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Our Abortion Stories: ‘Many Women Are Not Able to Travel and Are Forced to Continue Pregnancies. We Must Remember Them.’

“As I left Mississippi, I looked back at the clinic before heading to the airport, to see it still pink. I didn’t want to think about the women we had turned away, the ones who were still calling.”

Abortion rights supporters rally outside the Supreme Court on April 24, 2024, as the Court heard oral arguments to decide if Idaho emergency rooms can provide abortions to pregnant women during an emergency. (Andrew Harnik / Getty Images)

In 2022, the Supreme Court overturned the longstanding precedents of Roe v. Wade, representing the largest blow to women’s constitutional rights in history. A series from Ms., Our Abortion Stories chronicles readers’ experiences of abortion pre- and post-Roe. Abortions are sought by a wide range of people for many different reasons. There is no single story. Telling stories of then and now shows how critical abortion has been and continues to be for women and girls.

The fall of Roe will continue to strain abortion access nationwide. We cannot, we must not lose the right to safe and accessible abortion or access to birth control.

Share your abortion story by emailing

Editor’s note: These stories have been excerpted and lightly edited for clarity.

The excruciating details of that weekend are etched in my brain and I have been an ardent supporter of reproductive rights ever since.

Suzanne Wallis

“I was an 18-year-old college sophomore in Boston in 1961 when I found out that I was pregnant from my first sexual relationship. There was zero doubt in my mind—I was determined to find an abortion provider. 

“Fast forward to almost three months later, when I had tracked down four providers in as many states and finally found a physician many states away. This kind person was located in our nation’s capital and was the go-to doctor for politicians seeking an abortion for mistresses, wives or daughters. But, he had an unwritten agreement with these same politicians that he would not perform any abortion past the first trimester. By the time he examined me, I was past the 12-week time.

“My profound disappointment and desperation resulted in my sobbing. He asked me to sit in the waiting room until his clinical day was over, then explained that he had contacted a former nurse a train ride away in Baltimore who could help me. He gave me a container of antibiotics with strict instructions to take the pills until they were all gone.

“What he didn’t tell me was that this nurse would be drinking from a bottle of Canadian Club when she answered her door. Nor did I know that her ungloved hand would insert a catheter in me while I was on her kitchen table or that I would be locked in a room alone upstairs for 36 hours.

“The pain was horrendous and I was positive that I wouldn’t make it out of her house alive. After being there for a day and a half without sleeping or eating anything, she came upstairs to tell me it was time for me to walk to the train station and I heard the front door lock as she pushed me outside.

“I was bleeding heavily, lightheaded and must have looked a wreck when a taxi driver pulled up to me and asked if I was okay. He took me to the train station and somehow I made it to the airport and back to my dorm room in Boston where I stayed in bed for two days.

“The excruciating details of that weekend are etched in my brain and I have been an ardent supporter of reproductive rights ever since.

“It is with sadness and anger that I recognize that pregnant people in this country are once again without rights.”

 Suzanne Wallis

Many women are not able to travel and are forced to continue pregnancies, despite financial and health risks. We must remember them, stand up for them and continue to fight for the simple dignity of having control over our own bodies.

Dr. Cheryl Hamlin

Clinic escorts watch an anti-abortion protester in the back entrance of Jackson Women’s Health Organization on August 19, 2021, in Jackson. The anti-abortion protests were light this August day—probably on vacation, joked Shannon Brewer, the clinic’s director. (Montinique Monroe / Ms. magazine)

“The last week that abortion was legal in Mississippi, I flew into Jackson, like I had every other month for the past five years, to provide abortions in the last standing clinic in the state. While there, our clinic, which was at the heart of Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health Organization, would close for good. More than a year later, I’m worried about the women in Mississippi who are still unable to access care. 

“Two days before Mississippi’s abortion ban took effect, I had to counsel the nervous patients that arrived at our bubblegum pink clinic for their state-mandated counseling 24 hours ahead of their abortion procedure. There were women from all over Mississippi, as well as other states. Some had traveled for hours for care.

“Mississippi has always been a challenging place to work in reproductive healthcare. TRAP laws (targeted restrictions on abortion providers) only served as a deterrent, causing women to wait longer for their abortions, making the procedures less safe. The clinic had to fly in doctors like me, as the local doctors would not, or simply could not, provide abortions because of the stigma, or the risk of losing their main jobs. 

