CREDIT: CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS/ REFINERY29 / YOUTUBE
“When it comes to protecting the right to choose, all I see are pros.”
Dascha Polanco, star of Orange is the New Black, has taken on a new role. She’s telling Kayleigh’s story, a young student who had an abortion due to personal reasons. It’s part of the new campaign Draw the Line from the Center for Reproductive Health.
She’s joined by Elizabeth Banks, Bellamy Young, Mercedes Mason, Amy Brenneman, Retta, and Mary McCormack to tell the stories of women who chose to have an abortion. The message sent is that choice can be difficult and that it is for a variety of personal and medical reasons.
Soon, the U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments in Whole Women’s Health v. Cole, the case that threatens to close 75% of abortions clinics as part of a Texas law. The court’s ruling will affect the future of all clinics and abortions rights.
In the video, Polanco says, “How can we trust women to make smart choices for their children, but not trust them with the decision to have children?”
Watch the campaign video above to hear more stories.
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Across the country, many states require a woman seeking an abortion to undergo waiting periods and counseling. The assumption behind the regulation is that ultimately women looking to have an abortion will regret their decision in the long term. A study published this past January in Social Science & Medicine, however, found that over 95 percent of the women who took place in a UC San Francisco study revealed that they had no regrets about their decision five years later.
The finding not only completely debunks the notion that most women who have abortions suffer from regret and guilt over their decision even if the decision was a hard one to make.
Out of interest, we researched online forums like Reddit to see what women had to say about their decision to terminate their pregnancies.
“I’ve had… more than one abortion. It was never a thought. Immediately after finding out I was pregnant, I bee-lined to the clinic. BEST decision I have ever made. No regrets at ALL! I’ve been called names, “baby killer”, etc. but I laugh at these people. I’m open about it, not that I had the choice because my ex SIL went around town telling everyone (thanks, stupid fuckhead ex-husband). The people that give me a hard time about it are parents themselves and are probably just bitter and jealous, anyways.” – Reddit user
“I had one when I was 21 (almost 39 now). Not once, for a single second, have I ever regretted that decision. I was dating a complete shitshow of an excuse for a human being (a heroin dealer, which I didn’t find out until later) who was abusive and promiscuous, and I knew the second I found out I was pregnant that I wasn’t keeping it. In addition to already knowing I was childfree for life, there was no way would I have brought an unwanted child into that kind of situation. So my very supportive mom took me to the PP appointment, where the staff was wonderful and only gave me a brief counseling session in which they made sure I was making the right decision for myself. The rest was pretty cloudy for me, because they gave me a Valium beforehand, but I do remember that when they did the ultrasound, they couldn’t find a heartbeat but still wanted to do the procedure because the pregnancy test was positive. After that, mom drove me back home, and the guy I was dating didn’t even seem to care about much of anything. We broke up just over a year later, and I heard through the grapevine that he was in jail for grand theft auto a few months after that. Today, I’m super well-adjusted and in a happy relationship with a really awesome guy who is as childfree as I am!” –Shanashy
“I’ve told people when it has come up in conversation.”
