A packed house of women on Thursday evening took turns telling their stories about their experiences after terminating a pregnancy during testimony at the US supreme court – the venue for what may be the Supreme Court’s biggest decision on reproductive rights in decades.
There were tears, laughter, and some direct personal attacks as women shared similar stories of the emotional highs and lows of ending a pregnancy. There were others who were supportive and understanding of their peers’ decision, including one woman who ended up terminating after a doctor called her “fucking psychotic”.
California’s Access to Abortion Coverage Act (Aata) is a form of insurance coverage – passed unanimously in the state legislature – that provides abortion coverage in all health plans. Of the 10 million covered by Aata in California, as many as 60% of them rely on public insurance for their contraception and abortion.
Mairead O’Neil, a young, queer mother who was sexually assaulted and needed an abortion, testified about her experience using Aata after encountering an unpleasant experience using private insurance when she was 17. She testified:
I was already at a young age in my life. I was just 14. I had told myself that I wanted to get abortions, but I didn’t know what it would be like. [My financial counselor] said ‘if you have a job with decent benefits or you can get some subsidized health care, then you might be able to afford an abortion.’ But when I was in my mid-teens, I was already financially on my own with a little money that I thought I’d come from my family to get the abortion. I had been receiving free abortion care, but I had no health insurance, and I don’t want people to think that I was able to pay for the abortion out of my own pocket.
Rosalie Gubuaga, another woman who needed an abortion after being raped by her uncle, testified about the trauma of reporting the incident and the effects that rape victimhood can have on recovery from an abortion.
I also had to take a real risk. I would say I went through a 12-step program for rape, and that I met with my rape and sexual assault counselor after I passed the test on whether I had been sexually assaulted or not. Her message was, ‘If you tell anyone, you’re going to be sure to get criminal charges.’ She was very adamant that if I told anybody, I would get prosecuted. We were living in the county where all these domestic violence prosecutors knew that domestic violence had to go through the system. And if we would allow anyone in the government to be engaged in this information, we’d destroy the family. Our village would be destroyed. Her objective was to end my life.
And so she drove me to the police department, which was three miles away from where I lived. And the policeman there wrote the record that she happened to be in the grocery store and that I happened to be there and that she happened to be willing to help. And she was recorded. Then in two weeks, I was able to walk into a hospital and get a doctor that would refer me to a program for support after the abortion.
One of the most wrenching stories was that of Daniella Vargas, a transgender woman who in 2009 was arrested in her aunt’s home and raped. She was denied by her birth certificate, her gender, and finally by the police when she asked to go to the hospital to get an abortion. She did not have a health plan, and her ex was denied because of the state’s requirement that she waive the requirement that applicants for health insurance have “face the lowest acceptable bid” on the market.
When I was in the police station I told them my story. I told them I had been raped. They told me it wasn’t a big deal. I was very embarrassed to tell them that I was a trans woman. They were very quiet. They held my hands up. I was trembling, very scared. I got raped, and my birth certificate is still wrong. They have my sheet and my ID. I cannot get an abortion. It seems like everything is happening for no reason. I will never forget that moment. It’s my humanity ripped from me. I did not expect that to happen.
Daniella did not have access to Aata until this year, when she could finally get approved. Today, she has been approved and is about to take her final pregnancy test.
These stories give people hope that politicians will continue