Roe v. Wade made safe and legal abortion access a constitutional right in the United States, and with the Supreme Court’s devastating ruling, it made me think about people’s abortion experiences.
In early June, BuzzFeed News reached out to five women who’ve had abortions, revealing their deep financial struggles (and how people will suffer in the future now that Roe v. Wade’s been overturned). 35-year-old Sarah told BuzzFeed News about her abortion in 2019, and how it cost her $3,000: "We had the money in our savings account, but it still was such a big amount. I couldn’t even look at the paperwork without weeping."
This recent news also made me think about how candid famous women have been in the past when sharing their own abortion experiences. So, here are their stories about what it’s actually like to have an abortion:
Note: Everyone's experience with abortion is different, and there isn't "one standard" situation. The spectrum is wide. And while many of these stories were shared about celebrities pre-fame, it must be noted that celebrities have a privileged access to abortion that many citizens in the United States do not.
Warning: This post contains discussions of self-harm and PTSD. Please proceed with caution.
"I had an abortion when I was young, and it was the best decision I have ever made. Both for me and for the baby I didn't want, and wasn't ready for, emotionally, psychologically, and financially. So many children will end up in foster homes, [and] so many lives [will be] ruined."
Source: Jameela Jamil's Twitter from May 2019.
"I found out I was pregnant when I was 14 years old — I didn't get a period. I talked to nobody. I panicked. I sat in hot baths. I drank these strange concoctions girls told me about — something like [Johnnie] Walker Red with a little bit of Clorox, alcohol, baking soda — which probably saved my stomach — and some sort of cream. You mixed it all up. I got violently ill. At that moment I was more afraid of having to explain to anybody what was wrong than of going to the park with a hanger, which is what I did."
Source: Angela Bonavoglia's 1991 essay collection, The Choices We Made.
4. Stevie Nicks
"If I had not had that abortion, I'm pretty sure there would have been no Fleetwood Mac. There's just no way that I could have had a child then, working as hard as we worked — and there were a lot of drugs. I was doing a lot of drugs … I would have had to walk away. I knew that the music we were going to bring to the world was going to heal so many people's hearts and make people so happy, and I thought: You know what? That's really important. There isn't another band in the world that has two lead women singers [and] two lead women writers. That was my world's mission."
Source: An interview with the Guardian from 2020.
5. Naya Rivera
"From the minute I made that first phone call to my mom, it was never a question of whether I was going to have the baby — I just knew I couldn't. And without even saying it, my mom knew it too. It made it easier because I felt like I never had to question if I was making the right decision, but, still, nothing about the next few weeks was even remotely easy."
"In retrospect, I think the fact that it was a logistical nightmare was actually something of a saving grace, as it kept me from having to deal with the emotional nightmare of [the abortion]."
Source: Naya Rivera's 2016 memoir, Sorry Not Sorry: Dreams, Mistakes, and Growing Up.
6. Jemima Kirke
"My life was not conducive to raising a healthy [and] happy child — I just didn't feel it was fair. So I decided to get an abortion. Because I couldn't tell my mother that I was pregnant, I had to pay for it out of pocket. I did have to empty my checking account and get [some money] from my boyfriend. I've always felt that reproductive issues should be something that women especially should be able to talk about freely. I still see shame and embarrassment around terminating pregnancies."
Source: Jemima Kirke's excerpt from the Center for Reproductive Rights' "Draw the Line" campaign from 2015.
7. Keke Palmer
"I was worried about my career responsibilities and afraid that I could not exist as both a career woman and mother. Twitter is sometimes too flat and too short to express intimate sentiments — words without context [can be] very annoying. I am disheartened hearing about the [Alabama abortion ban]. I feel as if women's rights are going backwards, and individual choice is being taken. I'm truly so confused at the world and the policies that follow."
Source: Keke Palmer's Twitter from May 2019.
