As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: I wanted to get an abortion. But, almost instinctively, all of the worst-case scenarios that I could think of popped into my head. It was March 2020, and the pandemic was raging. What if I had to travel out of the state for the abortion? What if I couldn’t get it in time and had to carry the pregnancy to term?
I was 19 and a student at Ohio State University. I was adjusting to my new role as a member of University Student Government and fresh out of a relationship with the partner who had impregnated me, and who had absolutely no desire to have children.
Sitting on the toilet with the positive pregnancy test still in my hand, I texted one of my close friends who volunteered with the local abortion fund, Women Have Options: “Hey I’m pregnant and don’t want to be, what do I do?” She replied, “Well, you’ve come to the right place,” and immediately connected me to the fund, which helped cover the cost of my abortion. As a Medicaid recipient, I did not qualify for coverage. (The Hyde Amendment prevents Medicaid from covering abortions except in certain circumstances. But research shows that even in those cases, Medicaid recipients or their providers struggle to receive reimbursements.) I had only $100 to put toward my abortion, and the fund was able to cover the remaining $450.
Next I had to schedule an appointment at a clinic. The Ohio attorney general had just issued a letter urging clinics that provide abortions to stop performing “non-essential” and “elective” surgeries, effectively exploiting the pandemic to halt abortions under the cover of preserving personal protective equipment for health care workers. Knowing that, it became even more imperative for me to schedule my appointment as soon as possible.
But when I arrived at the Planned Parenthood clinic on the day of my appointment, the door was locked. Apparently its only doctor was out sick. When I called the facility from the parking lot, the person on the line said the next earliest appointment was six weeks out, unless I wanted to travel over an hour and a half outside the city for an appointment in 10 days. I was surprised and annoyed about being delayed, but fortunately I had scheduled a backup appointment at an independent abortion clinic for the following week. Still, I was pregnant for about two and half weeks longer than I wanted or needed to be because of scheduling delays. In that moment, it felt as though I would never get the abortion.
The day of my first appointment at the independent clinic, a Friday, I had to endure state-mandated counseling aimed at trying to discourage me from having the abortion and an ultrasound during which the clinic assistant told me that at that point in my pregnancy, I had a 75 percent chance of carrying the pregnancy to term. There’s only one explanation for why the state would require clinics to deliver this information to people seeking abortions: to shame us into making a different decision. But as researchers have found, people seeking an abortion are sure of their decision. After handing me the ultrasound image, the clinic provider apologized for having to relay that information, explaining that they did so only because it’s Ohio law. And since the state has a mandatory and medically unnecessary 24-hour waiting period, I had to return the following Monday and wait three more hours, alone (because of Covid restrictions) in a waiting room of masked strangers, to see the provider in order to receive abortion pills. I took the first medication (mifepristone) at the clinic, and the second (misoprostol) at home.
As I sat at home waiting to pass the pregnancy tissue—it took about four hours after taking the second medication—I couldn’t get over the absurdity of the entire experience. I knew even before I took a test confirming my pregnancy that I would seek an abortion. But in spite of having made up my mind, I still had to face unnecessary barriers—during a pandemic, no less—in order to access medical care that I could have received online and by mail, with friends by my side. It shouldn’t have been this way.
Ohio officials have made it harder than ever to obtain an abortion in the state, from mandatory clinic closures during the Covid-19 lockdowns to a forced waiting period to a 20-week ban that has made it impossible for many pregnant people to exercise their right to an abortion. Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the United States in 1973, but sweeping restrictions on abortion care and abortion providers across the country have left many in dire situations and have some questioning whether abortion is even legal in their respective states. Overturning Roe may be unimaginable to some, but for many of us—particularly Black, brown, queer, trans, low-income folks—it was never enough.
I haven’t lost all hope, though, because as the data shows, the majority of Americans support abortion rights. Regardless of what the Supreme Court decides this summer, reproductive justice organizers and practitioners will continue to work to ensure that even when politicians or people in power go against what many of their constituents support, we will never turn our backs on each other. We never have, and we won’t start now.