“The state required doctors like me to tell my patients that having an abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, which is not true. Shouldn’t I be able to use my medical judgment, and evidence-based medicine, to counsel them appropriately, instead of the Governor telling me what to say? 

“In my office, I counseled patients individually. They had a safe space to share, if they wanted. They talked about poverty and lack of support, or that they were the first in their family to go to college. Some talked about abuse, others about wanting to take care of the family they already had, or how they almost died with their last pregnancy. Others merely forgot to use birth control.  They all had a unique story and unique challenges to receiving care. 

“On the final day we could provide abortions, there were just procedures, and lots of them. After the last one that day, I was numb. The next day there would be only follow-up visits, and I would not be able to return to provide care for others. As I left Mississippi, I looked back at the clinic before heading to the airport, to see it still pink. I didn’t want to think about the women we had turned away, the ones who were still calling, or the remaining obstetricians who would have to make impossibly difficult decisions as they cared for women with complicated pregnancies. 

“Now, abortions are illegal in Mississippi. The clinic has been sold and painted white. 

The Jackson Women’s Health Organization in Jackson, Miss., on August 17, 2021. (Montinique Monroe / Ms. magazine)

“Meanwhile, Mississippi has the second-highest maternal mortality rate, the highest infant mortality rate in the country, and the Governor, recently reelected, still has not signed off on Medicaid expansion in a state with one of the highest uninsured rates. Mississippians face some of the worst maternity care access in the country; 51 percent of Mississippi’s 82 counties are without maternity care. 

“I could go on; the statistics are all bad. Having lost access to the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare will only worsen health outcomes, especially for women of color, for women in rural areas, and those without financial means to travel for care. Since the Dobbs decision, compared to the average monthly number of abortions observed in the pre-Dobbs period of April and May 2022, there were 25,640 cumulative fewer abortions from July 2022 to March 2023. While this doesn’t include self-managed abortions with medications obtained without assistance of a clinician, it does suggest that thousands of women are not able to obtain abortions from a clinician.

“This isn’t about abortion, or even reproductive rights, it’s about human rights and the freedom to make healthcare decisions based on your lived experiences. 

“It’s about having access to care when and where you need it. Some of the women of Mississippi still get abortions. I see them as they make their way to Massachusetts or North Carolina. Many are self-managing their abortions at home. But access continues to dwindle across the South. Medication abortion is threatened by ongoing legal challenges. 

“Many women are not able to travel and are forced to continue pregnancies, despite financial and health risks. We must remember them, stand up for them and continue to fight for the simple dignity of having control over our own bodies.”

—Dr. Cheryl Hamlin

Up next:

U.S. democracy is at a dangerous inflection point—from the demise of abortion rights, to a lack of pay equity and parental leave, to skyrocketing maternal mortality, and attacks on trans health. Left unchecked, these crises will lead to wider gaps in political participation and representation. For 50 years, Ms. has been forging feminist journalism—reporting, rebelling and truth-telling from the front-lines, championing the Equal Rights Amendment, and centering the stories of those most impacted. With all that’s at stake for equality, we are redoubling our commitment for the next 50 years. In turn, we need your help, Support Ms. today with a donation—any amount that is meaningful to you. For as little as $5 each month, you’ll receive the print magazine along with our e-newsletters, action alerts, and invitations to Ms. Studios events and podcasts. We are grateful for your loyalty and ferocity.

Livia Follet is an editorial intern for Ms. and a recent graduate from The University of Colorado Boulder where she earned bachelor’s degrees in English literature and women and gender studies. Raised in rural Colorado, her interests include environmental justice movements, Indigenous feminisms and reproductive justice.

Tallulah is a Ms. editorial intern and junior at Smith College pursuing a BA in government and the study of women and gender. Her research and writing covers the rapidly changing landscape of abortion legality, pregnancy criminalization and surveillance, as well as constitutional law and conservative theory.

Alexa Schnur is an editorial intern at Ms. and a junior at Smith College majoring in the Study of Women and Gender, with a certificate in Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice. Her academic interests include reproductive justice, gender-based law, queer feminism, and feminist history.

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