My Abortion Story

Stigma around abortion ends when we can talk about it like any other health care choice we make for ourselves – a surgery, a biopsy, physical therapy, a pill. Compassion emerges on both sides when abortion is associated with the faces and names of people you know, love, and care about.

Editors Note: In this Guest Opinion piece, local coach, educator and writer, Irene Salter, shares her personal experience with abortion. Abortion is a choice Salter made for medical reasons, but one she believes should be available to all people, everywhere, for any reason, at any time. The story was originally released on Salter’s blog, Inquiring Minds and has been edited by the author for publication with Shasta Scout.

The leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that seems poised to overturn Roe v Wade has dominated my thoughts over the past few days. In 2021, according to the WHO, six out of ten of all unexpected pregnancies end in abortion. Around one in four women in the United States will have an abortion by the age of 45, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Let’s put a face to the statistics – my face. As with the MeToo movement destigmatizing sexual assault, It’s time to destigmatize abortion. I’d like to add my name to the growing list of people sharing their abortion stories.

My kids are IVF kids. I’ve shared a photo showing two of my fertilized embryos that were implanted together — one of which is now my teenage son. My kids are the glorious outcome of a massive investment of money, longing, hormone shots, blood draws, egg harvests, embryo implantations, and science. Plus a heart wrenching miscarriage in the middle of it all. My husband, Jason, and I joke that for each of our children, we bought our IVF doctor a Porsche. When we let our doctor in on our private joke, he grinned, blushed, then sheepishly admitted that he drives a Porsche.

Both pregnancies were relatively uneventful right up to the end when I went in for a routine check up. Protein was found in my urine and my blood pressure was too high – a clear sign of preeclampsia. It’s a fairly common, yet potentially dangerous complication where a pregnant woman’s body starts to reject the pregnancy. All my major organs and systems were shutting down.

With my firstborn, preeclampsia was detected before it had progressed very far, and very late in my pregnancy, just three days before my due date. Baby and I recovered quickly.

With my second, the preeclampsia appeared much earlier, five weeks before my due date, and it was much more serious. I had dangerously high blood pressure and poor kidney, liver, and spleen function even after delivery. It took several days for me to even be allowed out of bed which was heartbreaking because I wasn’t allowed to visit my newborn in the NICU. My daughter spent two weeks in the NICU before she could come home.

At my first postpartum check up, my doctor put on her most serious face and told me not to have any more kids because, with my history of preeclampsia emerging earlier and earlier with each pregnancy, it could be lethal.

That was fine by us. Two kids felt like the right sized family, especially after struggling so much to have them in the first place. We set aside all the reproductive angst and settled down to raising our kids. We even set aside birth control. I mean, what were the chances that after five years of actively trying unsuccessfully and needing to resort to IVF that I’d ever get pregnant unassisted.

Apparently, the chances were not zero.

Five years later, I had this weird bodily sensation that something was different. It wasn’t a headache. It wasn’t allergies. Was I getting sick? A few days later, I realized my period (which had always been unevenly spaced – sometimes 27 days, sometimes 32) was most definitely late. A home pregnancy test confirmed my suspicions. I was pregnant.

I told Jason and he said the most supportive, caring, compassionate thing, “It’s your body. It’s your choice. Whatever you want to do, you have my support.” Damn, I love him so much!

We booked an appointment with my doctor which confirmed that I was four weeks pregnant. My doctor recommended terminating the pregnancy. I could die. The baby could die. Or both.

Choosing to have an abortion was not a hard decision for me. From a purely medical point of view, having an abortion was necessary health care. To me, it felt like choosing to have any other essential medical procedure that would keep me healthy. Just like knee surgery or a colonoscopy, it’s not going to be pleasant, but I’ll follow my doctor’s orders and do what I need to do to take care of my body.

From an emotional perspective, I loved my life and didn’t want a baby now. My kids were both attending the school where I worked. They were thriving. I just barely had the capacity to give them the love and attention they needed. We had plans for a family gap year to travel the world in a few years. Even if preeclampsia didn’t dominate the conversation, I didn’t want to add an infant to the mix and neither did Jason.

I was lucky that abortion access exists at all in this small, rural, conservative town that I call home. That too made the whole situation easier. I didn’t have to travel. I didn’t have to disrupt my work schedule or the kids’ school schedules. Even still, the next appointment for a simple surgical procedure was a few weeks out because there was only a single clinic with a single out of town doctor visiting once a week to support people like me.

Adding to the ease was Jason, who never pressured in any direction, who held my hand through every appointment, and always always let me know I was loved wholeheartedly no matter what.

I have never regretted my choice to have an abortion, although sometimes I wonder what life might have been like if a surprise third child had arrived healthy and if I survived the birth. We’d struggled so hard to get pregnant the first two times. Children are priceless treasures to me and my husband. But no, it clearly wasn’t worth the risk.

My healthcare is for me and my doctor to decide. My reproductive system is mine to do with what I will – whether that’s growing a baby or choosing not to. When and how to build our family is for my husband and I to decide. I feel so angry that the ability to choose what’s best for one’s own health or uterus or family is not available to many people in America and around the world.

Abortion is healthcare. Abortion is common. Abortion is safe. Abortion is normal.

If you believe something different, then please, live your life in accordance with your beliefs. If you have a different story, I welcome it with all the love and compassion I can muster. All I ask is that you offer me the freedom to do the same.

Author’s note: You can read more personal abortion stories on Shout Your Abortion and Abortion Out Loud. If you feel moved, consider adding your voice and your story to the collection. You can find ways to donate to support abortion here. You can read the letter I wrote to my representatives here, and feel free to steal my wording.

Irene Salter’s 25 year career has taken her from premier neuroscience labs to the middle school classroom, from a school superintendent’s desk to nonprofit boardroom, from ropes course leader to Exploratorium exhibit designer, from published author to university chairwoman. Today, she has powerful conversations with visionaries that change their lives. She encourages the light in leaders and their teams to shine brighter through leadership coaching, facilitation, and training. You can learn more about her at

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