Adult ISH hosts Nyge Turner and Dominique French take us on a journey through various abortion experiences, via submissions from listeners, in their own words. You’ll hear some stories read by people themselves, and others read by fellow YR Media colleagues volunteering their time and voices. Join us as we bring these stories of an incredibly common medical procedure to light.
If you or someone you know needs support, there are resources available. You can call the National Abortion Hotline for information, referrals and more at 1-800-772-9100. Below are more reproductive health resources. If you are having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
- WIRED Guide to Abortion Resources in a Post-Roe America
- Center for Reproductive Rights Resources
- Reproductive Health Access Project Resources
- Planned Parenthood Resources
- ACLU Resources
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Georgia: Hey, this is Adult ISH producer Georgia Wright. We’ll start the show in a second, but I wanted to give a heads up that this episode includes discussion of sex and abortion as well as some tough mental health topics, including self harm and suicide. Please take care as you listen.
Dom: What you’re about to hear was recorded entirely on Sunday, July 24th, 2022, exactly one month after Roe v Wade was overturned.
Answering Machine 1: Thank you for calling Affiliated Medical Services. Unfortunately, at this time, we are no longer able to provide abortion care for women in the entire state of Wisconsin due to a Supreme Court ruling. We are saddened by this decision and how it will impact women everywhere. We will continue to stay open to answer questions and cross-state referrals as long as we can. Patients may travel to Illinois and Minnesota, where abortion remains legal. The closest clinic to us is in Waukegan. Traveling funds are also available. If you need help getting to Chicago, you may contact Midwest Access Coalition as they may assist you in food, emotional support, lodging and gas reimbursement.
[Phone hold beeping]
Answering Machine 2: Thank you for calling Planned Parenthood. If you know your party’s extension, you may dial it now or press nine for the company directory. Please choose from the following options. Para servicio en Espanol marque tres. For information about emergency contraception, press one. For information on STD testing, birth control, pap smears, HPV vaccine, pregnancy testing, (voice speeds up) center hours or appointments, press two. For surgical abortions, the abortion pill, emergency contraception or options for education, press four. For information on the—
Multiple Answering Machines (Messages overlapping): Thank you for choosing Planned Parenthood as your trusted health care provider. You have reached Planned Parenthood Great Northwest. Hawaii. Alaska. Central and Western New York. Caring for patients in Iowa and Nebraska. Pasadena and San Gabriel Valley. Northern New England. Portland Health Center. Metropolitan Washington, D.C.. Minnesota. North Dakota. South Dakota. Tennessee and North Mississippi. The heart of the Rocky Mountains. South Atlantic in Charleston, South Carolina. To help us connect you to the Planned Parenthood Center in your area, please enter a five digit zip code for the area you are interested in. Please enter your zip code now. [Beeps] Please hold, and you will be transferred to the Planned Parenthood Center nearest you.
[Music, distorts at end and fades out]
Multiple Answering Machines (Messages overlapping and interspersed): You have reached the clinic for women. Thank you for calling Northeast Ohio Women’s Center. If this is a life threatening emergency. Please hang up and dial 911 immediately or proceed to your nearest emergency room. Press two if you have just had an abortion at a clinic and have an emergency related to the procedure. Abortion is still legal in Ohio, but only until a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Indiana law only allows us to do abortions up to 13 weeks and six days. This usually occurs about two weeks after your missed period. If you believe you are further than 13 weeks and six days, we can refer you elsewhere. It is critical that you come to a first appointment as soon as possible. The cost for a medical abortion, commonly referred to as the pill, is $530, and you must be no more than 10 weeks pregnant. We do not accept cash, but we do accept credit, debit, money order, and electronic payments. The cost for a surgical abortion between six and 12 weeks is also $530. We do have funding available for those needing assistance in paying for their abortion. There is a $20 discount for both procedures if you are a student, a medicaid cardholder or have served in the military. To hear this message again, please hold.
