OPINION: ‘I had an abortion in Alabama before the ban goes into effect’
The decision for a woman to terminate her pregnancy has again become one of the most politicized issues of our time. Several states including Georgia, Ohio, Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana and Missouri have recently reignited the “war against women” by pushing through antiquated anti-abortion laws mainly constructed by conservative, white men and a grouping of complicit white women. Now, Missouri is officially the first state in the country since 1974 to cease from having a health center that provides safe and legal abortions anywhere within its borders.
The debate re-emerged in national headlines when Alabama’s Republican governor, Kay Ivey, signed a bill into law (which will take effect on Nov. 15) prohibiting any woman from receiving an abortion even if that woman became pregnant as a result of a rape or incest. The Alabama law suddenly became a wake-up call for many women’s reproductive rights advocates and some male allies.
A federal judge also just blocked a Mississippi law that would stop any woman from terminating her pregnancy once a fetal heartbeat is detected as early as six weeks. Problem is that most women seeking an abortion don’t even realize they are pregnant until after the six week mark and does nothing more than paints women into an impossible corner.
Samantha Blakely knows that terrifying feeling all too well. When the 25-year old made the decision to get an abortion two years ago, she knew doing so would forever change her life. During this time, she kept most of the details about her abortion and the rape that generated that decision private—until now.
Blakely reveals to theGrio why she felt it necessary to come forward now about the rape, details about her abortion and the feelings around knowing what she did is now against the law.
After work, a few friends and I decided to stop by Tequila Tuesday at a local bar near where I lived in Alabama. One of my co-workers texted me and asked what I was up to. I told him that we were just hanging out and that he could come to the bar if he wanted to join us. My friend mentioned that he gave her a weird vibe, but I just brushed it off as him just being shy.
My friend and I decided to go to my apartment and hang out there instead. As she was leaving, my co-worker walked in. We were in my apartment alone when he started getting handsy. He knew that I did not want to have sex, but he had sex with me anyway. I was very under the influence and I was very confused as to what was going on. I remember asking him, ‘Are you having sex with me right now?’ and him replying, ‘no.’
When I woke up the next morning, I was bleeding and sore. I was confused, sad and ashamed. You know, it’s one of those things where I knew what had happened, but I didn’t know. I couldn’t process what had happened to me. I called my best friend and I told her and she was the one who said, I had been raped. She suggested that I call the police, but I didn’t. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t go to the emergency room. I just sat in the same clothes for three days, numb, upset and scared.
As Black women, we just keep going. It’s what we do and it’s what I did. I just thought missing my period the next month was from me not dealing with the trauma. I kept feeling like I was going to have a menstrual cycle, but it never came. Instead, I felt swollen and every time I washed my hands with this particular soap I had just bought, it left me feeling nauseated. I knew there was a possibility that I could be pregnant from that night of the rape, but it was something I didn’t want to deal with or process. I never missed a period in my life, so I knew something was wrong.
I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. For a split second, I froze and then everything I was feeling lifted above me and then, just as quickly, everything came crashing down. I remember taking my shower curtain, balling it up and pushing it my mouth so that no one would hear my screams. There are no words to describe how awful and devastated I felt because I instantly knew what all of this meant.
“As Black women, we just keep going. It’s what we do and it’s what I did.”
The first thing I did after learning I was pregnant was turn to Google, which is very dangerous. I saw all of these pregnancy inducing pills and a tea that you could order from China. I was overwhelmed by all of this dangerous information. I knew that I was going to end the pregnancy somehow, but I had to ask myself, do I risk bleeding to death or drink this tea and possibly have my heart stop?
I hadn’t told anyone that I was pregnant, but I decided to tell my rapist. At this point, I had been avoiding him at work and he had been trying to figure out what was going on. He met me outside of my apartment and I told him what he did to me was wrong and I was not going to have this child. He made all of these excuses that he didn’t know what he was doing and he wasn’t sure what really happened. By now, we both clearly knew exactly what had happened.
My best friend had talked about getting her birth control from Planned Parenthood. I remember seeing them on my college campus and I support women’s choice, but I was not super aware of what services they provided. I found the clinic near where I lived and scheduled an appointment to officially confirm that I was pregnant and discuss getting an abortion.
