When the news first broke on June 24 that the US Supreme Court had overturned 1973’s Roe v. Wade, my wellness director, Mirel Zaman, and I immediately jumped into action. As journalists, we understood the impact of the moment; as women, we felt it. When you find out you’re pregnant, you don’t think about the laws of the land. Instead, you think about your life and your abilities: Can I physically carry this child? Can I afford this child? How will my life shift if I am pregnant or need to raise a person? Can I afford an abortion? What will my family or partner think?
That’s why POPSUGAR decided to embark on “50 States, 50 Abortions” — our latest cover story, which speaks to 50 people across every state in America. In Oklahoma, we talked to a person who found out they were pregnant weeks after the state banned the procedure. In Pennsylvania, we spoke to a parent who knew they couldn’t provide adequately for their existing family if they had another child. In New Mexico, a woman shared that she simply didn’t want to be pregnant. And in South Dakota, a mother confided that if she added to her family, she wouldn’t be able to realize her career goals.
Born in the ’80s, I always thought of abortion in the US as a given, similar to my right to vote. Yes, we had notice prior to the official ruling that Roe would likely be overturned, but that didn’t ease the sting or shock. I immediately thought about my own abortion, some 15 years ago. I thought about how my life would have been impacted, or even cut short, if I hadn’t had access to a safe abortion. No, that’s not hyperbole: it’s a fact. According to the World Health Organization, 23,000 women die worldwide every year from unsafe abortions. Still, how could this be happening in America, the “land of the free,” in 2022? How could my bodily autonomy be stripped so suddenly, universally, and violently?
The truth is, access to abortions, in addition to safe and reliable reproductive care, has been under attack for quite some time. Just three years after Roe was ruled on, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment, which prohibited federal Medicaid funds from being used for abortion, except in life-threatening situations. In 1992, the Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v. Casey upheld a person’s right to abortion but also opened the gates for states to enact restrictive laws around abortions. In 2007, Gonzales v. Carhart deprioritized a person’s health in regard to abortion. In 2017 alone, 19 states enacted a whopping 63 new abortion restrictions. Our right to abortion has been more precarious than many of us wanted to acknowledge all along.
The experiences we’re highlighting — through interviews told in the storytellers’ own voices and accompanying audio — span decades of American history. They aim to illustrate both why people choose to get abortions and the internal dialogue that ensues when they make this choice. The decision to carry a pregnancy to term, have a child, and raise a child shouldn’t be a political one, subject to a series of Supreme Court rulings: it’s a deeply personal choice and one that can impact one’s life forever. It’s one the government should never have a say in.
To everyone who worked on this cover and everyone who shared their stories, I’m eternally grateful — as an editor, a woman, and a human, but especially as a mother.
Sade Strehlke, Editor in Chief, POPSUGAR
I was the 19-year-old daughter of a former Catholic priest when I got pregnant by my boyfriend. I was working part-time at a Delaware drugstore called Happy Harry’s when I realized I’d missed my period, so I took a pregnancy test while I was on my shift, and it was positive — that’s how I found out I was pregnant. So I immediately threw up out back and went home sick.
All my life, I had been raised Catholic. I went to an all-girls Catholic high school. At 16 years old, I had marched for life [in DC]. And so abortion wasn’t even on my mind.
My spouse and I had decided to try for another baby when our first child was about 15 months old, and I got pregnant on the first cycle. Because I was over 35, I [was] eligible for the noninvasive prenatal testing, which is the blood test that they do to check for chromosomal abnormalities in the baby. So I got that test, and it kind of threw our lives into turmoil. The results suggested that the fetus may have had Down syndrome. From the very beginning, this initial diagnosis, it was just devastating and unexpected. We hadn’t discussed what we would do if that was true.
I was 16 and on birth-control pills at the time, but my period was late, and I noticed that my breasts were really tender — the water in the shower and just putting my bra on and taking it off were really intense. I went to Planned Parenthood to take a pregnancy test.
When we got the results back, my friend and I just froze and stared at each other. I would say it was an extreme sensory overload, just completely shutting down. Frantic, chaotic sensory overload.
At the time of my abortion, I had been with my partner — now my fiancé — for almost four years. We owned a home together in Nashville, and I had newly launched my own successful PR agency working with restaurants and hotels. But no matter how “ready” for a child we appeared to be on the outside, we were not. And that was reason enough for my partner and me to seek an abortion.
Shortly after celebrating my 21st birthday, I found out I was pregnant. I found out when I was six weeks. I was living in the Chicago area at the time, and my boyfriend and I had been exclusively dating for a little over a year. Up until that point, I didn’t even think I was capable of getting pregnant because I had been having unprotected sex for several years. But when the doctor confirmed this was the reason I had a delayed period, it was not a happy moment.