“I had an abortion recently. Mid-20s, stable relationship and good income. IUD failure. I’ve told people when it has come up in conversation. We don’t want children so we won’t have one. No regrets here.” –meinkampfyjumper
“When I was 17, I had an abortion. I’m 30, and have never once regretted it, nor ever felt guilty either. I knew, even after telling my parents and grandma about it I was certain. The guy was a nice guy, we talked about keeping it (because he was almost aborted himself when his mom got pregnant with him), but in the end he was already in the process of joining the Army. I would have been alone, a senior in high school, with my family’s help. That was not how i wanted it to happen, if at all, amd neither did he. He helped pay for half the procedure and when he took me home, my mom was supportive. I was scared yes, but relieved. She was amazing (still is). My grandma called me cold hearted for not thinking of the baby, when in my head(and heart), thats all I was doing. I learned later that my mom, grandma and great grandma had all had an abortion, but still had kids later. And its been great for them. Im on my second IUD now and have no plans for kids. Every so often I would get back in contact with the guy, and every time he brings up the kid we could have had (I was the one that got away). I would have had a 12 year old by now. And I breath a sigh of releif every time that I dont. I can barely take care of myself, hanging on by a thread and know I’m happier and better off. To some it may be cold, but I did the best thing for me, and made sure it never happened again, but also know i have the option and support in whatever i decide. And when i go for a check up or any Drs visit and its asked, i have no shame, no guilt, no regret in my decision. (Bracing myself each time for backlash, tho it never comes, true pros). Im happy other women have the same relief. There should be no negativity for our choices, but when it comes, bottom line, we know we did the right thing. And its not up to them for shaming us. Edit: my dad even told my brother and I years later ‘thank you for not making me a grandpa before I was 45.’ And gave me a pointed look. It was a small weight lifted I didnt know I carried. Especially after his reaction after i told him I was pregnant. (Explosive).” –bubblymayden
“I would have an 8 year old son right now if I hadn’t gotten an abortion. The thought of having a kid, a son, creeps me out. I have 0 regrets.” –Jens0485
While the 2020 election is still more than a year away, this summer is giving us plenty of political action. As the Democratic hopefuls vie to make a name for themselves in an over-crowded race, we can already see which topics are heavily resonating with voters. Education and Universal Health Care are popular topics but the subject of abortion rights is setting the tone of this election.
Currently, inhabitants of the United States are in the middle of a sweeping attack on our reproductive rights. States like Alabama and Georgia have recently passed “Heartbeat Bills” — legislation that prohibits abortion after a fetus’ heartbeat can be heard (usually at six weeks gestation.) Meanwhile, reproductive rights advocates are attempting to fight back against these laws. As they protest, these supporters share stories of times when abortion wasn’t safe and legal. They know better than anyone that an abortion ban won’t end abortions; it will only end safe abortion.
With this new focus on safe and affordable access to abortion, the forty-year-old Hyde Amendment is getting new attention.
Passed in 1976, the Hyde Amendment’s goal was to further prevent abortions from being covered under Medicaid.
Unlike today’s “Heartbeat Bills,” the amendment does make an exception in the cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is threatened by a pregnancy. Still, it is a law that unfairly targets people in low-income communities as well as Black and brown women. Without the expense being paid by Medicare or other government assistance, abortion is often another fee that can’t be paid but is no less needed.
At the time, this abortion legislation was supported by both Democrats and Republicans. While abortion still carries some stigma, the 1970s were a much less tolerant place for women seeking to no longer be pregnant. While some people have changed their stance on the Hype Amendment and abortion in general, not everyone has adjusted with the times.
Biden was one of the original legislators who voted for the amendment in 1976. Recently, the presidential contender’s team was forced to restate his position on the Hyde Amendment after Biden erroneously came out against it. A representative for the former-Vice President reiterated that Biden did, in fact, support the amendment just as much as he did when he first voted for it.
This new attention has resulted in other presidential contenders sharing their thoughts on the Hyde Amendment. Former-Representative Beto O’Rourke, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Corey Booker have all called for its appeal. Other progressive legislators have turned towards attempting to remove the amendment in the near future.
Additionally, during the June 11th, 2019 session of the House Rules Committee, Representative Ayanna Pressley sponsored one such bill. The legislation would remove the Hyde Amendment. Doing so would ensure that government aid could be used to cover abortion costs. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that any bill overturning the Hyde Amendment would have survived a Republican-led Senate. This attempt was killed before it came to a vote but hopefully, it’s just the start.
The decision to appeal the Hyde Amendment must come down to the harm it has done and the harm it can further do.
Despite being common for centuries, abortion was finally legalized in the United States in 1973. For the first time, women were able to see a trained professional. Before, women relied on midwives or anyone willing to take the risk to see them. They ran the risk of dying from the procedure or of being arrested. They had difficult decisions to make when facing abortion. Now, they had somewhere safe to go.
