What it’s like to be targeted at an abortion clinic in the UK
Right to Choose — A young woman recounts her experience of being harassed by anti-choice campaigners as she was seeking an abortion in Glasgow.
Written by: Clea Skopeliti
As the fall out from the reversal of Roe v. Wade takes place, states across the United States are fighting their own battles to protect abortion rights.
At least ten states have now banned abortion. In Texas, abortion is illegal under a 1925 law that came into effect after Roe v. Wade was overturned. But another ban – a so-called ‘trigger law’ – is set to go into effect later this month, which will impose civil and criminal penalties for performing banned abortions and prohibits nearly all abortions.
Here, Steph, a 28-year-old Latinx abortion storyteller based in Texas, describes the online harassment she’s faced since Roe was overturned, the importance of destigmatising abortion, and her fears over what could happen next.
I had an abortion when I was in high school; I had just turned 18. I was living in a suburb outside a major city in Texas. I found out while I was in high school that I was pregnant, and everyone knew, so that was really awkward. What’s important to highlight is that regardless of the fact that I’m Catholic, and from Texas, I literally saw that positive test and was like, ‘Oh, I need an abortion’ – there was no doubt in my mind from that moment. But I didn’t know Planned Parenthood was a thing.
The thing that was really difficult was finding a clinic that I could actually physically get to – the closest clinic at that time was about an hour and a half away from where I lived. So I had to figure out how to get there, and I needed someone to drive me there, because you’re not allowed to have the abortion and drive yourself back. I was working at McDonalds and making $7.35 an hour. So the actual cost of what I had to cover for the abortion was about $300, and that was like two of my paychecks.
It was this two week stressful situation, trying to coordinate all these aspects of my life, and skip school. And if you don’t go to class, they call your parents and I was trying to make sure my parents did not find out because even though I wasn’t required to notify them, I was living in their home and they are deeply religious and anti-abortion.
Before the abortion, I was anxious, frustrated – there was a lot of fear. I was still very much a kid. All these years of being shown terrible images of what an abortion procedure involves, and these terrible narratives. And it’s this five minute normal procedure where someone’s holding my hand and I didn’t cry. I wasn’t emotional. It was literally just relief. It was definitely like, ‘Okay, now I can move on with my life’.
When Roe v. Wade was overturned I felt numb. I’ll just never forget it, I woke up and the first thing I saw when I turned off my alarm is The New York Times’s headline: “The constitutional right to abortion has been overturned”, and I was just devastated. I knew it was going to happen, but that didn’t make it hurt any less. I went to bed with certain rights over my body, and I woke up and they were gone. And then the fear instantly is what’s next? I’m a queer person – am I going to be able to get married when I want to? Are my friends going to be able to get married when they want to?
In Texas we’ve been operating with the knowledge that they are going to outlaw abortion and make it completely inaccessible in our state. I think the fear for me is seeing just how far they’re willing to go to restrict people from accessing the right to have their abortion. I don’t feel good about the future of Texas. What I do feel good about is the future of local organising, like with the win in Kansas [the conservative state voted overwhelmingly to keep abortion rights in their constitution] and a lot of the smaller wins that are happening across the country.
I’ve been telling my abortion story for years now and overwhelmingly the response has been positive. But I remember doing a couple of abortion storytelling pieces right after the Roe v. Wade decision and that was some of the worst hate that I’ve ever received (even though I still got a lot more positive feedback). I wrote an article and a Trump-aligned Republican candidate found one of my articles where I described getting an abortion as empowering, and he tweeted about it and they added me and ever since then I’ve been a lot more careful about sharing things on my Twitter. My inbox was full of really scary people threatening to dox me, it was really bad.
It does more good to talk about my abortion, because that’s exactly what anti-abortion activists want; they want me to stop talking about my abortion. They want their narrative to be the one that dominates, which is that people who get abortions are these evil, careless, terrible people. And that’s literally just not true. I’m just a normal person who had a normal procedure with a normal life experience. I’m not going to be silenced.
I’ve been thinking about what my life would have been like if I wasn’t able to get an abortion a lot more recently. I would have a 10-year-old kid right now. I don’t know if I’d be alive. What I needed was to get out of an abusive relationship, and I don’t know that I would have been able to do that if I had not had the abortion. There would have been a lot of resentment, there would have been another human that needed care that I was not adequately able to give and still, if I get pregnant tomorrow, I have no idea what I’m going to do. I can’t raise a child right now. I would have to get an abortion, and I don’t know what that’s going to look like in the United States.
Overall I’m hopeful. I think that the work that abortion storytellers do is so vital to destigmatising it. I think if people get enraged, they’ll realise the significance of this fight.
(As told to Jessie Williams)
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Right to Choose is a new series from Huck spotlighting the voices of people who’ve been impacted by anti-abortion laws and anti-choice campaigners. See the rest of the series here.
Follow Jessie Williams on Twitter.