On the eve of the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which the Supreme Court overturned last year, only two options remain for one in four women of reproductive age in 14 states if they wish to terminate a pregnancy: seek care out of state or self-manage their abortion. This month, a single mother in her 20s living in Texas, whom we’ll call Alauni, chose to take abortion pills at home and in secret.
A trio of overlapping abortion bans has made terminating a pregnancy illegal in Texas except in instances of narrowly defined medical emergencies. There are steep legal and financial consequences — up to life in prison in addition to a civil penalty of no less than $100,000 — for anyone who performs an abortion or helps an abortion seeker. And while the law explicitly forbids criminalizing abortion seekers, that hasn’t stopped Texas prosecutors in the past: A few months before Roe was overturned, 26-year-old Texan Lizelle Herrera was charged with murder for allegedly self-inducing an abortion; the charges were dropped after a nationwide outcry.
Given these risks, Alauni spoke with the Cut under the condition that we publish her story under a pseudonym and asked that we not disclose how she obtained the abortion pills. She shared her abortion experiences, her fear of being forced to continue an unwanted pregnancy, and her frustrations with a system that is not set up to support mothers like her.
My first thought was, Oh shoot, not again, but I kind of already knew I was pregnant. I had taken a Plan B, but I just felt like it wasn’t going to work because I did take it a little over 24 hours later. I knew immediately that I wanted an abortion. I don’t think I want any more kids after how many I have now. I was thinking, I literally just bought this new car, and it’s only big enough to fit the kids I have. I just moved. If I had another kid, I’d have to move again to have space for that child. I can afford most of the things that I do now, but if I have another child, I won’t be able to do that. It would change my life drastically.
Self-managing was my only option because of the laws in Texas and the risk of traveling. I found out around Christmas as well. Money is always tight around Christmas, especially when you already have kids. I didn’t even have to crunch any numbers — I just knew I was going to have to self-manage at home.
I took the first pill at 7 p.m. and then the second one the next day at 7 p.m. I’ve had an abortion before. It was really exactly the same as my previous abortion, other than when you do it at the clinic, you take the first pill at the clinic and the second one at home. Some women say the cramps are really bad for them, but I think I have a higher pain tolerance than a lot of people. I took ibuprofen because I knew that cramps would come with it. The bleeding lasts a while, but if you’ve had periods before, it’s almost like that — a little more than normal, but there’s nothing that I’m concerned about.
In Texas, it’s not safe for you to even go to a doctor or to the hospital if you suspect that you’re pregnant. Once they get that information, if you just miscarry, or lose the baby out of nowhere and don’t report it, you can be investigated for it. It’s scary. And if you travel out of the state to have an abortion, you can still get in trouble for it. It’s like you’re taking a bigger risk traveling and getting caught than just self-managing. Being at home is easier; you’re where you’re most comfortable.
It’s also very frustrating — you are forced to hope for the best but get prepared for the worst. In a month, I will take another pregnancy test. And if it’s not negative, I’ll make sure the lines are getting lighter. Just keep taking tests until they go negative. I need to stay on it to make sure that the pregnancy was actually terminated, and I’ll go from there. Hoping for the best is hoping that self-managing was successful. But in case it wasn’t, I’d have to prepare myself to get ready for whatever life has for me at that point.
Under the current laws, it’s scary to know that you may be forced to go through with an unwanted pregnancy. Now we’ll have higher cases of kids in foster homes, of babies being found in dumpsters or being left outside fire stations and hospitals. There was even a girl here that killed herself because she didn’t want to be pregnant. Women are doing these extra things that they shouldn’t have to, and the simple solution is just us having that access to abortion.
It’s almost like it’s a war on women, because men have it so easy. They can have a hundred babies in one year and not have to be held responsible for them, but women are left to be held responsible for them. I’m a single mom. My children’s fathers, they’re on child support, but neither of them pay. I have to do everything by myself. It’s scary to know that if I get pregnant again that the dad may not want to be involved in the kid’s life and it will all be left on me.
Then when we need help — food stamps or WIC for baby formula or diapers — it makes us look unfit, as if we cannot take care of our children or we are bad moms because we can’t afford it. It’s embarrassing whenever we have to go ask — go beg for help and get denied. Other things fall along with that as well. You have to worry about CPS getting involved — I’ve actually had to deal with them at one point. It’s just so much that comes with being a parent. Bringing a child into the world is a bigger responsibility than a lot of people think.
When you’re living off one income, it’s really hard — especially when you need assistance, but the assistance tells you, “Oh, you make too much, so we can’t help you.” Yeah, I may make “too much,” but I have all these children I have to care for. I have to make that much in order to care for them, but I’m still barely making it. The average right now for one kid in day care is about $200 a week. If you have multiple kids, that’s hundreds and hundreds of dollars. My rent is $1,300. If I’m paying that much in day care, and $1,300 in rent plus expenses, I would be forced to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and never be around my kids. Then at that point, you would be neglecting your children, which you can also get in trouble for.
Abortion just goes into a whole bunch of other topics. Prices have gone up on everything: diapers, formula, wipes. You can get on WIC, but you have to qualify for it. If you don’t qualify, you have to buy formula. Formula is expensive. A lot of mothers can’t breastfeed or don’t have the time to breastfeed, because they have to still maintain their home; they have to maintain a job. If they have other children, they still have to attend to those children as well. If you can’t afford formula, then you look like a bad parent because you can’t afford to feed your child. It’s like the system is set up to fail mothers. It’s just not fair. We can’t survive like this. It’s hard.
People have told me, especially after sharing my first abortion story, “Oh, you did it because you’re irresponsible,” or “You’re selfish.” If I was irresponsible, I would’ve kept the baby — and that baby would have suffered. If I was selfish, I would’ve kept that baby — because I wouldn’t have been able to care for that child like the child should be cared for.
At the time of my first abortion, I was not financially stable to bring another child into the world. I had just had a baby, and I was dealing with a lot of physical abuse from their father. It was just not right for me to bring another child into the world at the time. I went to New Mexico. It was four and a half hours away. Organizations helped with lodging; they helped with gas. Then getting there and still having to pay a difference for my abortion — out of nowhere, they were able to come up with even more funds to cover it fully, so I was able to have a little bit of extra money in my pocket. The process at the clinic was so smooth. Everyone there was so nice. The experience was just beyond perfect; it was amazing having all that support from the organizations. Then going back home to that situation I was in … Going back was traumatic.
But that first abortion allowed me to be where I’m at today. I am more financially stable than I was then. If I had to have another child at that moment, I feel like it would’ve set me back so much further because I was already in a bad position. Everyone’s situation is different. Some women may have medical issues. Some women may just not be in the right position at the time but want children later on in life. Some women may never want children at all. If a woman has an abortion, she should not have to explain why she had that abortion to anyone. That should just be a right that she should have.
I know that I’m not the only one who is having to go through this: having to self-manage or find a way to self-manage. We can’t get help from anywhere else. We have to help ourselves.