Women talk about the choices they made about abortion

ajc.com

As the nation absorbs a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that has already begun to erode or eliminate abortion rights in some states, strong opinions have filled social media feeds, newspapers and TV.

What’s often missing from the conversation are the voices of women and girls who have had the procedure and those who once wrestled with the decision.

They come from all backgrounds. They are high school students and older college graduates. They are single and married. They are moms and women without children.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke to women who have faced that decision. They chose to share their stories because they wanted to help deepen the understanding of what women go through. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is withholding the names of their spouses, partners and children in order to protect them from harassment.

Only one woman chose to not be fully identified because her parents still don’t know she has had an abortion.

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Tamika English, who had an abortion when she was in high school, poses for a portrait outside her home in east Cobb. She has no doubts she made the right decision. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Tamika English, who had an abortion when she was in high school, poses for a portrait outside her home in east Cobb. She has no doubts she made the right decision. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Tamika English, who had an abortion when she was in high school, poses for a portrait outside her home in east Cobb. She has no doubts she made the right decision. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Tamika English

Tamika English was 16, a cheerleader, in the school chorus, an honor roll student. The junior in high school was preparing to study a semester in France.

“I was having the ideal high school experience,” she said. Then she was late getting her period in the fall of 1998.

“I needed some time to process the reality that I was pregnant. Two to three days. I needed to figure out how to tell my mother. Two to three days,” English, now 40, said in a recent interview.

More time slipped by while she came to terms with the pregnancy. “We’re easily at six weeks, right? I’m raising this for a reason as I am sure you understand.”

Overturning Roe has paved the way for an anti-abortion measure signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in 2019 to take effect. The state’s law, which had been blocked by a federal appeals court pending the Supreme Court decision, would ban abortions after a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity — typically about six weeks into a pregnancy.

Back then, even though time kept rolling, she couldn’t figure out how to tell her mother. During a heated conversation with her, English said, “I just screamed out, ‘I am pregnant!’”

“She cried. I cried. And we both said, ‘What are we going to do?’ We talked about how well the course of my life was at that time and what implications there would be if there was a baby. It was a brief talk because I had plenty of examples around me of people who have had babies young and what their lives were like, so I was very clear. I was so committed in school. I wanted a different life.” Prioritizing her education was important, she said “setting myself up so that I could be a good mother when I was ready to be a good mother.”

She still remembers the pale yellow walls of the abortion clinic, being alone in the room. She got emotional, cried, and for a moment hesitated. “I asked the staff to wait, and they were like, ‘No sweetie, it’s time.’”

She was back in school two days later.

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Tamika English said even though she was confident in her decision, she had fleeting moments of, “I love him,” and “I don’t want to do this.” In the end, she has no doubts about making the right decision. Not long after the abortion, she headed to France to study abroad for a semester. "I was back to living my life," she said. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Tamika English said even though she was confident in her decision, she had fleeting moments of, “I love him,” and “I don’t want to do this.” In the end, she has no doubts about making the right decision. Not long after the abortion, she headed to France to study abroad for a semester. "I was back to living my life," she said. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Tamika English said even though she was confident in her decision, she had fleeting moments of, “I love him,” and “I don’t want to do this.” In the end, she has no doubts about making the right decision. Not long after the abortion, she headed to France to study abroad for a semester. "I was back to living my life," she said. Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Despite her brief hesitation, she was confident in her decision. Today, she has no doubts that she made the right one.

The abortion, she said, “was something never to be spoken of.” And if it weren’t for an imminent threat to abortion rights, she said she might never have publicly shared her story.

She later went to college, got married and now has a 14-year-old daughter. She works as a program manager for SisterLove, an Atlanta organization involved in advocacy for women’s sexual issues, including HIV and reproductive care.

English said she never had to worry about traveling to another state to get an abortion or risk having an unsafe procedure. She also had her mother’s support throughout it all. “I had that option, and I’m so grateful,” she said. “And now fast forward: I have a 14-year-old daughter. It’s important to me that she has options.”

Helena Oliviero

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Jessica Moyer poses for a portrait in Alpharetta on Wednesday, June 29, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Jessica Moyer poses for a portrait in Alpharetta on Wednesday, June 29, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

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Jessica Moyer poses for a portrait in Alpharetta on Wednesday, June 29, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Jessica Moyer

Jessica Moyer was just a few months into her studies at The Culinary Institute of America when her body started to feel different. Something wasn’t right, she thought.