Going into the clinic, I didn’t know if it was going to be $50 or $5,000 dollars. Growing up in Alabama, we’re not known for our comprehensive sex ed, so I didn’t have a lot of information about what to expect ahead of time. The first thing I saw when I got there was a group of protestors, holding up signs saying, ‘You’re a baby killer!’ and another indicating they were providing free ultrasounds across the street so you could hear the baby’s heartbeat. Of course, this intimidated me, especially being raised in a conservative household, but I realized later that they are specifically placed there to catch women off guard.
Luckily, there were also these amazing volunteer escorts who help you from your car and guide you to where you need to go. I cannot stress how comforting the people who work at Planned Parenthood were to me. There was so much going on in my head, but I was greeted by this sweet, kind Black woman. I told her what I needed, and she went over everything I needed to do.
The next time I went back was to have the abortion. Going in, I was very scared. All the women were wearing surgical gowns in the waiting area, which was so cold. “The Today Show” was on the T.V. and that’s all you could hear in the room. No one was chatting and we all sat there waiting in complete silence.
They gave me a mild sedative and I started feeling tired. When it was my turn, I went into the procedure room. The doctor explained to me again what was going to happen, but it went in one ear and out the other. She put my legs up and started the procedure. I remember feeling a sharp pain—a jarring pain— that I had never felt before. I remember her telling me to hang in there. I made it through and afterwards they gave me a big sanitary pad to wear and instructed me to sit in a heated chair. I started cramping right away and feeling a ton of discomfort but, in a way, I was completely relieved. I knew the pregnancy was over and while I was experiencing a lot of negative emotions, but sadness was not one of them.
I was required to have someone go with me that day and so, my rapist drove me to the appointment. He was the only one who knew I was pregnant. I remember feeling numb and putting up an emotional wall to keep my sanity. There wasn’t fun and comfort, just an intense desire to end it all on my part.
I paid for the initial appointment, but I told him that he was going to have to pay for the rest. After the procedure, he dropped me off at my apartment. I told him this was the worst day of my life and that I never wanted to see him again.
I’ve lived in Alabama all of my life and with this recent abortion ban that has now been made into law, I know that there is a war on women here. It makes me so angry and so disgusted. There are so many women who feel powerless, so at this point, I said to myself, who cares. It’s time for me to tell my story and put it all out there so that other women know that they are not alone.
“I was experiencing a lot of negative emotions, but sadness was not one of them.”
I don’t have a lot of money or fame, but I want to be the one to look in the faces of these white men who made these decisions by ignoring me and so many other women in our state. I want to force them to see who they’ve most affected—young people, women, people of color. I want to tell them look at me in my eyes and see how you have turned your back on us.
These are the 25 white men who decided to ban all abortions in Alabama including rape and incest victims. pic.twitter.com/N2n43ZKUXj
— Tomthunkit™ (@TomthunkitsMind) May 28, 2019
I understand that it’s just easier to put everyone in one category. I used to be like that thinking I would never get myself into this kind of situation or I’m smarter than that. I’m too good. There’s a lot of that going on, but I believe that one of the largest misconceptions about a woman’s decision to have an abortion is that this could never happen to me or someone I care about. I never thought that this could happen to me, but it did. We’re human and things happen and we have a right to make the best choices for ourselves.
A lot of women in Alabama and the rest of the country for that matter are scared, confused and feel alone right now, but that is exactly why these bans on abortion have been proposed. Our presidential administration has used fear and trauma to get what they want, which is very wrong.
Young women, especially, need to know that there are so many people on your side who care and will make sure that you get whatever it is that you need. You don’t have a remarkable story to feel worthy in your choice. Whatever your reason for having an abortion, if you can’t be pregnant anymore, you can’t be pregnant anymore. Most of all, I want the women in our country to simply know, you are not alone.
Editor’s Note: The allegations made in this story are the opinion of Ms. Blakely. Since she did not pursue criminal charges, these are the facts according to her interpretation only. The individual accused of rape has not been convicted of this crime against Ms. Blakely.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education.