The decision to have an abortion is something deeply personal, and each person’s journey to making that decision is different. When I decided to have an abortion in 2014, my then-husband and I had been actively trying to have a child for years. I remember looking at the positive pregnancy test when I first found out and feeling an overwhelming sense of joy. But 16 weeks into my pregnancy, medical professionals told us that the fetus was nonviable; it could not survive, and if I continued carrying it without having an abortion, I would be risking severe complications and even death. So at 17 weeks, I decided to have a medication abortion.
That was before the Supreme Court stripped away the constitutional right to abortion in its Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision last year. Today, 21 states have active laws banning or significantly restricting abortion, while several others have passed restrictions that have subsequently been blocked by courts. And since the precedent established by Roe v. Wade was overturned, mifepristone, the first medicine in a two-step regimen for a medication abortion, has become the object of both judicial and legislative attacks at the state and federal levels. Most recently, congressional Republicans inexplicably inserted a provision into a proposed agricultural spending bill that would significantly limit access to mifepristone.
People who oppose abortion access rarely seem to talk about women with experiences like mine. All of the times I got pregnant, I deeply wanted to conceive a child. But I repeatedly went through pregnancies with medical complications. Over the years, I experienced pregnancy loss nine times: eight miscarriages, including two that required medical assistance, and one medication abortion. Every single one of those experiences was incredibly difficult.
While my decision to have an abortion was one of the hardest moments of my life, I am grateful every day for the decision that I made — and that I had the right to make my own decision about my pregnancy. Every single individual who gets pregnant deserves that right, whether their reason is similar to mine or completely different. Because I had that right, I survived to become the mom of my beautiful son Cole, who is now a 7-year-old aspiring scientist.
Abortion is a critical part of reproductive health care in so many ways. Whether to prevent severe complications like preeclampsia and address nonviable fetuses in cases like mine, or to safely terminate a viable pregnancy due to countless other concerns that might be unique to each person, accurate health care information and legal abortion access save women’s lives.
Just as with a pregnancy carried to term, the medical support system surrounding an abortion procedure — both before and afterward — is critical in helping pregnant individuals make an informed choice and process whatever emotions they have in a healthy way.
I feel lucky to live in Pennsylvania, a state that values and protects the right to choose. But I am extremely concerned about the millions of people who live in states that no longer protect that right. In this post-Roe era, nothing can be taken for granted. To protect abortion rights, the majority of Americans who support abortion access have to keep making our voices heard and keep fighting for better laws. That starts with telling personal stories. I had an abortion. And because of it, I survived my pregnancy and later became a mother to my wonderful son. That was my choice — and it’s a choice that anyone who gets pregnant should have.
Victoria Schiano lives in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, with her son Cole and husband Ryan.