She was 20 and living in New York when she learned she was pregnant. “I remember some classmates were like, ‘Well, you just get an abortion and just keep going,’” she said. “So of course, that’s something that crossed my mind, like that’s just what you do. And it just didn’t sit with me right.”

For Moyer, who now volunteers with Georgia Life Alliance, considering an abortion made her feel ashamed, but she said she knew it was an option she had to wrestle with.

It took about a week for her to decide that she would have the baby. She immediately dropped out of college and told her parents and her boyfriend. They got married in September 1997, and about seven months later, their child was born.

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Jessica Moyer poses for a portrait with her children in Alpharetta on Wednesday, June 29, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Jessica Moyer poses for a portrait with her children in Alpharetta on Wednesday, June 29, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

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Jessica Moyer poses for a portrait with her children in Alpharetta on Wednesday, June 29, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Looking back, Moyer, 45, said “It’s scary to be in a place where you have to make that decision.”

“If I had not had (my ex-husband) as support and my upbringing the way it was, I probably would have had an abortion,” Moyer said.

Now a mother of four, Moyer said she’s never regretted her choice.

“When I gave birth, it was a healing process for me, because when I saw his face — I did not understand love until I saw him,” she said. “The advantage, if you get pregnant in the beginning of school and you have to change your dreams a little bit, is that you get the gift of a child. Whether you choose to give that child for adoption or parent that child, you get that gift, and that gift gives so much more back to you than if you didn’t have it.”

Caroline Silva

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Taylia Trammell poses for a portrait in Atlanta on Monday, June 13, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Taylia Trammell poses for a portrait in Atlanta on Monday, June 13, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

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Taylia Trammell poses for a portrait in Atlanta on Monday, June 13, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Taylia Trammell

Taylia Trammell was not ready to become a mother. But for the longest time, she questioned whether she had made the best decision.

“Ultimately you are — I don’t like to say it like this — but you are killing the baby. I didn’t really know how to process that,” Trammell said. “That’s a really big thing to try to process mentally at such a very young age.”

It was in January 2013 when Trammell, 18 at the time and recently enrolled in college, found out she was pregnant. She was already about two months along.

Afraid of her mother, Trammell said she considered keeping quiet and terminating the pregnancy alone. But she found the courage to tell her at almost five months along.

Her mother agreed that terminating the pregnancy would allow her daughter to flourish. Her mom was by her side every step of the way, and Trammell said she is grateful for the support.

“Sometimes timing is not right and sometimes people, you know, don’t want kids and that’s OK. Nobody said that, as a woman, you have to have kids. No, it’s not a rule,” she said.

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Taylia Trammell (right) poses for a portrait with her wife in Atlanta on Monday, June 13, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Taylia Trammell (right) poses for a portrait with her wife in Atlanta on Monday, June 13, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

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Taylia Trammell (right) poses for a portrait with her wife in Atlanta on Monday, June 13, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Accessibility to an abortion clinic was not a barrier Trammell faced, but she said it scares her that stringent laws could lead to unsafe abortions and unwanted children.

“There are a lot of children who are in very, very, very, very, very bad predicaments. They grow up in very bad homes, or the parents aren’t there, or just many different things that can cause actual, lifelong trauma,” she said. “I feel like I did the best thing because I didn’t bring a child into the world where they would have to suffer for my decision.”

Now 28, Trammell has found acceptance and power in her choice. She said her wife has also been a pillar in her life as she continues healing.

“I was able to understand that ... it didn’t make me a bad person for making the best decision for myself at the time. And I think that a lot of times that that’s something that, you know, people or women suffer with. ... They feel bad for doing what’s best for them,” she said.

Caroline Silva

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Valerie Musial shares her abortion story.

Credit: contributed

Valerie Musial shares her abortion story.

Credit: contributed

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Valerie Musial shares her abortion story.

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

Valerie Musial

It was the summer of 1991 when Valerie Musial became pregnant. She was 19, a full-time college student and also working full-time at a department store.