Multiple Answering Machines: Abortion remains legal in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. We are providing abortion care and all other services. We want to assure you that we are still providing all sexual and reproductive health care services, including abortion. There has been no change in the status of your appointments because of the Supreme Court decision. PPNW continues to provide care. No matter what you’re hearing, Abortion is still legal in our region. We know that many people may have questions after the news about the Supreme Court decision. To be clear, Planned Parenthood is still seeing patients and providing care, including abortion. Goodbye!
[Touch tone dialing sound]
Multiple Answering Machines (Some overlapping): Sorry. This number is no longer in service. [Beeps] Thank you for calling All Women’s Medical. Thank you for calling. Thank you for calling. Thank you for calling Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood. Abortion is still legal. We are no longer able to provide abortion care. [Phone ring] Family Planning Services is no longer able to provide abortions. [Cascade of overlapping messages] Abortion. Abortion. Abortion. [Phone ring] Sorry. [Ring] Thank you for calling Houston Women’s Reproductive Services. We regret to inform you that as of Saturday, July 2nd, abortion is no longer available in the state of Texas. We are able to see patients for follow up visits. We are also able to see patients for ultrasounds and referrals for out-of-state abortions. Please leave your name and number and someone will call you back and we can schedule an appointment for you. If you’re a current patient and need to speak with a nurse, please reach out to the nurse at the number provided on your aftercare instructions. We hope you all remember to vote. It is very important to vote pro-choice Democrat. Republicans have been working hard to make abortion illegal and inaccessible and they will not stop. Please remember to vote. Future generations depend on it. Thank you.
Nyge: Welcome to Adult ISH is produced by YR Media and brought to you by Radiotopia from PRX. I’m Nyge Turner.
Dom: And I’m Dominique French.
Nyge: You just listened to thank you for calling by YR Media’s very own Jules Bradley, which first aired on the BBC podcast “Short Cuts.” The piece was made using only recordings of answering machine messages from abortion clinics across the U.S., which leads us to what we’re here to talk about today.
Dom: We did a call out to you, our listeners, for your everyday stories on abortion, in your own words. You’ll hear some stories read by people themselves and others read by fellow YR Media colleagues volunteering their time and voices. Abortions happen every day, all the time. They’re an incredibly common medical procedure, but sometimes they’re hidden in plain sight. This episode will share just a few of the many shades of abortion experiences from the mundane to the extraordinary. After this break.
Nyge: Before we get started, a few things to know. We have two stories where the voices that you hear are reading anonymous submissions.
Vivianne: Like me, Vivienne Alcantar.
Nana: And me Nana Boateng.
Nyge: But we also have a submission from Lindsey Lovel in New York who wanted their name to be shared.
Jules: And that story will be read by me, Jules Bradley.
Nyge: Lastly, Ruby, who preferred to stay on a first-name basis, sent in a voice memo. And when you put them all together, they sound like this…
Voice 1: My experience? Mundane. I’ve been with my partner now for 8.5 years. Last summer, after one too many deck cocktails, we decided to have sex. And we decided to have unprotected sex, too. Why not? We’ve been together for years. We’re in love. He’s in his fifties. I’m 41, etc., etc. We’re committed and all. We don’t have sex often. I have a very low libido and he has erectile issues occasionally and that’s fine. We love each other and show each other affection in other ways. Seems very unlikely that now is the time that I get pregnant, having been sexually active for 20 years. Plus, we’ve been talking about whether or not we’d have a child. I was at the age where I knew it was now or never, and in that drunken moment we both said, ‘Well, let’s risk it, see what happens. Maybe it’s meant to be.’
Ruby: The day that I found out I was pregnant, I kind of already knew. But when I saw the pregnancy test in my hand, I cried so much. I remember I called my sister since she’s had more experience with stuff like this, and I called her sobbing, so hard. I was just upset at myself. I shamed myself. And she told me to calm down, it’s okay that this is totally normal. And I kept asking her if it was going to be painful. And I think that was my biggest fear, was just the pain of it. And she said, ‘Not really. Depends.’ So it was kind of a more your own experience kind of situation. And it’s funny because I had an inkling that I was pregnant, but I didn’t really want to admit it to myself. Um, all of that month or a couple weeks before, while being pregnant, I slept so much — I slept like 14 hours or more. I slept a full day, like full days. I had so much heartburn. I felt so dizzy. And I felt like throwing up all the time, even though I didn’t. It was awful. And I just thought it was because of my hypothyroid issues that I was going through all this. But nope, it was just because I was pregnant.
