Before she got an abortion last year, Bulaong Ramiz said she never saw herself as someone who would do so. But when the time came, she chose herself and her daughter, who she needed to focus on.
Now, she said she supports the right to choose more passionately than ever before.
“In my past I thought I would never have an abortion, and I was always open to people having the choice, but I never thought I would — like if I had the resources and the support there would be no reason to have an abortion,” Ramiz said.
“But I think going through my own experience, I became so adamant in the choice — choosing parenthood and choosing motherhood in the society that we live in and that being something that someone intentionally chooses, because it was only through my experience of having a child that I knew I could not have another.”
Ramiz has had three pregnancies, all of which she said taught her valuable lessons about herself and her needs.
The first resulted in a miscarriage; the second, she gave birth at home to her daughter; and the third, she aborted in Kansas.
She has also been a birth doula for two years, and she is passionate about her role.
Doulas help bring new life into the world. They’re also working to save lives here in Douglas County, where Black babies are twice as likely to be born prematurely or at low birth weights than white babies.
“It is my pleasure and honor to support birthing people through the transition of pregnancy to parenthood, and as a birth worker I am also deeply committed to people having the right to decide to go through that process,” Ramiz said.
‘I felt immensely depressed’
The time leading up to Ramiz’s abortion was a stressful point in her life for many reasons. She was in her second year of her doctoral program and the director of the women’s center at the University of Kansas. She said she was living in both a toxic work environment and toxic marriage with her ex-husband.
“I was highly emotional. I was crying every day. I felt immensely depressed, and it felt more than just the pregnancy,” Ramiz said. “I think the context of my life at the moment was one that I could not fathom having a child in, other than the one I already had, which was already difficult enough.”
Ramiz said she knows her body incredibly well and caught her pregnancy at around the five-week mark. She immediately knew an abortion would be right for not only herself as an individual, but for her then-2-year-old daughter who needed her mother as well.
“I think at one point my depression and anxiety got so bad that I feared going through with the pregnancy [would] end in a deep mental health crisis for myself,” Ramiz said.
“And ultimately, I made a decision to end that pregnancy — one, for my daughter that is alive, and wanting her to have a healthy and present mom and knowing that I needed more support and mental health support than I was currently receiving. And the other piece was I couldn’t co-parent, I couldn’t restart that cycle again in the marriage that I was in.”
‘Blessed and privileged’
Soon after learning she was pregnant, Ramiz went to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park. She went on the day she wanted to get an abortion but was told there was a waiting period. She was required to fill out a form and set an appointment for 24 hours later.
She went back to Lawrence, filled out the forms and the next day went back to Planned Parenthood. When she got there, she realized she had left her paperwork at home. All these complications led her to feel a moment of doubt, but she quickly reassured herself.
“I was like, ‘Maybe this is a sign.’ Then I’m like, ‘F— that, this is not a sign, I’m just forgetful,’” Ramiz joked.
She did have to reschedule her appointment, go back to Lawrence and the next day travel back to Overland Park, but the paperwork was then finalized and she was able to meet with the nurses and doctor.
Ramiz said she felt overwhelming support and validation from everyone at the clinic, which helped her through the stress of it all, some of which stemmed from anti-abortion protesters outside.
“[I] was there with other people and felt an immense amount of community. And there’s protesters outside — it is so intimidating, but I felt immensely sure of myself in that moment. And so I look back at that and I think about how blessed and privileged I was to be able to engage in the choice,” Ramiz said.
People who may consider themselves pro-life or anti-abortion oftentimes argue that people should be responsible for carrying out their pregnancies, especially in cases that they’re having sex in a relationship or in a marriage. Ramiz said that is a simple response to a complex issue.
“That just doesn’t get to the nuances of people’s experiences. It’s actually really minimizing. And I think they know that too. They just … that’s what they lean on,” Ramiz said.
‘It’s already hard enough’
Ramiz said she remains confident in her choice to have an abortion and has not let criticism — whether from strangers or from people in her life — cause her to doubt herself.
“There were a couple times where my abortion got thrown back in my face and that has been hard, but I have not let that ever make me second-guess the choice that I made for myself and for my child because I was not mentally healthy at the time and could not have another [child],” Ramiz said.
Ramiz expressed gratitude for the resources she had available, such as finances to pay for the abortion. State employees’ insurance plans, and even private insurance plans, under Kansas state law do not cover abortion except in some cases in which the patient will die without one. Ramiz said the abortion cost more than $700 out-of-pocket — a substantial expense for her that equated to around one month of child care for her daughter.
She also had the ability and means to travel to another city for the abortion, which not everyone does. In Kansas, there are only four clinics that offer abortion care — two in Wichita, and two in Overland Park — all on the state’s eastern side. About half of the patients who receive abortion care in Kansas are from other states, but that ratio could change as more abortion restrictions and bans go into effect in neighboring states.
In regard to Kansas’ election on Aug. 2, Ramiz said she cast her ballot early. The big question on the ballot — which is for all voters, including those who are not affiliated with a party — is a constitutional amendment that would give the Kansas Legislature the power to ban abortion in the state.
Ramiz voted “no” to the abortion amendment and encourages others to do the same.
“I read through the amendment a couple of times, and it is some tricky language in there. It’s very manipulative. I voted ‘no’ and I think it’s important to name this because I actually trust people to make whatever decisions they need to make about their bodies, and I don’t think that using religious ideology needs to be mixed in with politics,” Ramiz said.
As of now, abortion is still a constitutional right in Kansas. The waiting period, the costs, meeting anti-abortion protesters on the way into clinics, and more prove to be barriers already in place. Ramiz said having an abortion is a conscious decision, and people deserve to find their own peace in it.
“People think that folks have abortions just willy-nilly and are not thinking about that decision from a very emotional and empathetic place. I would say that is a choice that people are not making lightly, and it’s already hard enough considering the context and the stigma in our society,” Ramiz said. “The last thing we need is the government and then ignorant protesters outside abortion clinics criticizing and judging choices that people make with their bodies.”
“My choice contributed to much joy and mental wellness for me, and I am proud of myself for centering my needs in that choice.”
If our local journalism matters to you, please help us keep doing this work.
Don’t miss a beat … Click here to sign up for our email newsletters
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.