”I had the abortion scheduled out in the future and that time of waiting was the worst time of my life. Because every single day, I thought about it,” said Musial, who grew up in Georgia.

Musial, now 49 and living in California, never wavered in her decision to get an abortion and has no regrets.

”Everything’s new when you are a blossoming adult, and you can quickly, especially as a woman, get yourself into a situation that is going to change the trajectory of your life. Everything that you thought life would be, your dreams, your ability to pursue a career. And that was like, that was huge, and to have stepped into that and see that the decision that I made to have sex resulted in this, you know, I’m pregnant now. What do I do? For me, I didn’t feel like I had any other choice. And I didn’t want to carry a baby to full term and give it up. Well, if somebody could have just taken it out of me and it could have grown up, that’d be fine. But it was just too much. Ultimately, I’m the one who has to live with it. And if I’m judged, I will be judged by my creator. So it’s not for anyone else to judge and even the Good Book says, ‘Thou shalt not judge.’”

— Helena Oliviero

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Rebecca Mitchell.

Credit: Rebecca Mitchell

Rebecca Mitchell.

Credit: Rebecca Mitchell

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Rebecca Mitchell.

Credit: Rebecca Mitchell

Credit: Rebecca Mitchell

Rebecca Mitchell

Married and ready to raise her first child, Rebecca Mitchell felt empty when she was told her baby had a cleft. She was already 21 weeks and six days into the pregnancy. The cleft itself didn’t scare her, but the potential malformations and abnormalities associated with it did.

She said she was afraid that perhaps the baby would not have a good life — that he would suffer too much. She said she knew she had to consider abortion as an option.

“If we have anencephaly or we have something serious going on with brainstem malformation, that’s just a different projected path than anyone has made the equation for parenting, and whether you can support that adequately,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell had to wait 48 hours from the first ultrasound to the second to find out if her baby had any abnormalities beyond the cleft. Those two days were by far the darkest and most anxiety-filled Mitchell has ever felt.

As a resident of New York at the time, she began looking into the cut-off date for abortions. In 2013, New York allowed abortions until 24 weeks. With the cut-off date approaching fast, Mitchell said having to rush on such a life-changing decision added more stress to an already stressful decision.

“That’s one of the things that made me really passionate about particularly not wanting the limits because you don’t need that — that accomplishes nothing,” she said.

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Rebecca Mitchell with her children, ages 8 and 6.

Credit: Rebecca Mitchell

Rebecca Mitchell with her children, ages 8 and 6.

Credit: Rebecca Mitchell

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Rebecca Mitchell with her children, ages 8 and 6.

Credit: Rebecca Mitchell

Credit: Rebecca Mitchell

Mitchell would soon find out nothing was wrong with her firstborn, who is now 8 years old.

“We are extremely lucky that this is what we have and this is very manageable,” Mitchell said regarding her son. “It was such a strange space to be in that I am supremely fortunate that this pathway is as easy as it can be for him.”

The 41-year-old mother of four, who is also an epidemiologist, veterinarian and member of the state House of Representatives for District 106, says she was lucky to find out her son was healthy so quickly. But, because of the experience, she now understands how hard considering an abortion actually is.

“We think we are that person. A lot of us think we are that person (who would consider an abortion),” Mitchell said. “In that moment, that question wasn’t as easy.”

— Caroline Silva

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Nicole Ewens poses for a portrait in Macon on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Nicole Ewens poses for a portrait in Macon on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

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Nicole Ewens poses for a portrait in Macon on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Nicole Ewens

After nearly five years on birth control, Nicole Ewens found out it had failed.

“I was staying at a friend’s house, and I got a pregnancy test and took it and it was positive. And I went out and got five more. All five of them were positive. I was gonna keep going until one was negative,” Ewens said.

At 18 years old and couch surfing, Ewens said, raising a child was not in the picture for her yet. She knew she wanted to be a mother, but with a partner in a stable household, with enough money and, most importantly, when she felt ready.

For Ewens, having the baby was never discussed. She knew she wasn’t going to be a single mom.

Seven years after her abortion, in 2014, Ewens found out she was pregnant again. She had just divorced her first husband after he spiraled into drug abuse, she said. They had been trying for a baby. But, she said, raising a child in a broken home was not an option.