Voice 2: When I was 30 years old. I got pregnant. I was married, one year out of grad school and had my first big girl job, as I called it. I wasn’t making much money and I had to work side gigs to pay for my student loans. But I did have health insurance for the first time since my early twenties. I also had an IUD with a 99.7% effective rate. My husband and I were not ready for kids. More importantly, I do not want children. Not when I was 30 and broke. And not now that I’m closer to 40 and make money. The truth is, on paper, I was a 30 year old white woman with a higher education degree on her way up in the world and I wanted my abortion. We hear all the time, ‘Nobody is getting an abortion because they want to.’ And, ‘it’s always a hard decision for women’ or ‘She wants a kid, but she isn’t ready yet because she’s too young, too poor slash in school.’ None of those things applied to me. Not every abortion is a tragedy or even that big of a deal.
Voice 3: My best friend in 1972 threw herself in front of a car when she discovered she was pregnant and unmarried at age 19. She was hurt, but not so much that she miscarried. She ended up having the baby. I ended up being the godmother to the baby. Years later, that baby, now grown up, took an overdose of acetaminophen when she found out she was pregnant and unmarried at age 19. She said it was because it was a sin to have an abortion, so she’d rather kill herself. She recovered and with much support from her mother and me, had an abortion. It was one of the best decisions she made, freeing her from a drug addicted and thieving boyfriend. She went on to find a man who she’s been married to for almost 20 years now and has two kids.
Ruby: After I told my sister about it, I told my mom. See, I wasn’t going to tell my mother, but I decided to because she’s my mom. At first, see at first, both my sister and my mother reacted like, ‘Oh, it’s totally normal. It’s going to be okay.’ And a couple of days before my procedure, they started asking me like, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to keep it? Why don’t you keep it? You know, it will give your mom—’ like, my sister was like, ‘It could give your mom and I a second chance to raise a kid. You know, having a child in our life and being present in that child’s life.’ And I just kept saying no, because that’s not what I want. I don’t, I didn’t want that for myself. I was so, am so happy in my life that I just didn’t want that. I didn’t want that addition to my life. I wasn’t ready mentally like I was just wasn’t there. It wasn’t the right time. And they kept pressuring this on me, so much so that my mom didn’t talk to me for four months. And it was all because I didn’t make the decision that she wanted for me. And that’s just how my mother is. But everyone else, like my chosen family, like my friends and my partner, were so supportive and so understanding. I told a few friends I was close to, like my roommates, and like, of course, my partner and my partner was there by my side the entire time. I want to cry just thinking about it, because they were there for me the entire time. They took me to the appointment and everything felt so normal. I was still scared though.
Voice 1: The moment he orgasmed inside of me, I knew that I was pregnant. I’m not kidding. I instantly thought, ‘Oh, okay, there we go. I’m pregnant.’ And I was right. My next period was late. That’s the only time it has ever been late in my life. I took a pregnancy test thinking, ‘No, no way.’ And for the first and only time I’ve taken pregnancy tests before, the result was positive. I immediately burst into tears and ran down to him. I showed him the test. He hugged me and said, ‘Well, okay, so we’re having a baby.’ And I said, ‘Are you out of your mind? We can’t have a child.’ He was relieved I said that, but he knew that it was going to be a very hard decision for me. We talked it over and I was very clear about what I wanted to do. However, it was interesting. I support abortion access for all women, of course, but I’d long decided that if I ever became pregnant, I simply wouldn’t be able to terminate a pregnancy. It’s interesting how things change when you actually have an experience like this.
