We’re Thankful for Our Abortions

We’re Thankful for Our Abortions

Many people who have abortions celebrate their experience. Here’s why my colleagues and I at We Testify are thankful. 


This time of year is… complicated. For many people, this season calls for reflection and gratitude. This year I find myself reflecting not only on all the people I love and cherish but also on the outcomes and impact of the midterm elections, and on why our nation celebrates the complicated holiday of Thanksgiving at all.

This holiday is founded on the unforgivable genocide of Native Americans, and my commitment to justice for all people makes it difficult for me to celebrate things I am thankful for. And the harsh reality is that the utter disregard for all Indigenous people in the 1800s fuels the same systems of white supremacy that dehumanize all of us today. Black lives are taken by the police and the prison-industrial complex, any sense of LGBTQ+ peace and tranquility has been obliterated by gun violence and hate, and, ultimately, the small promise of abortion access guaranteed by Roe v. Wade was stripped away by an illegitimate Supreme Court.

When I look at the state of this nation, the anger piles up, and my gratitude is depleted.

And yet, gratitude is what I am searching for in this moment. I am grateful to spend the long weekend with my young son, who is here because I was able to plan a pregnancy when I was ready to parent. I am grateful to have accessed my abortions in Texas while it was still legal in the state, and that my multiple abortion experiences now guide my work.

When I express this gratitude for my abortions, sometimes, I and other abortion storytellers at We Testify, which is an organization dedicated to the leadership and representation of people who have abortions, are met with questions and chiding from family members or loved ones who believe that we shouldn’t “celebrate” or be “thankful” for our abortions. “I’m pro-choice, but it’s nothing to celebrate,” they say.

But I am thankful for both of my abortions. I am thankful that I didn’t want to be a parent then, so I didn’t have to be a parent then. The blessing to plan a pregnancy and have a child when I wanted to have a child is something I have immense gratitude for. I really am thankful for it, particularly in this political climate and moment.

And it’s not just me. Many people who have abortions celebrate their experience. And since we at We Testify know this time of year can be especially difficult for people who’ve had abortions—who want to feel love and acceptance from their families, but who may not receive that validation—my colleagues and I are sharing appreciation for our abortions. No matter if it’s their first abortion or fourth, people should be supported in whatever they decide, every time.

How did you come to feel good celebrating and being thankful for your abortions?

Savannah Williams: We’re coming up on the sixth anniversary of my second abortion and at that time I was moving into this apartment that I am currently moving out of, so it feels like the bookending of a chapter in my life. When I think about how far I’ve come and the things I’ve been able to do—such as finishing college and starting my small business—I am grateful that I was able to do them without having to worry about making ends meet and struggling to care for two small children whom I wasn’t ready for. I am thankful for the freedom of self. Some people may call this selfish, but I don’t think it is. I am able to care for myself and live free from anxiety and parts of my life that I have needed to leave behind. I have deep gratitude that I was able to make a decision that was good for me. I felt compelled to have my abortions, not because of what I thought other people might think of me, but because it was what I needed to do. I am grateful for the bravery I showed myself.

Kenya Martin: Sharing my abortion stories is an act of gratitude. In 2015, I sat in my local abortion clinic filling out my paperwork. This wasn’t my first abortion, but things took a turn for the worst when I suddenly became very sick and had difficulty formulating a sentence. I was experiencing an ectopic pregnancy; I was bleeding internally because of a ruptured fallopian tube and needed emergency surgery. I am saddened to remember that in that critical moment, I was too embarrassed to even call my mom. Here I was again dealing with another pregnancy, but this time it might end up costing me my life.

I was so grateful for the safe abortion care I was able to access that two weeks later I returned to that clinic and applied for a job. I told the hiring director at the clinic that I wanted to be “somebody’s person”—like the Black nurse that held my hand when I needed emergency care.

While working at the clinic, I would often see patients who’d had an abortion in the past and knew they didn’t want to continue with their current pregnancy, but felt conflicted due to stigma against multiple abortions. I started sharing in service to them, so that they could see someone relatable, who sat in the very chair they were in and was doing this work. My goal was not to sway their decisions, but that hopefully they would be less hard on themselves. I came to see the power of my own storytelling and, in that process, I freed myself of the internalized stigma I was carrying.

From then on I realized I needed to celebrate my life, my abortions, and how thankful I was for each abortion I had. My life has come full circle. I wanted to let the world know that abortion providers saved me. It’s bigger than ending an unwanted pregnancy—they are literally saving lives. Why can’t there be an abortion narrative where people are happy, had choice, and created the life that they wanted?

Something the pro-choice movement doesn’t always talk lovingly about is people who have more than one abortion, despite the fact that half of people who have abortions have more than one. It’s very common, yet deeply stigmatized. How did you unlearn the shame and stigma towards people who have more than one abortion?

Carina Reyes: My abortions meant the freedom to choose the direction of my life. I’ve had three pregnancies and two abortions. The first was in the context of a toxic relationship, and the second was after I had my first child. Parenthood made me realize the full-time responsibilities and economic implications of raising a child. In the context of the Supreme Court’s ruling, you’re denying people the choice while also not giving people the resources they need to properly parent in supported communities.