However, just three years later, that would be taken from them. The Hyde Amendment would force women to obtain abortions through riskier means.
Rosie Jimenez was one such woman. A single mother from McAllen, Texas, Jimenez worked towards a better life for her and her daughter. She was attending college classes when, in September of 1977, she discovered that she was pregnant.
For her, the choice to get an abortion was obvious. Another baby would derail her education and put even more strain on her limited income. However, with the Hyde Amendment’s enactment, Jimenez couldn’t afford the cost of an abortion from an actual OBGYN.
This was Representative Henry Hyde’s goal when he sponsored the bill that would become the Hyde Amendment.
A pro-life politician, Hyde said of abortion, “I certainly would like to prevent, if I could legally, anybody having an abortion, a rich woman, a middle-class woman, or a poor woman. Unfortunately, the only vehicle available is the…Medicaid bill.”
Before the Hyde Amendment was passed, Medicare would have covered the $230 abortion fee. Instead, Jimenez had to find a cheaper option. Her search for an abortion brought her to the home of midwife Maria Pineda. While Pineda was licensed to deliver babies, she wasn’t authorized to perform abortions. Still, at $150 her price was $80 cheaper than a professional.
On September 25th, Jimenez visited Pineda and received an abortion within her home.
The young mother spiked a fever by the next morning. Jimenez began hemorrhaging and vomiting as a side effect of an infection she developed. During an abortion, dirt and germs can be introduced via unsanitary instruments or improper hygiene. This a major concern that arises when proper reproductive health is withheld from women as it was with Jimenez.
The young mother was rushed to McAllen General Hospital where she would spend seven days fighting for her life. She could no longer breath on her own so Jimenez was given an emergency tracheotomy. Also, the infection ravaged her uterus severely. She was given a hysterectomy in an attempt to stop the spread of bacteria.
Sadly, the damaged had been done. The infection had spread to her heart and other organs. Rosie Jimenez was only 27 when she died of organ failure. It was caused by the infection contracted from her abortion.
Jimenez’s death greatly affected her friends and family, but it also had a national impact.
Once her story spread, candlelit vigils were held all over the country for Jimenez. Rallies were organized in New York and Washington DC denouncing Congress and the federal government for limiting access to safe and legal abortion. Though there were other instances like this one, none had resulted in death. As such, Jimenez was known as the “first victim” of the Hyde Amendment.
As pro-choice advocates shared Jimenez’s story, conservatives used it to condemn abortion in general. A 1977 investigation by the CDC mistakenly claimed that Jimenez got an illegal abortion in Mexico. The media circulated rumors that she had attempted to hide her pregnancy from family members. They claimed that this botched “Mexican” abortion was a result of her concealment.
In fact, Jimenez was receiving more bad press than the woman who performed her abortion.
The woman, Pineda, didn’t even face charges for what she had done. She was free to continue selling hope to desperate women at a discount. She was free to infect and kill others who came to her for help.
It wasn’t until Jimenez’s best friend, Diane Rivera, got involved that anything was done. New York writer, Ellen Frankfort, and National Abortion Federation director, Frances Kissling, worked with Rivera to stop Pineda. The three performed an undercover sting operation that caught the illegal abortionist red-handed.
However, even with evidence of her crimes, Pineda was only charged with a Class A misdemeanor. She served a mere three days in jail and paid a $100 fine. That’s the only penalty she paid for killing Rosie Jimenez. Additionally, there was no follow-up to ensure Pineda didn’t operate again.
Rosie Jimenez’s story is one that reproductive rights champions have been echoing for over forty years. We must acknowledge that the Hyde Amendment was specifically designed to discourage safe abortions. It was outlined to hurt women like Jimenez — women who are poor and brown and who deserve better.
For every woman who is able to end her pregnancy without fear and suffering, there are more who will face the same fate as Jimenez. Until there is a guarantee of safe, legal and affordable abortion, our work is not done.