My Abortion Helped Me Escape an Abusive Marriage

click to enlarge Dr. Love Holt at a pro-choice rally. - Reuben Hemmer
Reuben Hemmer
Dr. Love Holt at a pro-choice rally.

Last week, Justice Alito’s leaked opinion confirmed my worst fears: The Supreme Court will overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey without regard for the dignity, health, safety or even lives of pregnant people. If this decision is formalized, anti-abortion extremists in Missouri will push to criminalize pregnant people and those who support them. Back in 2014, I never would have guessed that one day I would be living in an America that disapproves of my choice to a medical abortion after conceiving amidst an abusive marriage.

Domestic violence is about control. Reproductive and sexual coercion is a tactic abusers use to maintain power over their victims by manipulating their partners’ pregnancy and reproductive outcomes. I decided to leave my abuser after giving birth to my fourth child while enduring physical and emotional abuse, but he knew that five children would restrict my ability to leave.

The decision to leave was tough, but I knew that if I could survive this abuse, I would have an opportunity to raise my current children free from violence. I developed a habit of taking pregnancy tests constantly. After the last positive, I called the clinic to inquire about the most discreet and affordable abortion method. Being able to receive an abortion was the most freeing experience.

After I had my abortion, I gathered the courage to leave my abusive marriage. I was homeless with no resources to provide to myself or my children. I endured financial hardship for four years. I couldn’t imagine taking a new baby through this horrific journey. I don’t know if I would have made it as a single mother of four plus a newborn.

I share my story to emphasize the importance of Roe v. Wade and the impacts the anticipated Supreme Court decision will have on those most at risk: Black people, people of color, people surviving economic insecurity, trans people, immigrants, youth, people with disabilities and especially those who have been subjected to abuse.

Nationally, nearly one in four people will experience intimate partner violence. Missouri has the third highest rate of domestic violence in the nation. Black women experience domestic violence at a higher rate than many other groups and are two and a half times more likely to die at the hands of their abusers. The push for criminalization that we’re seeing from Missouri lawmakers — following in the steps of Texas — will disproportionately impact Black people who seek abortion services in a state with some of the highest domestic violence in the nation. We know Black people and other people of color are already over-policed, and new and existing bans create new avenues for policing people based on their pregnancy outcomes.

Trusting Black women means believing survivors and protecting and ensuring access to safe, affordable abortion care.

Dr. Love Holt is a Reproductive Freedom Organizer with Pro Choice Missouri. Pro-Choice Missouri is a grassroots pro-abortion advocacy organization in Missouri.

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