8. Gloria Steinem
"I was in London because I had a fellowship in India, and I was awaiting my visa. So I was living in London [and] working as a waitress in order to support myself. I had all the usual fantasies [to terminate my pregnancy] — maybe if I go horseback riding, maybe if I throw myself down the stairs. Our minds race through all possible alternatives, and it was sheer luck of going to a doctor whose name I found in the telephone book. It was due to his kindness [and] due to his looking at me and saying, 'If you promise never to tell anyone my name, I will help you.' So he sent me to a woman doctor who actually did the procedure."
"I did [throw myself down the stairs]. I kept thinking that somehow, you know, I — I don't know what I thought. I was desperate. I really was desperate because I just knew that if I went home and married, which I would have had to do, it would be to the wrong person. It would be to a life that wasn't mine at all."
9. Toni Braxton
"I felt selfish because I was thinking: 'I'm going through bankruptcy — there are things going on with my life, and I can't give this kid any future.' I was feeling hopeless for no reason, [and] when I look [back] at it now for no reason, what was I thinking? I am not really embarrassed about it — I am more ashamed of myself for doing that because I could've figured something out financially. That was just an excuse I was making for myself."
"I often tell myself I have three kids — I have two boys, but in my head I feel like I have three kids."
Source: Toni Braxton's 2011 memoir, Unbreak My Heart: A Memoir.
10. Busy Philipps
"It's not brave for me to say I had an abortion at 15, because it's a medical thing — a thing, a choice that I made, and I don't regret it at all. This shame [was] perpetrated on me, but I don't have a shame. I'm glad I didn't have that guy's baby. I'm OK. ... We hold on to these things as to not make men uncomfortable, but I'm ready for them to start holding it."
Source: Busy Philipps's speech at the Goop Summit from 2019.
11. Rozonda Thomas (Chilli From TLC)
"I was 20 and my career hadn't really started, [and I got pregnant]. How do I do all that? How do I be a mommy? [The abortion] messed me up — it broke my spirit. I felt like I became not my strong self anymore. I felt like I gave in and broke [down] to what someone else wanted. I cried almost every day for nine years. And then I was caught up — I had to have a baby. I had to fix it, and the only way I could fix it was with [TLC producer Dallas Austin]. I could only have this baby with him because the baby I didn't have was with him."
"As time went on, I was able to break away from the relationship because I knew that he was always being true to himself — I was not. I was compromising who I was as a person to please this person, and I think so many women do that."
Source: Rozonda Thomas's 2010 reality TV show, What Chilli Wants.
12. Amber Tamblyn
"In 2012, I had an abortion. It was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make. I still think about it to this day. But these truths do not make me regret my decision. It was the right choice for me, at that time in my life. I have not a single doubt about this."
Source: Amber Tamblyn's Twitter from May 2019.
13. Nicki Minaj
"I thought I was going to die — I was a teenager. It was the hardest thing I'd ever gone through. It'd be contradictory if I said I wasn't pro-choice — I wasn't ready. I didn't have anything to offer a child."
Source: Nicki Minaj's interview with Rolling Stone from 2014.
14. Billie Jean King
"Anyone seeking an abortion [in the early '70s] had to obtain approval from a hospital committee — that is, tell a panel of strangers why they believed their pregnancy would 'gravely impair' their physical and mental health. Arguing to a dozen or so people I had never met why I qualified for an abortion remains one of the most degrading experiences of my life."
"Those less fortunate than me were forced either to continue an unplanned pregnancy or to risk their health obtaining an illegal abortion, if they could find a provider."
Source: Billie Jean King's op-ed for the Washington Post, published in December 2021.
15. And Uma Thurman
"[My abortion] has been my darkest secret until now. I am 51 years old, and I am sharing it with you from the home where I have raised my three children, who are my pride and joy. ... I was just starting out in my career and didn't have the means to provide a stable home, even for myself. We decided as a family that I couldn't go through with the pregnancy, and agreed that termination was the right choice. My heart was broken nonetheless. ... It hurt terribly, but I didn't complain. I had internalized so much shame that I felt I deserved the pain."
Source: Uma Thurman's op-ed for the Washington Post, published in September 2021.