U.S. News

03.29.13

In North Dakota, Women Who Had the Choice to Abort

After the state passed the country’s most restrictive abortion laws, women have been coming forward to tell their own stories, and to stand up for others who may no longer have the right to choose.

At noon on Thursday, the director of the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo, North Dakota, put a message on the clinic’s Facebook page asking if any former clients would be willing to share their stories with The Daily Beast. The clinic is the only abortion provider in the state, and, as of this week’s passage of restrictive abortion laws, it might be the last.

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Dave Kolpack/AP

The responses came flooding in. Below, women who have had abortions at the Red River clinic, talking about their reaction to their governor’s latest moves:

Laura:

“I am a mom and wife. I love my family dearly. That is why I had an abortion. My son was about three months old when I found out I was pregnant again. I had a very rough pregnancy with my son. I was always (morning) sick, and constantly in pain. My labor was very long (32 hours) and difficult. Looking back on things I had several signs of postpartum depression too. I never want to go through that again, and I don't want to put my husband through that again.

That was why my husband and I chose not to have another child. I have no regrets about it. The procedure and aftercare went very well. I was finally taught about the many birth control options that are available. The staff at the clinic is very wonderful! They were very understanding and didn't judge me at all! I haven't had the courage to tell my parents about having an abortion yet, but I'm getting there :)

I also volunteer at the clinic as a patient escort. I did before my abortion and still do now. I love the women that come in and have no fear! I love being there to help protect them and (especially) the shy ones too.

On the recent laws: I feel that they are going to cause nothing but trouble. If the RRWC hadn't been available I don't know what I would have done. There is no way I would have been able to afford the drive and hotel costs to go to another city. (I am currently a resident of Fargo.) I know I would have tried natural teas/herbs/foods to try to start an abortion/miscarriage. I was suicidal in high school (like most teenagers are) I may have considered that again. I don't know...

The cost of the legal battles is going to be ridiculous. That money could go to such better use!

It frustrates me. But I know the best thing is to smile and say kind words to those who disagree with me.

Anonymous:

I am more than furious. I’m ready to pack my bags and leave [North Dakota]. I feel like at every turn, my rights are being diminished. I didn’t tell a man in this state when his vasectomy should be. My rights for procreation are being told to me. People who aren’t doctors are telling me how to run my body.

I was probably 23 years old, was engaged to be married, was not taking prenatal care and was on birth control when I conceived. Don’t know why [I got pregnant]. Sometimes the pill fails. Not everyone doing this is because it’s their form of birth control. I was not ready to raise a child. I didn’t find out I was pregnant until week seven or eight. I had sporadic menstrual cycles. I called clinic, and they couldn’t get me in until three weeks later, which is why the whole six-week rule doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t work with the biological elements of being a woman.

When I went down to the clinic, they did an ultrasound. The doctor found out there were 2 fetuses, twins, three weeks a part. It was almost a medical impossibility. With no prenatal care, no idea what that would have ended up like. I would have given birth to a 40-week-old baby and 37-week-old baby. 

Now have two healthy children. Two girls, five years old and two years old. My children will know about reproduction and their rights. Having children solidifies my view of pro-choice. Children ned to be wanted. Being a parent now makes me realize how difficult it would be if you were forced to have that baby. There’d be more shaken baby syndrome, more domestic violence. Wasn’t a responsible choice for me.

Kate:

I am a former patient of the Red River Women's Clinic located in Fargo, North Dakota. I read on their Facebook page that you are interested in hearing from their past patients. So I'll tell you my experience.

In 2003, when I was 16 years old, I found myself pregnant. My boyfriend at the time was supportive, but reality stepped in and I realized this was not the point in my life when I should become a mother. I had to go through the anxiety of telling my parents, because the state of North Dakota requires you get both parents’ signatures to have an abortion. Telling my mother was easier than telling my father. Thank God both of my parents were supportive of my choice, and they were also clear to me that they would have been supportive no matter what my choice was.

With a heavy heart, I called the clinic myself to set up the appointment. The woman on the phone was kind and concerned. She told me all of the information the state of North Dakota required and more. She informed me of other options I had and also asked if I would like any information on those. At no point did she ever "advocate" abortion over parenting.

When the time came for my appointment I was already 14 weeks pregnant. I was 14 weeks because that is how long it took me as a 16 year old girl to realize I was pregnant, and then work up the courage to tell my parents. When I arrived at the clinic there were protesters outside. They held posters and signs of dismembered babies, they shouted at my mother telling her she was killing her grandchild. They told me I was a murderer. Walking through those clinic's doors were like entering a safe haven. The employees at the clinic were so caring and compassionate. Every step of the process I was kept well-informed and was educated about the procedure. Again I stress at no point in time was I ever counseled that I had to or should have an abortion. The message I received is that I had the right to make a choice and that the people in that building were going to support me in that choice, no matter what it was. The staff was professional but not cold. Nobody in that building ever made me feel disregarded, disrespected, or uncared for.