I knew immediately that abortion was my answer. I’ve known for a long time that I don’t want a child. I simply do not want the responsibility in my life. And yet, being just over 40, in a committed relationship, I was questioning myself. I went to Planned Parenthood the next day for a pregnancy test to confirm. I burst into tears there again and I immediately made an appointment to have an abortion. I wanted to do it immediately. Of course, though, I had to wait. It was the longest week of my life and I have never felt so alone. I didn’t feel like I could tell anyone. My partner was the only one who knew what was going on. And of course, he’s a man, so he didn’t really get it entirely. I couldn’t tell my sister or my oldest friend. I was petrified and sad and so, so ashamed. I was, after all, a grown woman, 41 years old. How could I have been so stupid?
Voice 2: In terms of the experience itself, it was pretty upsetting. I went to an OB/GYN on the Upper East Side. My bad. I told her I was scared I was pregnant and wanted a test and an exam. She came back in and congratulated me when the test came back positive. I cried on the exam table. She had no idea what to do. As if she’d never seen someone not excited to be knocked up. I told her I wanted the abortion pill since I was under six weeks. I wanted to do this at home with my husband. She told me that they don’t prescribe it for, quote, moral reasons. I asked her what I should do, and she shrugged and said, ‘Planned Parenthood, I guess?’ I was shocked.
I ended up going to a well known and big women’s health clinic in Manhattan. My husband escorted me inside each time, so that I didn’t have to fight the protesters at the entrance. I asked for the pill again, but the male doctor who saw me said, quote, ‘You look like the kind of girl who likes to get things done quickly. We should do a surgical abortion.’ I listened to him and I shouldn’t have. I compromised what I thought was best for myself and my body, because I deferred to a man who looked more at my insurance coverage than me. They put me under for the procedure. But before they do that, they strap your ankles into stirrups that lift your legs up and make you spread eagle without warning, in a room full of strange men and women. Then they knock you unconscious and you wake up in another room. It would have been nice to know what I was going into. I fell into the anesthesia while having a panic attack.
Voice 1: It was the worst decision I ever had to make. I felt such shame around it. Such horror at the thought that now I was one of those women and then such shame for judging anyone else in that situation. The constant thinking and overthinking. The constant awareness of my body and what was going on inside. It was awful. I did all the things you do in this situation, too, when you’re so unhappy and so scared. I punched myself in the stomach. I ran hard on the sidewalk. I started smoking again. I drank like a fish. I clearly did not want this to come to fruition. I thought briefly of killing myself and then told myself to stop being so dramatic. Of course, it was the best decision I could have made. I’m not sorry I made the choice to terminate a pregnancy at the age of 41. I’m not sorry I did not, and do not want the responsibility of a child. I am sorry that I felt shame for taking care of something in a responsible and safe manner. And I am so sad that I didn’t feel like I could share this with the women closest to me. I was, and still am, scared of their judgment. I so wish this was something I could talk about without fear of repercussion or additional external shaming.
Ruby: I was terrified because of the guilt and shame that being pregnant and all of that stuff growing up in like a religious household. All those things combined is what made me feel guilty and shameful for the experience. But my gut was telling me that this is okay. So I went with my gut (laughs) and there were other people in the room with me, you know, like waiting. And it just, it just felt like a normal day. I am forever grateful and want to cry again. I am forever grateful that I did get that abortion that day last year. Granted, my body went through so many different changes because I have hypothyroid issues and I went through postpartum right after that. Yes, people who have abortions go through postpartum and I went through it heavily. So I was just so depressed and my body was just… But at the end of the day, my gut kept telling me that this is totally fine, this is okay, and my support is what got me through it.
Voice 2: Later at my follow up, the female doctor I saw told me that I had at least a 75% chance of having an ectopic pregnancy since I conceived with an IUD. This could have killed me and the fetus wasn’t viable. Nobody told me this. My mind was already made up, but I always want to know the facts and my options. Why do we hate women knowing about their bodies so much? Since then, I haven’t had a single male doctor. Not to be a generalist hater, but I just can’t trust men with my health anymore. I’m not messed up because I got an abortion. I am confident in that decision. I’m traumatized by the service I was given in this day and age. I can’t even imagine how hard this would be for someone with less privilege and with less or no access to health care.
