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Four Vermonters share their abortion stories as the Supreme Court weighs Roe v. Wade

A photo of a woman silhouetted by a round window.
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
Amy, pictured here, had an abortion when she was 20 years old. She says having the choice to get one was empowering, but the experience was also isolating.

Abortion has been legal in Vermont since 1972, and about 1,300 people have abortions per year in one of the nine facilities offering the procedure throughout the state, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

There is no average abortion patient. People of all ages choose abortion for a myriad of reasons. But with the Supreme Court’s impending decision on whether to uphold Roe v. Wade, for many, it may soon not be an option.

Recently, four Vermonters were willing to share their abortion experiences. They come from different parts of the state, ended their pregnancies at different stages, and chose abortion for different reasons. Here are their stories, in their own words.

A photo of a waiting room with a couch and chairs and posters reading "good morning after" and "yes we do"
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
About 1,300 Vermonters get an abortion each year.

Adrianna

Adrianna Benson lives in Waterbury Center. She is 52 years old and works in information technology. She is married and has a high school-aged daughter. She had an abortion when she was 24.

Listen to Adrianna's story

I had graduated college and moved out West with my roommate, her boyfriend, and my college boyfriend, and I had transitioned to a new birth control, and in the transition found out I was pregnant. I was sitting in the bathroom looking at the pregnancy test that said "positive," and crying and saying "No, no, no, no, no. No. No. Now is not the time."

And so, I talked to my partner, and that was a rocky relationship. We had a really intense conversation, and he fell on the side of, "If we have this baby, we are getting married," and I fell on the side of, "If we have this baby, I want to give it up for adoption." That argument continued over and over and over and over and over and over again. We finally got to the point where I said, "I do not want to get married for this baby, so we’re gonna have to make a different choice," and we chose abortion.

We got to the abortion clinic, thankfully there was not any protestors out there, that would have been hard. We sat in the waiting room that was filled with people that ranged in age from probably 15-year-olds with their parents to an older woman by herself. And they take you, they prep you and take you into this room, and the Wizard of Oz was on, so I’m sitting in a room full of other women who have made this decision in a hospital gown, watching the Wizard of Oz. I’m just looking around thinking, "This is the most bizarre place I’ve ever been in my entire life." And then they take you in, and they’re friendly and they’re wonderful and they’re non-judgmental, and it’s just like getting an internal exam, except they’re gonna end your — this child’s life. And I do believe it is a child.

A photo of a woman in a yellow sweater
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
Adrianna Benson chose to get an abortion after becoming pregnant while transitioning to a new form of birth control.

I had had to go to pre-counseling, I had to watch videos, I had to meet with a person who asked me to make sure this was the right choice, which I appreciated, because had I made that decision without really thinking it through, it would have been hard. I had also been asked to do an ultrasound, because I was further along. We had grappled with this so long, I was not an early abortion. So, um, at the ultrasound it was just me, and I mean I’ve always wanted to be a mom, I’m the oldest of five, I was a babysitter, I knew I wanted to be a mom, but I knew it wasn’t the right time. So I turned my head away, ‘cause I wouldn’t look at the ultrasound, I wanted that to be something special, not something I wanted to feel guilty about.

And I will tell you, I had an early miscarriage during fertility, and I remember just crying being like, "God, is it something I did, am I getting… am I getting punished for this?"

"That decision is never taken lightly, it is something you grapple with your whole life, and I will tell you that there are times I will count and say I would have… how old would my child be now?"
Adrianna Benson, Waterbury Center

I never really regretted the fact that... I mean could I have gone and given that baby up for adoption? I was a temp, I had no health care, I had no benefits, so how would I have done that on my own? Would they have been placed with a wonderful family? I hope so.

When you bring a child into the world, you’re not done as a parent, it’s the rest of your life. That decision is never taken lightly, it is something you grapple with your whole life, and I will tell you that there are times I will count and say I would have… how old would my child be now?

Maggie

Maggie Twitchell is 51 years old. She lives in Waterbury and runs a business leading backpacking trips for women. She has two adult children. She had an abortion when she was 18 years old.

Listen to Maggie's story

I was at a party. I had had a little bit too much to drink, there was a guy who was hitting on me really heavy, he got me alone and into a garage and basically raped me in the garage. Didn’t find out about it until maybe… probably a month later, when I was part of a research study. When you do research for drugs, they test your blood and your urine, they want to make sure you’re not pregnant, and I was pregnant. And so I had come in for my morning meeting, and my mentor came out and said, "Maggie, I don’t know if you know this, but you’re pregnant."

