Forget Kanye’s Comments, This Is My Personal Later Abortion Story
Abortion is health care, and we all should have access to medically accurate information about abortion.
July 23, 2020 at 3:22 pm
Recently, Kanye West made some disparaging comments about abortion while sharing his story of how he and Kim Kardashian West considered abortion during Kim’s pregnancy with their first daughter. His inflammatory language, particularly about abortion later in pregnancy, has only perpetuated lies about abortion. Some have quickly glommed onto Kanye’s anti-abortion stance, claiming that he speaks for many. But the truth is, Kanye’s deeply personal story is just that, personal. While Kim decided the best choice for her was to continue her pregnancy, that’s not the choice every person and every family makes. Guess what? That’s the beauty of ‘choice.’
Every person and every pregnancy is different, and all people deserve the right to choose what’s best for their pregnancies.
That’s why I’m so disappointed to see the harm that Kanye’s words are inflicting on Black women like me. If he actually wanted to protect and empower Black people to live healthy and free lives, he would support abortion access as a crucial part of comprehensive reproductive health care. I appreciate that he took the time at his event to listen to a young white woman named Georgia share her abortion story, but he glossed over the Black women he’s hurting in the process. His speech came at a time that he reportedly was having a manic episode due to his bipolar diagnosis, and the truth is people who live with bipolar disorder have abortions too, as my fellow We Testify storyteller Aimee Arrambide has written about.
That’s why I’m so outspoken about my own later abortion story.
In 2015, when I learned I was pregnant for a third time, I was excited and surprised—my doctors had told me I couldn’t have any more children. While this was a surprise pregnancy, it was very much wanted. But, pregnancies can change in an instant — just ask Serena and Beyoncé, or even Kanye’s wife Kim who experienced placenta
accreta, where the placenta doesn’t separate from the uterus after delivery, with her first two pregnancies and chose to have her third and fourth children via surrogacy.
I was in the second trimester when my doctor identified that my son had a severe birth defect that meant his brain would not develop fully. My doctor explained that I could either continue to carry the pregnancy — and either my body would miscarry, or my baby would be stillborn — or I could terminate the pregnancy. As heartbreaking and agonizing as it was, I knew immediately that terminating the pregnancy on my own terms was the healthiest choice for me and my son.
But Texas, where I’d recently moved, has some of the strictest abortion restrictions in the country, and the clinic wait list was three-weeks long. I was rushed to the top, but it was still a weeklong wait and I would have days of counseling and a multi-day medical procedure. It was devastating to be told that my baby’s diagnosis and my decision were being legislated by politicians who didn’t even know who I was or what was happening in my pregnancy. My doctor was powerless. I felt powerless. Waiting multiple weeks and going through medically-unnecessary counseling was a waste of time. I decided to take care of me and travel to Florida where I would be able to get the abortion I needed. My plane ticket, my hotel and my procedure cost thousands of dollars — money most people don’t just have laying around. I was lucky.
The whole ordeal was infuriating, and still sits with me everyday. So to see Kanye tweet-and-delete about later abortion is enraging. I’ve seen this my entire life — when I became pregnant in high school at 17 years old, my teachers and friends told me to drop out to take care of my baby girl. But I already had plans to become a first-generation college student, and I chose to be a mother and a student. I attended college, worked full-time and raised my daughter as a single mother because that was the path that was right for me. Then, when faced with the medical information from my doctor that my third pregnancy wasn’t viable, I chose an abortion. Each time, I knew that only I could choose what was best for my life — not teachers, not politicians, not even family members. We all make different pregnancy decisions at different points in our lives.
Since my abortion, I’ve testified before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee and all over Texas to urge our leaders to make changes. I talk about how these anti-abortion restrictions are expensive and make it close to impossible for poor folks, those without insurance, folks in rural areas, young people and people of color to get through. I’ve put my own time, safety and mental health on the line to share my story publicly; and I’ve been ignored time and time again.
I’ll always speak out because I’ve seen how my story has helped people in my life understand the importance of later abortion access for everyone.
Black women celebrities have changed the conversation by being open about their pregnancy complications, and we must do the same for those of us who have abortions. We should be able to speak openly, without being judged or becoming fodder for a rapper’s next set. Abortion is health care, and we all should have access to medically accurate information about abortion, as well as the opportunity to hear real stories from real people.
Dr. Valerie Peterson is from Chicago, Illinois, and now resides in Texas. She is an advocate and abortion storyteller with We Testify, an organization dedicated to the leadership and representation of people who have abortions.