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One woman's abortion story

A woman holding her husband's hand during their honeymoon in Italy.
The interviewee
The woman holds her husband's hand during their honeymoon in Italy

Maureen McKinney recently talked with a couple about their experience with abortion. We do not name them to protect their privacy. This is an edited, excerpted version of the conversation with the woman.

If you could tell me about the situation surrounding your abortion, I'd appreciate it.

We have been together since 2011, and in 2016, that's when we were getting married. In December, we ended up getting pregnant from a broken condom. And so, we decided, we kind of already (had) known that we didn't want kids .That had been a discussion that we had had; we already knew that the plan if something happened was to get an abortion, and so, when that came to fruition, we talked about it just to make sure that we both still wanted to do that, and then scheduled it. We were living in Missouri at the time, in the St. Louis area. And so then the nearest clinic was in Granite City, Illinois.

What was the situation like when you got to the clinic?

I know that they had kind of prepared us when we would call to make the appointment, that there would be people waiting for us and the clinic, from what I remember, in Granite City it is kind of in a downtown area. So it's not like some of the other places where they have a bunch of trees around and there's just a gate or whatever. There's the parking lot and the street and they can just stand on the street and yell at you from the street.

And, if we wanted to wear headphones, we can wear headphones. And then when you come up to the door, you have to check in with some sort of security person, and they check you in and then buzz you into the building. And so, it feels like you're doing something wrong because you're like getting buzzed in somewhere in high security. And people are yelling at you from the street.

And I didn't think it was going to bother me because we were confident in the decision that we made. But then when I got there and saw them, I was feeling really not confident. I didn't have headphones. And when we're walking up to the door, I wanted him to be on the side closest to the street so that I was kind of blocked from their view and like feel protected, basically.

Do you remember what they were saying? Or what some of the signs were they were carrying?

I know that some of the signs have the misleading images that you get on Google of like, they say that it's like a partial baby or whatever. But it's not. It's not real. So I know that some of the signs had that. And then I know somebody was yelling – it was something like 'you could be making better choices’ or God loves your baby or something like that. I just felt it was so ridiculous, inappropriate. I mean, it's all inappropriate, let's be honest, but it just felt so invasive and inappropriate that I just really felt like they weren't there to help anybody. They are just there to hurt people's feelings.

Did you feel that way? That your feelings were hurt?

Yeah, because even though I still stand by that being the best decision for us, both at the time, and just generally like in our lives, like knowing that we would not be good parents because we don't want to be parents and how I was only I think, seven weeks and then the pregnancy had already affected me so bad I couldn't go to work because I was so sick, and even knowing that that was the correct choice for us, it still felt like I was doing something wrong.

And that even though they don't know me, they think that they know what's best and so, they want to try and tell me what's best for me. And it was like well, maybe even though we talked about it and you made this decision, maybe it's the wrong decision and maybe I am a bad person because I want an abortion for this and maybe it's selfish or whatever.

Like everything that was kind of being yelled was really kind of getting into my head and I think it's also because you know, pregnancy makes your emotions run high and your hormones out of control. And so, it was kind of everything compounding. I felt like it's just such a horrible position to be in. And then be yelling hurtful things, it just makes it so many times worse.

And I remember somebody on the same day as me. She said she already had five kids and just could not couldn't handle any more kids. She knew having an abortion was going to be what was best for her because then she wouldn't be taking anything away from her other children. But she still, she just felt so bad and was crying like the entire day. And then had to be outside with those other people. And I just felt so bad for her, too, because she really only had that one option to go with, and then she's being berated for it walking in and out of the clinic.

Do you think there was any time that you thought you might reconsider the decision because of what they were doing?

I think when I was going in, I just kept having second thoughts like is this for sure the right thing to do? And we also had decided on a medical abortion. And so we had left with the pills, and then you go back to the same place later for the follow up so we had to go twice because they have to follow up with you to make sure that the medication did it's job and that everything is out of your uterus.

And so, I think the second time I felt better about it because, I mean, I couldn't take it back. The first time just feeling like I was really secure about the decision, and then having people there telling me that my decision-making was wrong, just felt really intense. And maybe I I should reconsider.

When you go in, they asked for whoever accompanies you to go somewhere else, so that they can make sure that you're not being pressured into the situation by your partner, or your parent or whoever is with you. And so they had somebody come talk to me and make sure that it was my decision. And that felt really safe. It was just being outside just felt so unsafe, especially because you see news reports of people bombing abortion clinics, and it's like, well, is this the day that somebody's going to shoot at the abortion clinic or whatever? The whole thing was just so intimidating, I feel to even get there in the first place.

I'd imagine you still feel solidly like you made the right decision.

Yeah, I mean, at least for us, we still don't want kids. And I don't feel like mentally I have the capacity to go through a pregnancy. The only thing that I've said in the past is we have some friends who are infertile, and they've been through some really traumatic times with their infertility. And I've said if we had known them, when our abortion happened, I would have considered talking to them about it to see if they would want us to go through with having the child and giving it to them.

But that's literally the only thing. The only time I felt maybe it wasn't the right decision. But even then we didn't know them then. It wasn't something like we could have that kid and then later give it to them when we did meet them like. So, I understand that. That's kind of what adoption is about. But I also have, you know, I have friends who were in the adoption system. And I just know that I couldn’t willingly put someone into a foster care situation or into the adoption system in America when it's so broken. And when I know what goes on if somebody doesn't get adopted out, so I didn't feel like that was the right decision, either.

The big point as well, for both of us too, is we often think back to that moment to and think if we had not made the decision that we had made, it would be like wow, we would have a seven-year-old kid and both of us are thinking to ourselves, ‘There's no way the mental capacity or like just the patience to to be that type of person, and that just not fair to a child in general.' So yeah, knowing how I grew up, I didn't have the example of parents that I feel like I could emulate or anything like because we didn't want to because we entered our relationship, knowing that we didn't want kids. Trying to then change our mind and make sure that our parenting styles match and things like that and that wouldn’t have worked either. I just don't think that for us, there would have been a future as a family if we had changed our mind and decided to have a child.

I imagine there's some remorse involved. Although now I don't want to put that on you if that's not how you felt, but it's not a happy time.

Yeah, I think in the beginning, right after, I did feel like I was kind of questioning whether or not it was the right decision, just because my family's Catholic and I grew up on both sides, my family was pretty religious. And so, you know, after going to a Catholic school, and then finding out, I feel like when I was younger, it was always black and white, and then becoming an adult you learn that the world is very gray and very, very little of it is black and white. And so, I felt like I did have a little bit of struggle, immediately after, maybe in like, the first year after.

You guys had decided you were going to get married at the time of the abortion. Is that right?

Well, we had gotten engaged in 2014 and then had planned the wedding for 2016. And so, we had already we're basically done planning. We were just kind of making decorations and alterations and stuff like that at that point. So everything was already set in stone.

And so, by the time the wedding would have come around, I would have been like five months pregnant or something. And so my dress wouldn't have fit, and everything would have had to have been different. And you know, everybody would have to know. I didn’t want anybody to know.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is news editor and equity and justice beat reporter for NPR Illinois, where she has been on the staff since 2014 after Illinois Issues magazine’s merger with the station. She joined the magazine’s staff in 1998 as projects editor and became managing editor in 2003. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois Springfield, she was an education reporter and copy editor at three local newspapers, including the suburban Chicago Daily Herald, She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University and a master’s degree in English from UIS.
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