When I was 19, I had an abortion. I was homeless, bouncing around couches and floors in New Orleans. I was in an emotionally abusive relationship. I was not myself, I was lost.
One morning I woke up sick. I got a pregnancy test. Positive. I did not have a cell phone. I did not have a bank account. I had nothing but my banjo and a backpack. I went to a friend’s house to use his phone. I called my best friend who had just received student loans to attend college in New York City. “I know a doctor,” she said. “You’re coming here and we will deal with this.” I remember crying on the phone. I remember the rock-bottom feeling of helplessness. Icy fear.
So I flew to New York, where I was born and raised, because my friend had the resources and saved me. I remember the immediate relief of her friendship and how badly I needed it. My pride would never allow me to crawl back to my family and ask for help. I was ashamed of myself not for my choice, but for being so vulnerable. I beat myself up the whole flight. I was sick on the plane.
The doctor was so kind and professional, the whole experience safe; and I felt empowered. I had been very sick, and I knew what I wanted from the beginning. There was never a doubt, never a hormonal feeling of regret or possession. Deep down, I knew that I had a lot to do in my life; and though I wasn’t sure what that entailed, I believed it. I believed in my future, and I believed that when I was ready I would know and then I would be the best mother I could be.
I stayed for a while in New York, recovering. Crashing in the Fort Hamilton Parkway apartment that crammed six of us. I slept on the couch or a bunk bed. Surrounded by queer women who held me and supported me. Looking back it wasn’t the procedure I was healing from, it was the loneliness of hiding it from my family. It was the calling folks in New Orleans to try and get ahold of the man that got me pregnant. When he finally returned my call weeks later, it had been done. Like so many stories, he did not have to deal with any of the repercussions of this pregnancy. I was on my own.
I began recording songs for the first time during this period. I recorded 19 songs, naming my project “Hurray for the Riff Raff.” Years later, I dedicated my first official full-length, It Don’t Mean I Don’t Love You, to the doctor who gave me the opportunity to focus on my life’s path. I have not stopped writing, singing or creating. I did not have to have a child when I was a child.
Now here I am writing to you about the most personal choice I ever made. As a rash of extreme anti-abortion bills have shocked much of the nation. The sponsors of these bills echoing the same sentiment: They want to go to the Supreme Court, they finally have the votes to overturn Roe v. Wade.
We are not dumb. We know what this is all about. It’s about controlling the bodies of women and non-binary people. We know this is not about the sanctity of life, when children are being stolen from their parents and dying in ICE and CBP detention facilities. When children of color are being shot by police. When children are being traumatized, shot at school, abused — and now lawmakers (and let’s be clear: Men and Women) tell them they must give birth even from incest, even from rape. It is brutal and barbaric.
We know that to restrict legal abortion access is to create desperate situations and desperate people. We know poor and working-class people will suffer the most. The goal here is to dehumanize and demoralize us. The goal is to humiliate us and cause suffering. It is cruel and sadistic.
I lay in bed at night thinking about the kid I was, and how I got to choose what became of my body and my future. I am kept up at night thinking of all the women and all the children that will be forced to give birth, and all of those who will seek out underground treatment. I think about all who will die.
I did not feel a hormonal calling to be a mother when I was 19 and pregnant. But now that I am a 32-year-old woman watching my government viciously attack the rights of women, trans men and children, I feel pretty fucking ferocious in my defense of us, our rights and our safety. I feel called to tell my story out in the open in the hopes of making someone reading this feel like they are not alone. To remind us all that ABORTION IS STILL LEGAL, though clinics are being targeted more intensely than ever and folks need your help.
My best friend paid for my abortion, so in turn I ask you to donate to the National Resource of Abortion Funds. And as a woman of Puerto Rican descent, I want to remind you of the painful history this country has of robbing women of color of their bodily autonomy. Here in Louisiana black women are leading the fight for reproductive rights with groups like Women with a Vision. Amplify their work. The fight continues. This is a harrowing time, but our ancestors are here with us, children depending on us, and we all deserve better. Our bodies. Our choices. Nothing less.