By Nicquel Terry Ellis, CNN
For 49 years, women have had the right to terminate a pregnancy without needing to justify it, giving some a chance to pursue their educational goals, career aspirations and start families when they were in stable situations.
This has especially benefited Black women who continue to fight for an equal place in the US.
Black women are three times more likely than White women to die of pregnancy-related complications; encounter racism from health care providers at higher rates; face unequal pay; and are more likely than their White counterparts to lack health insurance.
Now advocates say millions will lose access to abortion care because their state has restricted it and they can’t afford to travel for the procedure.
CNN spoke with five Black women about their decision to get an abortion in the past and why they say the fall of Roe v. Wade could have devastating consequences.
Chicago woman didn’t want to be a low-income single mom
Miriah Mark was 15 weeks pregnant last summer when she made the difficult decision to have an abortion.
Mark, 31, said her partner had walked out of her life and she wasn’t making enough money at her record label job to support a baby. The cost to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Chicago and the rising cost of childcare, Mark said, were not affordable.
It took her a month from finding out she was pregnant to decide that she wanted an abortion. If you find yourself in a similar situation, consider reaching out to a Pregnancy Resource Center location near you.
Mark said she had been raised by a single Black mother who worked multiple jobs, struggled to make ends meet and relied on grandparents to help care for Mark. She didn’t want to repeat that cycle.
“I don’t want to raise a child in a world that doesn’t have every advantage,” Mark said. “I know what it’s like to see children growing up in poverty. I know what it’s like to be a young Black girl not having a father, or the mom not being able to be home because they have to work. It was very scary to think about all of that.”
Now, Mark said she has a chance to start her family when she’s ready. She can get married and meet her educational and career goals before bringing a child into the world.
She worries, however, that with the reversal of Roe v. Wade, other Black women will either be forced to have children or resort to unsafe, illegal abortion procedures.
This could potentially worsen the outcomes for Black women, Mark said, who already face disparities with health care and pay.
“It’s sad and it’s scary because pretty much we are going backwards historically and it makes you feel like you’re going back to a time where women didn’t have rights or women couldn’t vote,” Mark said of the Supreme Court decision. “It lets you know that we are going in the wrong direction.”
She was a college student with an ectopic pregnancy
When Josephine Kalipeni found out she was pregnant sophomore year of college, she said her whole world came crashing down.
Kalipeni, who immigrated to the United States from Malawi at the age of 8, said she was trying to get out of an abusive relationship and she knew that completing her education was key to achieving economic security. She was working side jobs to pay for her classes and books while she studied sociology and political science.
“Having a kid at such a young age while in college… I hadn’t seen anyone do it,” Kalipeni said. “I hadn’t been surrounded by a lot of single mothers who were making education and motherhood work. I knew my parents would be disappointed. It was such a bad and heavy situation for me.”
To make matters worse, Kalipeni said she was hospitalized at two months with an ectopic pregnancy that had ruptured. An ectopic pregnancy happens when a fertilized egg grows outside a woman’s uterus. The risks are internal bleeding, infection and even death.
She spoke with a doctor and they ultimately aborted her pregnancy. However, there are growing concerns in the medical community about how health care providers can treat an ectopic pregnancy with the Supreme Court ruling.
Kalipeni went on to become a social worker and is now the executive director of Family Values @Work. She vowed to continue advocating for women, mobilizing voters and she’s urging lawmakers to protect women’s rights.
Kalipeni said it’s saddening to know that many Black and brown women with high risk pregnancies, financial insecurity and abusive partners won’t have the abortion access she had.
“I am so angry,” Kalipeni said. “And it’s that mad, tearful anger. Because it just feels like there is a constant need to justify the humanity of being a Black woman.”
She had dreams of going to Yale
Alana Edmondson was 21 years old and working a low wage retail job in Seattle to pay her way through community college when she found out she was pregnant. Edmondson said she knew having a child would make it harder to finish college — she was already struggling to pay tuition and had suspended her studies several times. Edmondson also had bigger dreams. She wanted to some day go to Yale University and earn her Phd.