Once the procedure was complete, I was taken to a recovery area and monitored. Once I was feeling ready, I was allowed to leave. Nobody rushed me to get out or made me feel like I was taking too long. When I left the protesters had nothing to say to me. I felt like an enormous weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Words cannot express the amount of relief I felt. I have never regretted my decision to have an abortion.

Years later, I am a mother of two, Army veteran, college-educated, and married to the man of my dreams. I do not believe that any of this would have been possible had I not had the right to choose. The right to choose my own destiny.

A year ago, my best friend was faced with the decision of how to handle her unwanted pregnancy. My friend is Catholic, and was struggling badly on how to deal with this pregnancy. When she told me she was considering abortion we discussed it for some time. She pondered for a few weeks about what she should do. She decided to end her pregnancy. I told her I would go with her.

Returning to the clinic was very different for me than it was the first time. I felt that it was my duty as a friend to support my friend in her choice. I would have continued to support her even if she last minute decided to parent. It wasn't about somebody getting an abortion. It was about supporting her right to control her own destiny.

This time the clinic had volunteer escorts to keep the protesters away from us. However, inside the atmosphere was very much the same. It is a building full of caring and compassionate people who truly care about women, their children, their families, and their futures.

All in all I would have to say that I don't know what I would have done had they not been there for me in my time of need.

Anonymous:

I have always believed that I have no limit. That I was able to do anything I set my mind to. Over a year ago I found myself feeling hopeless. My limit had been reached. I found myself six weeks pregnant. It happened late September. I was miserably sick and knew this wasn't good. Already a single mother of one, putting myself through college and working to support my child, the thought of bringing another child into this world terrified me. So many thoughts ran through my mind. Am I doing the right thing? Is it fair to my child? Will my God still love me? Will I be able to forgive myself? The questions of the uncertainty were endless. My body was weak, struggling with PCOS and severe back problems. My mind however was certain of the right thing to do. During the waiting period I lost 20 pounds, I didn't go to school and I couldn't make it through a workday. I was miserable.

My decision was made. I was ready. The day to visit the clinic came and too many emotions ran through me. When I left the clinic I did not have guilt. I did not have remorse. A sense of relief came over me. My child now will continue to receive the unconditional love and parenting he needs, my health was not put into jeopardy and I was able to continue with school and work. Not to mention the sperm donor in this case was just that, a sperm donor. Laughing at me and telling me it was "my problem". Some might call my decision selfish. But it was mine. A decision I made to protect myself & my child. My body is mine. My doctor, myself and my God are who decides my destiny. The Red River Valley Clinic was phenomenal. Going over every step in extreme detail. Making sure I was comfortable. Sending me home with several resources for birth control and safe sex. Without them my life would have been changed forever. These bills are emotional and have gone too far. North Dakota’s idea of teaching abstinence obviously isn't working. It's time we take action and putting all this effort and money into bills that educate our society on safe sex and contraceptives rather than taking away everything and pretending sex doesn't happen...because it does.

Anonymous:

I am a former patient of the Red River Women’s Clinic, in Fargo, North Dakota.

I'm 58 years old and had an abortion in 1985. It was my third pregnancy; I had two daughters, previously.

Since I was "older-than-average" and had been anti-abortion all my life, it was a traumatic experience, albeit necessary. My husband and I were separated for two years, after 13 years of marriage. He worked construction (when he worked) and his job was located in Minnesota. He was a drug user and I found myself struggling to pay bills and raise the girls on my own. I worked fulltime and made very little money ($800 a month). I actually borrowed $250 from a girlfriend to have the procedure done.

Although I was using birth control (perhaps you know of the sponge?) it failed. I had a short-lived affair with a man who I thought was interested in me. Turns out, he was just in it just for fun.

After much soul-searching, I made the appointment.

Shortly before my appointment date, abortion clinics were being bombed in other parts of the country. I wasn't sure if I'd be a victim of a bombing that day and, to tell you the truth, I wasn't afraid of dying as much as I was afraid my family and friends would know my secret when they recovered the bodies.

When I arrived at the clinic, I was informed 20/20 was there to do a story because of the recent bombings.
Let's see, I could die in a bombing or be exposed by ABC's 20/20 news program?  I wasn't sure what would be worse.

I met a young girl there, waiting with me. I tried to calm her and be of some comfort -- while my own heart was exploding with fear and guilt. I often think of her and that brief, emotional moment we spent together.

I remember the song; Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You" played as they performed the procedure. Still can't listen to that tune; I remove myself from the room or turn to another station.

It certainly impacted my life. But as I know now...and knew then...it was the right decision.

I was one of 300 people who carried signs and protested our legislators passing the abortion ban bills. I may live--and die--with the consequences of my actions on November 5, 1985...but it was MY choice to make.