought an abortion nearly 11 weeks into the pregnancy. Afterward, self-criticism and doubt invaded her thoughts. The year following the abortion proved very difficult on her mental health.
“I felt like if people knew I had done that, they would just ostracize me. So I would just leave the church service. And I literally would go sit in my car and cry.”
The latest Pew Research Survey on abortion views showed 61% of those polled agreed abortion should be legal, but it revealed division among religious lines.
“Nearly three-quarters of white evangelicals (74%) say it should be illegal in all or most cases, while 24% say it should be legal in at least most cases,” the researchers wrote.
Those identified as religiously unaffiliated overwhelmingly supported legal abortion, according to the survey. More than 84% said it should remain legal in all or most cases.
Lynette’s family left the church shortly after her abortion — not because of that, but ultimately because of their church’s failure to uphold the rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community. She said the judgment and hypocrisy she witnessed soured her views on organized religion and interrupted her connection with God.
“You know, a relationship is there, but it is not near as strong as it was. The organized religion, I really want nothing to do with it at this point.”
Kansans now have a constitutionally protected right to abortion; however, a proposed amendment to the state’s constitution on the Aug. 2 ballot could open the door for the Kansas Legislature to change that, if passed. Proponents of the amendment — including some religious organizations encouraging their membership to vote “yes” — refer to it as “Value Them Both.”
“That bothers me a lot. Because I think there should be a separation of church and state. And I think when they do that, there is no separation. I think that it is judgment. I don’t have a whole lot of faith in the Christian community now.”
Lynette shared how she would vote on the proposed change and why.
“I am voting no on August 2 because I absolutely think that women should have the right to control their own bodies. I don’t think that a group of older people in Washington D.C. has any right to tell a person, a woman, what they can and cannot do with their bodies. That’s wrong in my book.
“I’ll vote no. I encourage everybody else to vote no, but I don’t think that it’s up to a group of people that don’t know an individual’s circumstances to decide what that person should do with their body.”
Autumn grew up in central Kansas in a family she called conservative.
Around her family, she said, “to be loud and proud about what I believe in is difficult.” When she came to Lawrence, her passion for social justice grew.
And although she has not shared her abortion story with her family, in her daily life, she lives her truth more openly. She donates monthly to Planned Parenthood and attends reproductive justice events.
Now working as a hairstylist in a college town, Autumn meets young clients who sit in her chair for an extended amount of time. She chats with them, gets to know them, and sometimes changes hearts and minds by showing clients a real view of someone who sought and successfully received safe and effective reproductive health care.
One of the best compliments ever given to her, she said, came from a recent college grad who had grown up with a similar family background.
Autumn recounted what he told her. He had started to “open his mind about a lot of different things” but still “wasn’t sure how to feel about abortion. And you looked me directly in the eyes and said, ‘And you’ll never have to.’”
He told Autumn he remembered the passion in her eyes when she told him how dangerous it was for women to not have access to abortion.
“And he was like, ‘I really didn’t have an opinion. And I kind of still thought it was kind of wrong. At home that night I started Googling some of the statistics that you told me. And I realized that you were right. It is dangerous to not have access to abortion health care.’”
Both women terminated their pregnancies through the abortion pill. Known as medication abortion, the two-drug process involves oral medication taken during the appointment and another prescribed medication 24-48 hours later.
In Kansas, medication abortion can be administered up to 77 days — or 11 weeks — after the first day of a pregnant person’s last menstrual period.
The process can be painful. The medications cause cramping and bleeding — similar to an early miscarriage. For Autumn, it was the most physical pain she had endured.
Until her third pregnancy, Lynette supported the protection of abortion, but only in certain circumstances such as an unviable fetus, rape, incest or to protect the health of a pregnant person.
“Well, honestly, then my circumstance came along,” she said. “There is more to having a baby. It’s the physical health, but it’s also mental health and emotional health. And mental health is just as important as physical health.”
After a year wracked with guilt from the abortion, Lynette started allowing herself more compassion.
“And I have gotten to the point now, where I know that I did what was best for me. Other people have chosen a different route, but I did what was best for me.”
She hopes telling her story will help quell some of the myths about abortion. Lynette said her personal experience had shown her women do not use abortion as a method of birth control, nor do those who choose abortion approach the situation lightly.
“Sometimes I think that people have these mindsets, and I don’t think they’re right,” she said. “I think that there’s going to be sadness for anybody that’s having one.”
And, Lynette said, it’s not just single people who need access to abortion. Estimates showed in 2014 about 14% of those who obtained an abortion were married, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health care research group.
“I read somewhere that if you don’t know anybody that had an abortion, then that really just means that you weren’t trusted with that information.”
For Autumn, the memories of the abuse and the trauma of the abortion are intertwined.
“It’s just been really traumatic,” she said. “It changed me for sure. I put on some weight after that, due to depression.”
She has since lost those pounds and takes better care of herself with regular exercise, but she rarely dates. Thinking about the abortion still makes her sad. She realizes those who haven’t been in her position might have difficulty understanding her perspective.
“I can’t imagine thinking that anybody who has made that decision, that it’s an easy decision. And while I don’t have any regret, it still was a very difficult decision,” Autumn said. “I know that I made the right choice. Absolutely. For me.”
Autumn expressed appreciation for the doctors and nurses who helped her during her experience at Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood Great Plains. She said the staff there provided care and support during a time when she felt sick and alone and wasn’t allowed to bring her phone inside to communicate with loved ones.
“In the clinic, it really was a good experience. A lot of compassion from the nurses, from the doctors, and I just can’t imagine how hard that is, day in, day out. Don’t get me wrong. I know they do other services there. I just have so much gratitude towards the people that work there.”
In case it might help others, she recommended patients copy down some of the phone numbers from their contacts before their appointment in order to designate accurate emergency contact information on the medical forms. And patients should be prepared to encounter protesters as they enter and exit the clinic.
“Not having a phone when you’re in there, it is kind of scary, but I understand why they have to do that,” she said.
Autumn encourages voters to vote no on the Aug. 2 proposed amendment.
“Oh, I’ve been loud and proud — vote no. We’ve got the bumper sticker. I have a sticker on my mirror in the salon,” she laughed. “We’re voting no.”
Read Autumn’s personal story below:Autumns-story-Google-Docs
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The “Value Them Both” amendment would pave the way to a complete ban of abortion in Kansas despite language implying otherwise, panelists said Saturday. If the majority votes “yes” in August, legislators could ban abortions even in cases of rape, incest, and risk of death.