Student Center Holds Panel: Ending Abortion Stigma Through Conversation
The Student Center held a panel titled Ending the Stigma of Abortion Through Conversation Friday Nov. 10 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. All three of the women on the panel spoke from their own personal experiences with abortion. For the sake of their security they will all remain anonymous for this article. The only information disclosed at the panel was the ages they all are now and the ages they all were at the times they had their procedures. No photos were allowed.
The panel was held in room 270 of the Student Center. About 80 percent of the students attending were female. The event coordinator, Micaela Stevenson, was responsible for asking the panelists questions and keeping the conversation going. She started by asking how old they all were when they found out they were pregnant.
The first panelist said she was 21 when she found out she was pregnant, which now would be six years past. She said when she found out she had “sobbed hysterically over dinner that night” to her mother. At the time she was "not at an emotionally or financially stable point” in her life. She had not finished college and it was very important to her to finish school.
While thinking back to her experience entering Planned Parenthood, she commented, “You have no idea what it is going to be like when you walk in that door.” She went in with her mother by her side, ready to pay anything to have the procedure done, but Blue Cross Blue Shield was able to cover the cost. Her mother donated the cost to Planned Parenthood that year, and still continues to donate every year since then.
“You get sent to several people to discuss your other options. The nurses gave so much support during the whole process at Planned Parenthood. I would've never made it through without the consideration and kindness they showed me," she explained, “It is hard for me to imagine what my life would be like now, if I hadn’t gotten an abortion. But I know my family would be supportive though no matter what. I'm very lucky in that sense.”
The next panelist said she was only 16 years old when she found out she was pregnant, which would be nine years ago now. She had not finished high school and she couldn't bring herself to tell her parents. She also barely knew the boy she had conceived with.
“I got a lot of sex education as soon as I went to our family doctor. She sent me home with information on all of the other options. Out of all the family support I got it was my brother.” She still decided to go ahead with the procedure, but looked back gratefully towards the nurses there. “At Planned Parenthood they held my hand through everything,” she said.
She went into a bit of detail about the feelings during her procedure. “It hurts," she said. "But imagine a pap-smear yet a bit stronger for fifteen minutes. I expected so much more pain but other than that it went as expected.”
“If I hadn’t had an abortion, my mom would be raising the kid. It would hurt her so much if she ever finds out, she still doesn’t know today. When I get my Master’s [degree] I want to make a big difference in a lot of people's lives in my career but I wouldn’t be able to if I had a kid.”
The third and final panelist said she was 24 when she got pregnant, which was 10 years ago.
She said it didn't take her very long to make the decision. "The hardest part was finding the money, “ she said.
"I did the pill version. It was one of the scariest nights of my life. It was not how they told me. I had horrific cramps. I was up the entire night. My boyfriend was sleeping. I didn't even tell my mom. I paid $600 for this pill. I felt like I was going to die and it was actually terrifying. But it was a learning experience.”
She said that if she ever had to again or if she could do it all over, she would rather have a medical professional do the procedure, like at Planned Parenthood.
However, she was not opposed to having children sometime in the future. She said after her story, “I am the most pro-choice person you will ever meet, but I’m still pro-kids. I’m still waiting for the day. I wasn’t ready then and I’m not ready now, but I do want a kid…But I would not have the life I do now if that would have happened. I went back to school.”
She made a clear point at the end. She explained that she had many friends who already have had children grow into teenagers, yet she is married with no children. She explained to the audience, “Having a kid is just not for everybody, so don't compare yourself to others if you ever have to make the decision.”
One student asked if science contributed to any of their decisions. Across the board, the panelists all responded with no’s, for various reasons.
The panelist who was pregnant at 21 said she was majoring in Biology at the time and knew all the facts at only five weeks. She said at the point where she was having the procedure it was only a cluster of cells and she had come to terms with having an abortion. She felt it was the right decision, in her experience.
The panelist who was only 16 at the time said she hadn’t considered science when she got pregnant, and being only sixteen she knew she wanted to have a career in the future so she couldn’t bring a child into the world.
The third panelist said she was only friends with the man she had gotten pregnant with and they weren’t ready for a child and that’s how they made their decision.
Another student asked if any of them had experienced depression or anxiety after their abortions.
The first panelist responded, “I do struggle with depression. The pregnancy put a big toll on the friendship I had with the to-be-father, who is my best friend now. But I am totally okay talking about it and I don't cry anymore talking about it. I have dealt with that [depression] afterward and I think it’s very common.”
After the panel ended The Eastern Echo spoke with a few students to see how they felt about the conversation.
"I’m glad to see this discussion happening from people who have had the experience because I think a lot of the time, when people are outside the group and haven’t experienced it, they advocate for it wrongly. I’m excited about this event happening and everyone here understands it’s something nobody ever talks about," Sanyu Lukwago said.
Another student, Alice Schyllander, said she thought it was informative.
Event organizer, Micaela Stevenson, mentioned they will be hosting many more events soon.