Emma Hernández: I had my first abortion at 21, and felt I had all the reasons to not continue with the pregnancy. I was in my senior year of college, didn’t have a job or a car, my father had recently been deported, and I couldn’t fathom a lifelong tie to a toxic relationship. If any life circumstance necessitated an abortion, surely it was mine. The stigma caused me to keep the pregnancy a secret, knowing the likelihood of being coerced to continue the pregnancy was high. It wasn’t until years later, when my mother informed me she was on her way to an anti-abortion protest, that I broke my silence. In a short message, I informed her that I’d received services at the very abortion clinic she planned to protest, and that my saving grace as I made the lonely walk to the clinic door was that it was too frigidly cold out for even the protesters.

I’ve been sharing my story ever since, and for a long time thought I’d healed the internalized stigma.

But when I found myself pregnant again eight years later, it was a different situation entirely. All the things that my first abortion had made possible were things that, on paper, now made me an ideal candidate for parenthood. I was now a financially stable homeowner with a healthy relationship, an established career, and on the brink of completing my graduate studies. But one thing remained the same—I still didn’t want to be a parent. I struggled through the morning sickness and the realization that some part of me still believed abortions, especially multiple abortions, had to be justified.

Luckily, in the years since my first pregnancy, I had also found a community of abortion storytellers that assured me my reason was the right reason and that I wasn’t alone. My second abortion experience was so different than my first. I was surrounded by support and realized we deserve this experience—no matter how frequently or infrequently we have abortions. I’m so thankful to have gotten to know this version of myself, and to have unlearned the stigma.

Savannah Williams: I never imagined myself as someone who would need an abortion because I never imagined myself as being pregnant at all. When I realized that I was pregnant both times, I was surprised. It made me realize that people can be pregnant at any time—I was pregnant as I walked across the stage at my high school graduation. I wasn’t exempt from it. But I also think that informed my ability to be empathetic towards others. I remember feeling bad about the situation, because I didn’t want to go through with that pregnancy. I know a lot of people feel that. Unlearning the stigma takes time—but also empathy. I am thankful for the empathy I have for myself and the empathy my loved ones have for me. I hope more people will open their hearts for people who are going through unintended pregnancies and abortions and realize, “yeah, that shit happens.”

What advice do you have for people who are thinking about sharing their abortion stories with their loved ones this holiday season?

Kenya Martin: The best way to share stories is over a delicious meal. As soon as they scoop out that first spoonful of mac and cheese, go ahead and say “Whoo! That abortion saved my life, and this mac and cheese is about to give me life!”

But seriously, we have to get to a point where we don’t care what people think. The silence hasn’t gotten us anywhere, and it’s rooted in abortion stigma. If you prioritized yourself and know that you did the best thing for you, it shouldn’t matter what anyone else thinks. We should focus less on being gentle with others and focus more on trusting ourselves. Sometimes the conversation is uncomfortable, but that’s how we move forward.

Carina Reyes: It can hurt when we hear judgmental comments from our loved ones. But there are people outside of those circles who love and support us. They can empathize from a space of lived experience, and we need to look for those folks.

We also get to decide who, if, when, and how to share our stories. Your story is a gift, and you can share it with anyone who is worthy of it. Share it when you feel ready, and until then maintain boundaries around your story.

Emma Hernández: Your abortion story is powerful and it has impact. Storytelling has brought me closer to other people who had abortions, and that community has been healing. My story has also made a difference for others who were facing similar circumstances and decided abortion was right for them. During my first abortion, it would have meant the world to have seen myself represented in the media and to know that abortion wasn’t inherently shameful or isolating. Know that sharing your story changes the conversation, and makes the experience more manageable for the next generation.

Thank you for reading The Nation!

We hope you enjoyed the story you just read. It’s just one of many examples of incisive, deeply-reported journalism we publish—journalism that shifts the needle on important issues, uncovers malfeasance and corruption, and uplifts voices and perspectives that often go unheard in mainstream media. For nearly 160 years, The Nation has spoken truth to power and shone a light on issues that would otherwise be swept under the rug.

In a critical election year as well as a time of media austerity, independent journalism needs your continued support. The best way to do this is with a recurring donation. This month, we are asking readers like you who value truth and democracy to step up and support The Nation with a monthly contribution. We call these monthly donors Sustainers, a small but mighty group of supporters who ensure our team of writers, editors, and fact-checkers have the resources they need to report on breaking news, investigative feature stories that often take weeks or months to report, and much more.

There’s a lot to talk about in the coming months, from the presidential election and Supreme Court battles to the fight for bodily autonomy. We’ll cover all these issues and more, but this is only made possible with support from sustaining donors. Donate today—any amount you can spare each month is appreciated, even just the price of a cup of coffee.

The Nation does not bow to the interests of a corporate owner or advertisers—we answer only to readers like you who make our work possible. Set up a recurring donation today and ensure we can continue to hold the powerful accountable.

Thank you for your generosity.

Ad Policy