"I was raised in a very religious household. I had been taught at a young age not to have sex until you’re married. I also have autism, a developmental disability, and as a result, my education about sexuality and the reproductive system in the public school system was minimal. I was the last person you’d ever think this would happen to because of my religious views.
As a high school student, I had had several boyfriends. However, my boyfriend my senior year of high school was one that I seemed to give more importance to. I told him early on in the relationship that I didn’t want to have sex until I was married, which initially he agreed to. Four months into the relationship I started thinking about if that was really what was right for me and started talking to him more about sexual activity. At first I told him that being sexual was something that I wanted, and then immediately before it happened I asked if I could change my mind and he said no because I had led him on. When I told him I was uncomfortable for a variety of reasons, potential pain being one of them, he just said he could give me drugs so I wouldn’t feel it. He talked me into taking an overdose of synthetic morphine. It happened soon after.
Luckily he wore a condom, but at the same time this made it so I didn’t have any proof of the incident. Due to my lack of sexual health and consent education, I didn’t know that it was rape. I told him that it made me uncomfortable and if he wanted that so bad we could break up because I didn’t want to have sex anymore. He said once you’ve had sex you can’t say no and must continue, or else he would kill himself and it would be my fault. So I stayed in a relationship that was unhealthy to my sexual and reproductive health for two years.
As the relationship dragged on, slowly he quit automatically putting on condoms. I had to ask. When I did, it turned into an argument that he won. Sometimes I would say things like, “I am not really in the mood for this right now but if we have to at least put a condom on.” And he wouldn’t. Eventually, I just quit asking because I was scared to and didn’t want to go to verbal war with him about it anymore. Around this time, he encouraged me to not have an abortion if I ever got pregnant, because he was “pro-life” and having an abortion was killing a living thing. Because of my religious background, I agreed with him.
By this time, I was into my first semester of college. Shortly after winter break started, my period was late. My period was never late. I took a pregnancy test and got a very faint positive. I didn’t want to believe it and took several more.
I told my abuser that I thought I may be pregnant. He seemed nervous – so I took that to mean he would support me in having an abortion. It was important for me to please him. I told dad I thought I was pregnant and didn’t have any money to keep buying pregnancy tests and asked him if we could go to the store to buy a brand that I had used in the past and liked better than the drug store kind. Sure enough, it was positive too. My dad didn’t believe it, and after some discussion we agreed that I should have a blood test.
I did some research about pregnancy testing and found Planned Parenthood. I didn’t have much familiarity with this organization, but chose it because I read that the amounts that they charged were good for low income families and college students. I made an appointment for a blood test and my dad agreed to go with me.
I told the staff member who did my blood test about my situation. I was totally freaking out. She reassured me that since I had just finished finals, it was probably stress, and that if I was pregnant, I was less than four weeks along and there wasn’t even a procedure they could do yet and asked if we could wait to talk about abortion until after my pregnancy test came back. I said I wanted to talk about it now and that I had done a lot of research on the topic and wanted a medical abortion because I thought it would be less painful. She laughed and said she had heard from patients who had both that actually the medical was more painful than a vacuum aspiration, and continued to describe how the medical version worked. “So basically, this would force me to have the period from hell,” I said. She agreed.
This same staff member called me a few days later confirming that my pregnancy test was positive. Immediately I started asking about when an abortion could be scheduled, and she told me how to set that up but reminded me it would have to be a little bit later so the procedure could be performed. I decided I would call later.
That night, I told my abuser I was pregnant. “How long have you known?” He asked.
“Just a few hours,” I replied.
“How’d you find out?” I told him about the better quality home tests and blood test.
“What are we going to do?”
“I’m having an abortion with Planned Parenthood. I’ll need your help and emotional support.”
“WHAT?!” He said, surprised.
“I thought you said you’d support me if this was my decision, which it is.”
“I just said that to make you happy. That’s not what I want.”
“What?! You want to keep it?” I said, surprised.
“Yes. You know what I believe. It’s a living thing. This was decided without my input.”
Then I felt bad. “Will you still care about me if I do this?”
“I’m really sorry about this,” I continued. “You know that with my disability and how I wasn’t in the regular high school classes, I had to fight to get into school. I am going to my dream college! I don’t want or need this now!”
Then I cried. He started pushing me into sex – and that was the last thing I wanted. I was too scared to say no – but I didn’t say yes either. To me, at the time, I thought my relationship was healthy and consensual.
Shortly thereafter, I decided to stop eating. My objective was to hurt the baby. I thought maybe I could justify abortion if the baby wasn’t alive. My dad asked me later if I had made the Planned Parenthood appointment and asked how much the abortion would cost. This reminded me, and so I called and asked them. To my delight, it was only $400 for a medical abortion.
I had heard horror stories about women who had had medical abortions dying from the pills or having to have another abortion later. When I set up the appointment, the staff member reassured me that stories like that weren’t very common instances and that in her experience the medical abortion usually worked.
My dad and I went back to the clinic together. I remember thinking how glad I was that this clinic was only eight minutes from my house. I had read online when I did abortion research that some women had to drive crazy amounts of time just to have an abortion.
When I got there, the staff seemed happy that my dad would go with me. The staff did a sonogram on me and showed that the baby was fine. I still was giving myself a lot of guilt about having an abortion due to my religious views. I remembered those bumper stickers my friends had that read, “Abortion stops a beating heart.” I started asking the staff if the baby had a heart beat yet.
