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