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A woman changed her views on abortion after she had to make the decision for herself

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Yesterday, we brought you the story of a woman who reevaluated her anti-abortion views after she adopted her daughter and developed a close relationship with her birth mother. Today, we're going to hear from a woman whose beliefs around abortion changed after she had to make the decision for herself.

V: Over the years, I have become a little more comfortable. I still won't tell the world without using a pseudonym.

MARTIN: We're calling her by her initial, V, to protect her anonymity. She's a 39-year-old mortgage manager from LA. She grew up in a culturally Catholic home. But around when she was 14, she started going to an evangelical Christian church with a friend. When she was in her 20s, the church had become her life.

V: Church was everything. I was a leader in several ministries. All my friends were from church. I dated people within the church. I moved to be closer to my church, even.

MARTIN: Then, she met a guy, and they got serious.

V: We were so careful. We used multiple forms of contraception that I did not think that I really was. I thought it was really bad PMS.

MARTIN: V had broken up with her boyfriend six weeks earlier. She was 30 years old. She took the pregnancy test alone in her apartment bathroom.

V: I saw the first line and said, OK, we're good. And then the second line appeared almost right away. I didn't even look at the package again. I knew in my heart of hearts that it was right.

MARTIN: She called her ex-boyfriend.

V: I just said, I'm pregnant, and I think I might want an abortion. And I couldn't believe I was saying that. We were not on good terms at all. At that time, my only thought was, I can't imagine him being part of my life forever.

MARTIN: When V was in high school, she actually tried to talk friends and acquaintances out of getting abortions. Now here she was on the other side. Her cousin flew in from the East Coast to go with her to the appointment. Nine years later, she still remembers walking into that clinic.

V: There was a lot of chalk on the sidewalk. I had to walk past anything from, please don't do this to, don't commit murder to, your child is a child of God. You know, I had been fasting for, like, 12 hours. I couldn't sleep. I was still very nauseous. And I just remember thinking to myself, you don't know what it's like. Like, you're not walking in my shoes. And I got a little angry at it.

MARTIN: So it didn't make you less resolved?

V: I think I was very numb. To be blunt, I wanted to get it over with because I was afraid I would change my mind.

MARTIN: Did you let yourself imagine what that alternative reality would be?

V: I did many times. It was in my mind every day since I found out that I was pregnant. I was trying to come up with a way where I would feel good about not having the abortion and keeping the child. All I could think of was I had been laid off for the entire year due to the recession. I was basically sleeping on friends' couches for a little bit, borrowing money from my parents. I was not financially in any kind of place where I would want a child to be living, to be honest. But I wanted and still want kids more than anything.

MARTIN: Over the next few days, V felt relief. But then came the other emotions.

V: I was still an evangelical Christian at the time and still believing 100% that I had committed murder, that I'd murdered my child. All this guilt just started flooding in. I felt like I was this awful person. I didn't really believe that I deserved any happiness. At the same time, though, I couldn't shake the fact that deep down, if the situation presented itself again, I would probably do it again.

MARTIN: V still believes she made the best choice for herself. And that whole experience changed her larger views about abortion.

V: I dodge the question if anyone ever asked me if I'm pro-choice or pro-life because I think it's so nuanced because in many ways, I'm pro-life. That's why I vote for more progressive policies on welfare, and I want people to live their best lives. But I think a woman can only decide what is best for her personal life.

MARTIN: How have you made sense of it within your own faith?

V: That whole period of time was full of soul searching because if I had an abortion, what do I even believe? I thought I had the scarlet A on my forehead for abortion. Finally, I decided it was time to take breaks from the church as a whole. And I didn't think I would ever step foot in one again.

MARTIN: Ultimately, she did. And now she belongs to what she considers a pretty progressive Methodist church.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Amazing grace, how sweet the sound...

MARTIN: She was a greeter at the service on Sunday.

V: Hi.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Good morning.

V: Welcome. Good morning. Come on in.

MARTIN: V told me her minister had a moment of silence so everyone could reflect on the court's decision and its consequences. Her thoughts over the last couple of days have surprised her.

V: My emotions ran very high - mostly anger and just disbelief, even though I knew what was coming. Again, I was so desperate when I had the abortion. I did not expect my cousin to say, I'll be there on a plane flight. So I actually used Google to find out how to do my own abortion. And there were all of these tips on how. And I couldn't believe that I would ever consider it. But I also knew I needed somebody to drive me to the clinic and to pick me up. And I couldn't think of anyone that would ever do it because all of My friends were pro-life Christians. So I feel for those people who live in states where it will become illegal. Very few people have the means to drive to other states or relocate for an abortion.

MARTIN: I asked V what she thinks is missing from the debates over abortion.

V: Stories. I'm telling my story, hoping to open some hearts. I don't think people realize that the person sitting next to them, their best friend, their cousin, sister, daughter, mother had an abortion. And I just hope that people, including the Supreme Court, get a more nuanced position on this, that you really don't know what's going to happen to you or what you're going to choose until it happens to you.

MARTIN: When you think about that version of yourself, that young woman who walked into the abortion clinic that day, what do you want to send her?

V: Oh, I just want to give her a hug. I just want her to know that it'll be a long journey, but she will find freedom and she will find love within herself and from God and from others and that she will find her place. And ultimately, she will be happy.

CONGREGATION: (Singing) As long as life... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Miranda Kennedy
Miranda Kennedy is a supervising editor on Morning Edition. She leads political coverage, manages the show's editorial content, and plans stories for the daily program. In her role, she has led live coverage with David Greene following the 2015 Paris attacks and reported from China with Steve Inskeep for two weeks in 2017.