My initial reaction was "Get it out of me. Get. It. Out. Of. Me." And I punched my stomach lots that day, and for the next week I punched my stomach in hopes that I could just get it out of me.

My stepmom worked for the women’s health center in the Old North End, so I talked to her about it in confidence, and she never told anyone in my family, and helped me make an appointment.

A photo of a woman sitting in amongst green ferns with a St. Bernard dog next to her. Her face is serene.
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
Maggie Twitchell, seen here with her dog Tilly, was 18 when she got an abortion.

I went in for my abortion, and it was really scary. I had to cross a picket line, uh, yeah it was scary, I got a lot of people screaming at me, telling me I was making a mistake, and it didn’t feel like a mistake, ‘cause I was 18 and I didn’t want a baby. I crossed through and just sort of kept my head down and went inside and had the operation, um that was actually really respectful and kind. The women in there were really wonderful, they were like, you know, the aunt you could tell secrets to, and there was another maybe handful of women in there. We were all young, all scared.

It wasn't a hard decision to make in terms of like, I know what I need to do, it was a hard decision to face the guilt and all the moral and ethical questions you have in your own head. Like, "I know I don't want it, but I also know that God hates me, that other people think I'm making a bad decision," and then I pass a picket line that also feels the same way. There’s no people saying, “Um, honey, this is a really good idea for you, honey think about your future.” Like you don't have all these aunties coming around you and holding you and giving you some really good advice either way, so I made that decision myself.

"It wasn't a hard decision to make in terms of like, I know what I need to do, it was a hard decision to face the guilt and all the moral and ethical questions you have in your own head."
Maggie Twitchell, Waterbury

At 18, having a baby… I didn’t have a college education, I didn’t have a high school education at that point, I hadn’t even graduated high school yet. It would have changed my trajectory entirely. And I was not healthy, I was not healthy, I could not have raised a child. I went on and had a career that I don’t think I would have had. I would have been in Vermont with no education and no direction and a baby… like what? It's like setting you up for failure.

It’s not 18 years either, we all know that, if we’re parents, it's forever once you have a child, not 18 years. So at 18 to have your forever changed by… whether it’s a mistake or a traumatic rape, it doesn’t matter. You don’t just think, "Oh, you know I’m gonna floss my teeth or go for an abortion today, one or the other," or whether to have a cheeseburger or not, it’s a huge procedure. And it’s a very ethical, traumatic decision to make.

Now that I’ve got a daughter, I want every decision she makes to be her decisions, not her husband’s decisions, not her...certainly not her legislator's decision.

A photo of an exam table in a clinic room.
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
There is no one type of abortion patient in Vermont.

Amy

Amy is 27 years old. She grew up in Vermont, and her parents are immigrants. She is a college graduate and is starting a career she is excited about. She had an abortion when she was 20 years old.

Listen to Amy's story

So, I was with my first boyfriend at that time, we’ve dated probably for two years, I had tried like birth control and contraceptives before, but I reacted pretty badly to them, plus I didn’t grow up with a background where we took a lot of medications, we were more like natural, herbal medication. When I did find out I was pregnant, it was um… it was like... like I didn’t think I was pregnant, but I ended up taking two pregnancy tests, and both of them came positive.

We said that since we still have a lot of things ahead of us, that we would decide to get an abortion, and I went to Planned Parenthood, and the environment was very unknown to me and very isolating. I think the reason why they didn’t want him to come in was because they didn’t … they wanted me to be alone and ask me: "Is this what you want, or is this what he wants?"

I went home during Thanksgiving to take the second pill, um and that's when the nurse told me it was going to be very… like you'll have a lot more symptoms like vomiting and things like that, so you should stay home and not do anything. So I told my parents, "I'm gonna study for my finals," ‘cause that's when usually finals start. And it was very hard, I remember we have an altar at home to pray at, and the only communication that I could open up to was that altar.

A photo of a woman from the back, with her hands on her hair, surrounded by plants.
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
Amy says the only place she could open up about her abortion was at her home altar.