After a four-year infertility journey, two failed in vitro procedures, and one miscarriage, I found out I was pregnant with Grace. She was a “gold-star embryo” as far as in vitro was concerned. The doctors were very optimistic she would make it through pregnancy and be born healthy. My husband and I were elated.
The miscarriage a year earlier had been extremely hard for us, so when we found out we were pregnant again — this time, with an embryo that we believed had better odds — we thought, “This is it.” We couldn’t wait to be parents.
I was 22 years old. I had just graduated from college, maybe fewer than 30 days before. I moved to New Hampshire with six friends, including an ex-boyfriend, who became my boyfriend again very quickly. He’d cheated on me twice, and we’d gotten back together for the second time. I wasn’t on birth control yet, because we had literally just gotten back together.
All our roommates were gone that day. We were having sex on the couch, and we’d had a conversation right before where he said he’d pull out. Of course, he didn’t. Afterward, he said to me, “Oh, I forgot, was I supposed to pull out?” Yeah, dumbass, you were.
I was 31 years old when I had my abortion. My husband and I were trying to get pregnant, but we were having a hard time because I have polycystic ovary syndrome, which affects fertility. With fertility treatments, we finally did get pregnant in the summer of 2016. I was so eager when I thought I was pregnant that I took an at-home pregnancy test, even though my doctors had told me to wait to go in for a blood test instead — and there it was. The blood test later confirmed it: I was pregnant.
My abortion saved my life. I had just turned 26 and was actively trying to get pregnant with my fiancé. It was 2016, and we’d been trying for a year and a half. I have stage four endometriosis, so getting pregnant has been a struggle for me.
I had just had an HSG test, where they do an X-ray to outline the shape of your uterus. They use a tiny tube to inject the contrast material into the vagina and cervix to detect any fallopian-tube blockages. There’s anecdotal evidence that an HSG test can increase fertility, because it clears things out. The next step is to go over the findings of the test, but before we even had that meeting, a few weeks after the test, I took an at-home pregnancy test and found out I was pregnant. I caught it between four and six weeks; it’s hard to date because the endometriosis messes up my periods so much.
My dog was actually how I found out I was pregnant. He started acting real sus around my midsection, and I said, “Hmm. I should take a test.”
I was in a long-term relationship with my partner that I was with since high school. We were together for about three years when I found out I was pregnant. I was 18. I went to a public school in Ohio, and we did not have adequate sex education. It was abstinence only. And so we hadn’t used protection for two years. I had convinced myself that one of us just must be infertile because I hadn’t gotten pregnant yet, so shout-out to my school. That’s not how it works.
Editors: Sade Strehlke, Mirel Zaman, Jada Gomez, Molly Stout, Jessica Andrews, Kelsey Castañon, Karen Snyder Duke, Perri Konecky, Lena Felton, Esther Crain, Nancy Einhart, Alessandra Foresto, Chris Roney, Victoria Pedlar, Melissa Hayes Writers: Alexis Jones, Chandler Plante, Chris Roney, Eden Arielle Gordon, Lauren Mazzo, Maggie Ryan, Melanie Whyte, Taylor Andrews, Victoria Edel, Yerin Kim Copy Editors: Mary White, Bryce Aston, Bryan Brandom, Ray Haddad, Ellysa Lim, Cynthia Puleo Fact Checkers: Morgan Jerkins, Dana G. Smith
Creative Director: Jae Payne Art Director: Patricia O’Connor Senior Visual Designer: Aly Lim Designers: Becky Jiras, Michelle Alfonso, Keila Gonzalez, Ava Cruz Project Manager: Whitney Moore
Executive Producer: Alison Noël Postproduction Supervisor: Asya Mutazammil Editor: Germond “G” Byars
Source for number of abortions in New Hampshire: Guttmacher Institute. Source for number of legal abortions in other states: Kaiser Family Foundation.
Cover: Getty / HRAUN, Getty / Colin Anderson Productions Pty Ltd, Getty / Chip Somodevilla, Getty / Sergii Iaremenko/Science Photo Library, Getty / Thomas Jackson, Getty / Lalocracio, Getty / STILLFX, Unsplash / Manik Roy. Quote Louisiana: Getty / MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images/Contributor, Getty / Chip Somodevilla, Getty / San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images/Contributor, Getty / STILLFX. Quote New Mexico: Getty / STILLFX, Getty / aydinynr, Getty / JGI / Tom Grill, Getty / subjug. Quote Texas: Getty / Roc Canals, Getty / STILLFX. Map: Getty /Sergii Iaremenko/Science Photo Library, Unsplash / Aaron Burden, Unsplash / Manik Roy.
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