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Day 4: Roe v. Wade–The Beginning of a Conversation

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Jan 22, 2013

Today is Day 4 of the Thirty Days of Love. Today’s action is to learn about the barriers to accessing reproductive health services in your community. Click here for more resources, family actions, and more! Click here to sign up for the daily Thirty Days of Love emails.


My abortion experience isn’t the kind that might be featured in a Lifetime movie. I was 18, technically an adult. I consented to having sex. I lived in California, which is a state that provides emergency Medicaid for women who need financial assistance to help cover the costs of abortion care. The circumstances in which I found myself were not particularly difficult.

I was 6 months out of high school, a full-time student-athlete living away from home. I was privileged enough to be going to college and receiving some scholarship money to do so. One day during practice I found myself violently ill. I had started dating one of my teammates who was several years older than me. He said he was using protection. I believed him.

I was pregnant.

Abortions are expensive. I didn’t have any money and even though I knew my parents would probably help me, I was scared to tell them. I went to Planned Parenthood and they sent me to see if I qualified for emergency Medicaid. I did. The office was bustling with people desperate to get financial assistance for themselves and their sick family members.

I felt a lot of shame about my decision. Not because I thought it was morally wrong but because I had to hide it from so many people in my life. The stigma around abortion meant that I had to lie to people because telling them opened me up to unnecessarily punitive judgment. The hardest part about having an abortion was the stigmatizing environment in which I was having it. I knew it was the only decision for me and even though I didn’t know a lot of women who had them, I knew they were ashamed – so I was ashamed too. We’ve created a culture in which we’ve attached a certain set of feelings to a specific set of circumstances. I was ashamed and grieving out of obligation when all I really felt was relief.

10 years later there is so much about my abortion story that’s more difficult than I could understand then. The shame, the lies I had to tell, and the overall dishonestly. I am grateful for my right to choose to continue what I knew was the best life for me.

Today, as we honor the legacy of the 40th Anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, let us remember that Roe is simply the beginning of a conversation about access to abortion and other reproductive health services. For many women, especially those who are members of marginalized communities, the obstacles—whether social, financial, or legal—are simply insurmountable. For today’s daily action, find out what barriers exist to comprehensive reproductive health services in your community and think about how these barriers could impact a woman’s decisions about becoming a parent. Click here to get started.

In justice,

Shanelle Matthews
Forward Together

Forward Together leads grassroots actions and trains community leaders to transform policy and culture in ways that support individuals, families, and communities in reaching our full potential.

4 Responses to “Day 4: Roe v. Wade–The Beginning of a Conversation”

  1. Jan Taddeo says:

    Thank you so much, Shanelle, for sharing your story. I am so grateful for this reflection on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

    Every woman’s circumstance is unique, yet I think we all share the many conflicted emotions of grief and shame in a culture in which shame is much more accepted and supported than grief. I am still grieving 38 and 39 years later from two abortions … ages 14 and 15. I refuse to let the shame eat me up … it can be a debilitating and deadly emotion.

    I hope our efforts to increase access to comprehensive sexuality education will prevent unwanted pregnancies, and I hope women always have access to safe and affordable abortions facilitated by trained, competent, accredited doctors.

    I am proud to stand with you on the side of love.

  2. Emily Monterosso says:

    Thank you so much 30 days of Love for helping me discover this:

    http://www.nationalpartnership.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=37565&security=3161&news_iv_ctrl=3223

    I had no idea what was happening in my own state.

  3. I am old enough to remember when abortion was illegal in many states. I hope we never return to that. Abortion should be the woman’s choice and not that of every fanatic and religious zealot out there. Worn should not be forced to bear children or to undergo unsafe, illegal abortions.

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