I would say like scenarios to my mom and be like: "If this happened to my friend," and then I would find out what her opinion is. I said: "My friend is actually pregnant right now, and she’s deciding to get an abortion," and I was like "What do you think?" And then she’s like, "No." It’s not really culturally accepting in our family to get rid of a child.

I never really thought of it after… that much after I had the abortion, because I just kept on focusing on my studies. In grad school, we had a class called "death and dying," but then when the course ended with a poem about a woman going through an abortion and describing like the cold and isolating parts and aspects of it… I don’t know why at that time that was the first time I had emotions coming in, after like four to five years later, and I felt, I was just crying, I was bawling, and I was like, "I don’t know what’s wrong with me."

"It’s also very empowering to be able to have that choice, because my life … my life would have been very different. And it would have been a life that I would never want to live."
Amy

I think it’s also very empowering to be able to have that choice, because my life … like I’m feeling chills right now, my life would have been very different. And it would have been a life that I would never want to live.

I told myself I didn’t want to ever have an abortion again, but I … if it does come to it, and if I’m not ready still, I probably will have one.

Erin

Erin is 31 years old and lives in St. Albans, where she works as a therapist. She recently got married, and she and her husband are trying for their first child together. She had an abortion when she was 24 years old.

Listen to Erin's story

When I was 20, I met an older, very charismatic, charming man working at a bar in downtown Burlington, and it was a very abusive relationship. I had several broken bones, lots of very, very scary things. There was a lot of sexual abuse going on, which, you know, was partner sexual abuse, which is really hard to get help with, and I was scared of him, so I didn't get help with it … I got pregnant.

I didn’t find out until I was like, just about to be far enough along where I would have to go to Boston. That wasn’t really feasible for me, I didn’t have the finances or anything like that. And like, what was I gonna tell this abusive partner of mine? Like, "I have to go to Boston for a few days, I’ll see you later?" That would have never happened.

A photograph of a woman's silhouette amid some gauzy fabric
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
Erin was in a relationship with an abusive partner when she became pregnant. She says getting an abortion gave her a lot of relief.

There was nothing that alerted me to being pregnant until it got pretty… until it got past the first trimester, like there was nothing. I believe one of the reasons I might not have felt symptoms is because I was in constant, you know, survival mode, and I wasn’t allowed access to pregnancy tests or doctor’s appointments. So by the time I was finally able to sneak away and find out, it was like, get an abortion now or take some time to decide and go to Boston. It was never a choice in my mind to have the child.

I was scared for my life every day, so I couldn’t bring a child into that world. I was so isolated then, so I really didn’t have a support system, so the people at Planned Parenthood were like my support system. Like that was huge for me. The women that were working there at the time were so incredible, and I again like had no finances, and they helped me secure funds through grants and like … just so much support.

"I personally don’t believe that I would be alive today if I didn’t have the abortion, because if I had stayed in that abusive relationship longer, like 18 years with a baby with him, I don’t think I would have survived."
Erin, St. Albans

I felt so relieved that I like, had the option, and that I was able to and that these people were supportive. I think that the abortion part was the most relief I got during that time period. It definitely made me feel like I had control, it made me feel like I could make the right choice for myself, and it just made me feel like — I think it kind of finally made me realize that I could be on my own, and I could make my own decisions, and I could get out of this, and I think that's what sparked that for me.

I personally don’t believe that I would be alive today if I didn’t have the abortion, because if I had stayed in that abusive relationship longer, like 18 years with a baby with him, I don’t think I would have survived. The abuse was getting worse and his drug use was getting worse. I don’t think that… I mean I really credit it with potentially saving my life.

If there was a child born into the life that I was in then… it would have been a terrible life. Absolutely terrible. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody’s child.

A photo of an exam room with purple chairs and a desk
Elodie Reed
/
Vermont Public
There are currently 10 facilities that provide abortions in Vermont.

Everybody listening to this probably knows somebody that had an abortion, even if they don’t know who it is. I feel like if you’re listening to this and you’re someone who's thinking, "There’s no way that anybody in my life would make a choice like this," there probably is.

I think it really changed my life, shaped where I am today. Like, if I had that child in that situation, I would have not progressed in life where I am now.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with Grace Benninghoff @gbenninghoff1.

Corrected: June 24, 2022 at 12:33 PM EDT
We updated the number of facilities that provide abortion care in the state to reflect the recent closing of the Planned Parenthood clinic in Bennington.
Grace worked for the station in 2022.