By Kylie Shelley
I had an abortion.
It’s relieving to be able to say that openly, and without regret. Although 1 in 3 women in the US will have an abortion in her lifetime, many feel too uncomfortable sharing their experiences of unintended pregnancy.
Hollywood doesn’t do our stories justice either. A new study by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health revealed that in movies and television, 9 percent of fictional women die from their abortion procedures. In actuality, that number is one in a million. Thankfully, there’s been a movement to end this stigma around a common experience. Obvious Child, a new romantic comedy featuring SNL’s Jenny Slate, strives to tell a more authentic, honest abortion story. Like most of us who need to end a pregnancy, it’s just a chapter in our lives as women.
Advocates for Youth recently launched the 1 in 3 campaign to end abortion stigma by providing a platform for women to tell their stories. A new podcast, the “Abortion Diary,” will be taping in Oklahoma this September to document local women’s experiences with abortion. The more stories we tell, the stronger the movement to put a “face” on reproductive healthcare. Our stories are the most powerful tool we have to end abortion stigma.
But stigma isn’t the only issue chipping away at our access to reproductive healthcare.
More than one hundred TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws were passed at the state level in the past two years. Laws that mandate parental involvement for young people seeking to end a pregnancy or mandatory waiting periods that force women to sometimes delay care for days. TRAP laws are passed under the guise of protecting women’s health. Some even say they make abortion safer. But in actuality, these are laws that impose unnecessary restrictions on both abortion providers and women seeking abortions with the intent to create additional barriers to access.
States are making it extremely burdensome for women to receive healthcare, and doubly burdensome if those women are poor or live in rural areas.
I was a college student at Oklahoma State when I needed an abortion. I had recently ended a relationship and knew that raising a child was not an option. I made an appointment at the Tulsa clinic and, the next day, drove the 70 miles from Stillwater to get the procedure.
That day, I pushed through the picketers to the clinic doors and checked in at the front desk. I sat in the waiting room, hoping it would soon be over and I could get back to my life. My appointment didn’t last but five minutes until, after seeing the doctor, I was told to come back in 24 hours.
You see, an Oklahoma TRAP law mandated that I wait 24 hours after having abortion counseling at the clinic.
Having nowhere to stay in Tulsa, and unable to afford a hotel, I ended up driving the 2 hours back to Stillwater. When going to get an ultrasound at a local imaging center the next day, another TRAP law required that I listen to the heartbeat. The ultrasound cost nearly $300, not including the $400 for the abortion procedure I would receive the following morning.
Although I finally had my abortion, it ultimately cost me $1000 in clinic fees, travel, and loss of income from the time it took driving back and forth from Tulsa.
Oklahoma legislators made sure it wasn’t easy for me to access abortion care, and they haven’t stopped. Just last month the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed legislation which will force physicians providing abortion to obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital. Medical experts and organizations agree that admitting privileges are not necessary for abortion providers, especially since abortion care has a 99% safety record, with less than 1% of patients experiencing any complications and even fewer requiring further treatment at a hospital.
Since admitting privileges can be impossible for physicians to obtain due to the political interests of hospitals, this bill could severely limit abortion access in our state, forcing Tulsa women to drive hours to get an abortion and possibly delay care in the process.
This week, I’m in Washington D.C. with the Center for Reproductive Rights to advocate for the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill that would finally act for women and stop states from passing unnecessary restrictions on abortion services. While in Washington,
I will make sure that Oklahoma women receive the healthcare they want, need and deserve.