“Obviously, I loved him, I wanted to spend my life with him. But him on drugs was not the same person,” Ewens said. “I can’t imagine what the life of our kid would be like in that environment.”

Ewens had her second abortion when she was eight weeks along.

When Ewens met her current husband not long after her divorce, she thought she wouldn’t be able to have kids. She thought the abortions had taken a toll on her body and she had slowly come to accept that. She began picturing a different future for herself.

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Nicole Ewens with her husband and children in Macon on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Nicole Ewens with her husband and children in Macon on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

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Nicole Ewens with her husband and children in Macon on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

But then she got pregnant in 2017.

“(My son) got to be born with parents that owned a house. You know, he has stability that I didn’t achieve for 10 years after having the (first) abortion,” she said.

Not long after her first baby, Ewens became pregnant again but miscarried about eight weeks into her pregnancy. Doctors recommended she have a “dilation and curettage” procedure to remove the fetus — the same procedure as is used in abortions of a live fetus.

It was heartbreaking for Ewens, who was ready for a second kid.

Now a mother of two, with one more on the way, Ewens said her experiences taught her that there is nothing to be ashamed of, because every woman has a reason behind getting an abortion.

“I’ve never been ashamed of it. I’ve definitely been shamed for it, but I’ve never been ashamed or felt guilt,” Ewens said. “It’s sad because we put women in these positions to have children that they’re not in any position to take care of, and then we shame them when they have the babies because they can’t afford anything.”

– Caroline Silva

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062822 Rockmart, Ga..: A local Atlanta woman, who asked to be known as Amera, holds a sonogram from a recent pregnancy at a park in Roswell. An ultrasound, prior to an abortion procedure, is common practice. It can tell how far along a woman is in her pregnancy and let her know if she is eligible for the abortion pill, which can be taken up until the 11th week of pregnancy. She had an abortion in April 2022. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

062822 Rockmart, Ga..: A local Atlanta woman, who asked to be known as Amera, holds a sonogram from a recent pregnancy at a park in Roswell. An ultrasound, prior to an abortion procedure, is common practice. It can tell how far along a woman is in her pregnancy and let her know if she is eligible for the abortion pill, which can be taken up until the 11th week of pregnancy. She had an abortion in April 2022. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Combined ShapeCaption
062822 Rockmart, Ga..: A local Atlanta woman, who asked to be known as Amera, holds a sonogram from a recent pregnancy at a park in Roswell. An ultrasound, prior to an abortion procedure, is common practice. It can tell how far along a woman is in her pregnancy and let her know if she is eligible for the abortion pill, which can be taken up until the 11th week of pregnancy. She had an abortion in April 2022. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Amera

In April, Amera, 20, passed a shouting protester and walked into a local abortion clinic alone. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, her boyfriend waited in the car.

The protester “was basically saying, ‘Don’t kill your baby, please don’t kill your baby.’ He just kept saying that over and over,” said Amera, a college student in Atlanta. She asked to go by only one name because her parents are still unaware of what happened.

Amera had been dating her boyfriend for about a month and was taking birth control pills regularly when she got pregnant in March. She didn’t feel like she had much of a choice to make. But it was agonizing.

“It was never taught to me that, if you get pregnant this young you should keep it, and my family would not have wanted for me to put my life on hold,” she said.

“But the reality is that I actually really wanted a child. I feel like people always assume that women who get abortions don’t care about the fetus, like they feel like we’re just careless people. But the reality is I cared a lot.”

She said she didn’t feel ready to have a child.

“I’m supposed to graduate in college, and I am still struggling to figure out what I want to do with my life. So I just felt like a child would make that harder. And then financially. I’m nowhere near where I need to be to raise a child. I can’t even take care of myself.”

Her Muslim faith also influenced her.

While there are many different opinions among Islamic scholars about when life begins and when abortion is permissible, Amera said, “In my religion and with my faith, we are allowed to have an abortion. The problem (with my parents) would have been the fact that I was having premarital sex.”

She went to a local abortion clinic in April and was given the abortion pill.

They made a sonogram that day: She keeps the grainy black-and-white image in her nightstand.

“It’s definitely traumatic. I definitely think about it often. But I know at the end of the day, I did what was best for me and my situation at the time.”

— Helena Oliviero