Voice 1: I have to add too: every single person I encountered at Planned Parenthood was incredible. The kindness, the professionalism, the respect. I was blown away. Those women working there made it as easy as could be for me. They held my hand when I cried. They told me it was okay and reminded me that I was doing nothing wrong, that I was making a decision that was right for me, and that they were going to make sure I was okay. I couldn’t thank them enough.
Voice 2: Abortions are common and yet treated as anomalies. If we want to start getting rid of the stigma, then we need to start talking about it. We should encourage women to share their stories. Not all abortions are 16 year olds or sex workers. Many of them are your coworkers, your family, your friends. I am one of them and I am here to tell my story and support women who want to share theirs.
Ruby: I don’t think I would have gotten through that abortion if it weren’t for the people that are in my life currently and my therapist. Because honestly, it was having people that are just like bickering at you, like keep it, you know, when you know you don’t want that for yourself. It’s just so scary. It makes it more scary than it needs to be. And um, I, again, I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t change. I’m so glad I did it. So to anyone who decides to have an abortion, one it’s your decision to make, always. And two, don’t let the shame and guilt of society, of family and people who don’t love you for you get to your head as much as possible. Because it got to me really bad and it took a toll on me. And just know that so many other people in your support system is there for you and understand what you’re doing is for you, because you matter. Yeah. So that’s my experience. And thank you so much.
Dom: If you or someone you know needs support, there are resources available. You can call the National Abortion Hotline for information, referrals and more at 1-800-772-9100. You can also check out our website for more information on reproductive health resources.
If you’re having thoughts of suicide, call or text 988 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. For non-urgent information about mental health and substance abuse, you can call 1-800-662-HELP.
Nyge: Special thanks on this episode to Jules Bradley. Jules produced the piece, “Thank You For Calling” for the show “Short Cuts,” a Falling Tree production for BBC Radio 4. You can listen to “Short Cuts” wherever you get your podcasts. We also want to thank Ruby, Lindsey Lovel and everyone who submitted their stories anonymously.
Dom: Another thank you to Vivienne Alcantar and Nana Boateng for reading the submissions.
Nyge: Thank you all so much for tuning in. I know it feels like Dom and I have been hosting together for longer than just one season, but I have to bring it up. This is your first time as a co-host, so I just wanted to congratulate you on knocking it out of the park.
Dom: Aww, thank you, Nyge.
Nyge:No problem. I also wanted to just thank the listeners. Y’all showed so much love this time around, and it’s greatly appreciated. I really love you all so, so much. Thank you for supporting us for another season. It truly means the world.
Dom: I have to say thank you as well to the listeners for welcoming me with open arms. It has been so beautiful and such a meaningful experience. What do you say, Nyge? You want to do it again next season?
Nyge: (Laughs) I’m a thousand percent down.
Nyge: Adult ISH is produced by YR Media, a national network of young artists and journalists creating content for this generation. Our show is produced by Georgia Wright, Dominique French and by me, your boy, Nyge Turner.
Dom: Our engineer is James Riley.
Nyge: Our executive producer is Rebecca Martin.
Dom: Our intern is Laly Vasques. Original music for this episode created by these young musicians at YR: Christian Romo, Anders Knutstad, Noah Holt, Jacob Armenta, Chaz Whitley, Michael Diaz, Sean Luciano Galarza, and David Lawrence. Music direction by Oliver “Kuya” Rodriguez and Maya Drexler.
Nyge: Art for this episode created by Brigido Bautista with these young people at YR: Ariam Michael and Jordan Ferguson. Art direction by Marjerrie Masicat. And creative direction by Pedro Vega, Jr.
Dom: Special thanks to Eli Arbreton and our CEO Kyra Kyles.
Nyge: We are also proud to be members of Radiotopia by PRX, an independent listener-supported collective of some of the most amazing shows in all of podcasting. Find them at Radiotopia.fm. And if you haven’t reviewed our show on Apple podcasts, please be sure to do so. Five stars is much appreciated.
Dom: You can follow us on all the socials @yradultish and on that note, we’ll see you next season.
Dom: Peace! (Laughs) Cut that out! (Laughs)