“It was already very, very hard and there were already enough obstacles in the way of me achieving what I wanted to achieve” Edmondson said. “It seemed like adding a pregnancy and a child to that mix would just make it harder, and why would I want to do that to myself?”
She and her partner decided to get an abortion.
Edmondson said the decision allowed her to choose the future she wanted. She finished community college, earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Washington and got accepted into Yale where she is currently in her third year. She said she is one step closer to having a career as a college professor.
Edmondson said it sickens her to know that Black women in many parts of the country won’t have access to abortion care. Women with forced pregnancies may have to sacrifice their educational and career goals, Edmondson said. The impact, she said, could be Black women repeating the cycle of poverty or generational trauma in their families.
“It feels like they desperately want to trap us,” Edmondson said. “It just seems like another way to poison Black communities and to trap Black women. And when you trap Black women you trap the whole family unit.”
Vermont woman needed to escape an abusive relationship and finish college
Kiah Morris is on the front lines fighting for women to have the right to choose abortion and to choose their future.
Morris, a former Vermont state legislator, traveled with a group earlier this month to protest the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Morris said despite Vermont being a state that protects abortion rights, she and other demonstrators felt an urgency to rally for women across the country. In addition to abortion rights, Morris has also advocated for low to no cost contraception for all.
“There’s anger, there’s frustration, there’s righteous rage,” said Morris who leads the nonprofit Rights & Democracy. “It’s a whole cycle of emotions.”
Morris said she knows firsthand that abortion access can improve the outcome of women’s lives. She received an abortion her freshman year of college when she was in an unstable and emotionally abusive relationship. At the time, Morris said she was struggling with her mental health and her boyfriend had expressed he wasn’t interested in having a family with her.
“It was the most difficult decision I’ve ever made,” she said. “I knew I wanted to be in the right mental health space to (have a baby). I wanted to be in the right circumstance. A college freshman is not someone who is ready to raise a child.”
Morris said the abortion allowed her to put off starting a family until later in life when she was mature, in a healthy relationship and mentally stable. She now has an 11-year-old son.
Abortion access, Morris said, gives Black women control over their own bodies and a chance to reach economic prosperity. Since slavery, Black women have suffered the consequences of unplanned pregnancies, she said. Historically, Black women have been conditioned to believe they should carry the pregnancy even if they aren’t in an ideal family or financial situation, Morris said. Abortion gave them another option, she said.
“My concern is that the very little gains we’ve made are lost,” she said. “Black women, we are still invisible, we are still forgotten within all of this.”
Kentucky mom feared being shamed for her decision
When Jackie McGranahan learned that Roe v. Wade was overturned, she briefly lingered in her car before going into her Louisville office where she works as a policy strategist for the ACLU of Kentucky.
“I thought, in this moment, at this time, right now, while I’m in the car, none of it is real,” McGranahan said. “Even though I knew what to expect and I knew that it was coming with the leaked opinion, it didn’t make it any less traumatic in the moment.”
McGranahan later cried with a colleague but quickly got back to work.
As the organization’s first Reproductive Freedom Project field organizer in Kentucky where a judge temporarily blocked the state’s abortion ban after the ACLU filed a lawsuit, she’s in the center of the storm. McGranahan is tasked with lobbying state lawmakers to advance policies that protect reproductive freedom and LGBTQ+ equality.
In addition to abortion rights, McGranahan champions Black maternal health, paid family leave and “holding the line on birth control.”
The issues have a personal significance to McGranahan who was 22 years old and 10 weeks pregnant when she had an abortion.
McGranahan, who already had a son and a daughter before she turned 21, said she kept quiet about the abortion for fear of being judged for her decision.
She said she was struggling to make ends meet as a young mother and lived in a community that was largely against abortion.
“I was in college, and I worked full time,” she said. “My partner was also in school. Our family depended on my financial support…I didn’t know how we were going to feed our children.”
McGranahan said her only regret was not sharing her abortion story so she could have been a source of encouragement and strength for others quietly trapped in what she describes as “a cycle of shame.”
“When someone makes this decision, they should have support and respect and be treated with dignity,” she said.
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