I had an abortion when I was 19 years old. It was the summer after my sophomore year in college. My boyfriend at the time and I were having unprotected sex. I got pregnant.
That was 16 years ago. It’s scary to think of what my life would have been like if I was a pregnant teenager living in Alabama now, and was not able to terminate my pregnancy. Earlier this month, Alabama’s governor signed the “Human Life Protection Act,” banning all abortions in the state, except when “abortion is necessary in order to prevent a serious health risk” to the woman. A doctor who now performs an abortion in Alabama could spend the rest of his or life in prison.
“To the bill’s many supporters, this legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians’ deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a statement published after she signed the bill into law.
I grew up in a Christian home, and I was often told by my dad that “once you have a baby your life is over.” He said that once I brought a child into the world, the baby’s needs would take priority over my personal wants and desires. Because of the way that parenthood was described to me as a young person, at 19 years old, I thought I would have rather been diagnosed with AIDS than to become a teen mom.
At 19, I was afraid of what my parents would say, what my classmates would think, how disappointed my grandfather, a minister, would be, and afraid that my church friends from home would view me as a slut. There was another young lady from my church who returned home from college pregnant, and I remembered how surprised and shocked everyone was. I didn’t want that attention for myself. I thought that at least with an AIDS diagnosis, I could die quietly and no one would ever know why.
At 19, I also believed the false narrative that black women were the biggest recipients of welfare, and I was afraid of becoming a statistic. I also didn’t want to be perceived as the girl that had so much potential, but let it all go by the wayside because I became a mother. I once heard my mom say something like this about a girl that used to go to my dance school.
I needed to finish college and become someone successful. I couldn’t see how being a teen mom fit that narrative. I knew I wasn’t ready to be a parent, despite my behavior which indicated otherwise. At 19, I was impulsive, blindly in love and broke, and I didn’t always make great choices. At that time, my choice to not become a parent was the right one.
I was 6 weeks pregnant when I terminated my pregnancy at Planned Parenthood, then on Fitch Street in New Haven. Connecticut protects a woman’s right to have an abortion, unless a doctor determines that the baby could live outside of the mother’s uterus.
There was nothing easy about making that choice or following through with it. I suffered from guilt and regret for many years. I was certain that because I killed one of God’s children, that He would never allow me the opportunity to become a mom again.
I knew my boyfriend should have worn condoms. I sat through sex education classes in elementary, middle school and high school. I talked about safe sex with my parents. I read literature about making healthy reproductive choices. But when I met my college boyfriend, I fell in love, and I didn’t put my sex education to good use.
I was much more careful after that experience. I made sure that I consistently used protection, until I knew that I could handle being a mom, and I never had another abortion. I now have one child, and another on the way. But sometimes I still think about the baby that I could have had. I think about him or her being 16 years old now. I think about how different my life would be now. Having an abortion was not something that was easy, but I’m thankful that I was able to make a choice that was right for me at that time in my life.
Stacy Graham-Hunt is a writer, book publisher and diversity advocate. Purchase her book, “Processing Pain.” Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on social media @StacyReports.
This article was originally published in the Connecticut Post.