“You’re only four weeks along and just at the exact amount of time we could do this. Any earlier and we would have to tell you to go home. There isn’t a heartbeat yet but that’s not unheard of this early,” they explained.
They sent me to talk to another staff member to talk more about my decision and the paperwork that I had signed. I told them that I felt really bad about my decision. The staff member asked, “Are you sure that you want to do this?” And then continued to explain that once the first medication was taken, I couldn’t back out. I explained that I didn’t see a better alternative. She walked me through what the medical abortion would be like, explained what each medication would do, and eased my nerves about meeting the abortion doctor.
I had heard scary stories about people who performed abortions, but she convinced me that he was super nice, explaining that he was, “like a big kitty” and not what I was expecting. Then I met with the abortion doctor who walked me through the process and got more specific about the series of medical pills, explaining that after the first pill, I would need to wait ten to 24 hours before taking the rest. He encouraged me to keep a lot of menstrual pads and water on hand. I took the first pill and went home with a bag of more pills.
I didn’t have the heart to tell my dad the baby was okay, I got the impression the abortion made him uncomfortable even though he was trying to be supportive. So I just told him that it didn’t look like the baby would have made it anyway. He seemed relieved. Afterwards, my boyfriend and I went out to eat and went on some holiday shopping. We came back home when it had been just over ten hours since I took the first medication. I decided I wanted to take the rest of the pills and complete the abortion. I took the rest of the pills and then my boyfriend and I decided to watch a movie.
About half an hour later, the cramping started. It hurt terribly. I asked him to take my dog into the other room and leave, since even feeling them breathing on the bed hurt. I cried myself to sleep from pain. The next morning, I woke up relieved. Not long after, I went to Planned Parenthood for my follow up and they confirmed I was no longer pregnant.
They gave me some birth control and I was advised to continue abstaining from sexual activity, which I had been doing as instructed due to the sensitive nature of my body after. They recommended I continue to abstain to give the birth control time to work, and that if I was going have sex before I had had a chance to complete a full month of birth control pills, I should use a condom.
I explained this to my boyfriend and even educated him on proper condom usage, explaining that he should be holding the base of the condom and told him what Planned Parenthood had said. I told him I didn’t want to have any type of sexual activity for a while until I knew my birth control was working. It happened anyway, and he didn’t use the condom appropriately like I asked. I had to go back to college the next day, and arranged to get emergency contraception at the school’s health center. I called Planned Parenthood in a panic to tell them what happened asking if there was anything else I needed to do. They helped me relax a little.
In the weeks to come, I came to regret my abortion because of the guilt trips my boyfriend put me on for “killing his kid”. I grieved and tortured myself for the abortion ever sense. Soon we moved out of my dad’s house, and the violence escalated to physical, and he shoved me into a wall for hugging him when I saw him cry. His excuse was I wouldn’t “leave him alone”.
That was the first time I ever started feeling any kind of gratitude for having had an abortion, because I knew he would have done the same thing to my baby. Later, he broke up with me because of reasons such as my disability made me “hard to talk to” and the “sex wasn’t good”. What he wasn’t realizing was often, I didn’t want to.
I had to scramble to find a place to live. He basically kicked me out of our apartment. Being so close to the end of a semester, it was difficult, and slept several nights in my car or the library. A little while after, my doctor and I had some concerns about me having STI’s (Sexually Transmitted Infections), including HIV, because my boyfriend likely cheated on me and a girl moved in with him right after. I started getting sick a lot near this time so we thought this was a good idea to rule everything out.
I ended up going to Planned Parenthood again to get tested and learned that luckily I was fine. I never knew that the relationship was considered abusive. I believed the things he had said to me about having an abortion, and talked to my best friend about it for several years, who was also my college roommate once I was able to find a place to live.
After years of talking about it, one semester, she was also in a Women’s Studies class, and learned more about sexual assault, domestic violence and women who had abortions. She suggested that I wasn’t really beating myself up about the abortion but that I was feeling confused from experiencing 2 years of abuse. She encouraged me to talk to one of her friends about what happened.
I did, and we decided I would go talk to the Victim Advocate at my college campus. After talking to her, I started to give myself permission to stop beating myself up about the abortion because of how unhealthy the relationship was. She also helped me find a therapist, and I was able to resolve these feelings as a result.
Eventually, I joined a faith community that had a theological statement that was more accepting of women who had had abortions. Soon after, I openly preached about my abortion and led discussions in my college faith community about abortion to try to encourage others to talk about theirs if they had one and make sure that sex was discussed more positively and what consent should look like. I also became the Public Relations Chair of of the sexual violence student activist group on campus.
I decided I would only finish my music degree because I was nearly finished with it and decided
to explore women’s studies or social work in graduate school. My grades improved and I was invited to an honor society for students with disabilities.
A couple of years later I gained admission to a local Master of Social Work (MSW) program specializing in community and advocacy social work. I focused my studies on women’s rights. I graduated in May 2014 and passed my LMSW exam (Licensed Master Social Worker) in November 2014.
Now, I can acknowledge that even though abortion was a difficult decision, in the end it was probably what saved me and allowed me to go for my dreams and be in a place where I could start my career. I can only hope that I can provide women and others impacted by victimization, disability, and reproductive health concerns the same compassion and empowerment that Planned Parenthood provided me." —Adele