My Abortion Saved My Life

It wasn’t an easy choice — but it's likely why I'm still alive.

Abortion that probably saved her life stefanamer | Canva

It’s not so much that I flip-flop my resolutions but rather that my brain and my heart battle. My brain says this is for the best. He is no good for me, and we are no good for a baby. My heart longs for what can never be and wonders how much I am at fault for what he became.

I was told to write a letter about why I finally chose to have an abortion. They said that when guilt and what-ifs become overwhelming, writing a letter would help me see more clearly. 


Despite being pro-choice at my core, I had many reservations about having an abortion myself. I was married to a man who wanted to follow through with the pregnancy and stay by my side the entire time. I did not take the necessary precautions to prevent myself from getting pregnant. It was hard to feel resolved in my choice at times.

Though the internalized shame still gets the best of me, I stand firm in my decision. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that having an abortion saved my life.

The morning of July 3rd, 2018, I stumbled out of bed and took a pregnancy test. I was certain I was worrying about nothing, but my period was late. I felt that I should at least check.


I couldn’t possibly be pregnant though. That would make no sense. After months of struggling to leave my abusive ex-husband, I finally mustered up the courage and cut him off. I had just graduated high school and was preparing to attend college on a full-ride. I felt like I was on the precipice of starting to live my own life.

It doesn’t always take three full minutes for a pregnancy test result. As soon as the liquid spread across the cotton, a bold, pink plus sign emerged. I return to bed with the test in front of me. Once reality set in, a scream escaped my mouth that I barely recognized.

My cousin Devonte and his girlfriend Steph came running in. They were my roommates, best friends, and my strongest supporters. As soon as they saw the pregnancy test, the air was sucked out of the room. Everyone understood the weight of that plus sign.

Finally, Steph broke the silence. “Should I say congratulations?” “No!” I started screaming again. “This can’t happen. Why now?”


They sat on the bed and held me for a while. Everyone understood the weight of that plus sign.

I used to believe there was no such thing as a coincidence. In my mind, this pregnancy was a sign from the universe that my ex and I were not destined to be done yet. This had to happen for a reason, and the most logical reason was that he and I were destined to be.

Without realizing it, I had fallen into the misguided belief that bringing a child into the world can glue back together a relationship that adults broke. After stewing on it for a few days, I called my ex-husband, Jack, and told him the news. He was over the moon to hear from me at all. He too saw this as an opportunity for reconciliation.

Jack moved back into the apartment with Steph, Devonte, and me. We tried to rectify our broken marriage, and it seemed to work — short-term at least. We told our friends and families how excited we were and began to discuss names.


I wanted to wait a bit before breaking the news to others, but Jack could not contain his excitement. Truthfully, I was still unsure if this was the best choice for me, but I felt that the moment I told Jack I was pregnant, there was no going back.

The instant we saw each other face-to-face, he was determined to tell the world. We compromised by keeping the news off of social media and only telling those close to us for now.

He called his parents and friends. They were ecstatic. His mother gushed repeatedly about how grateful she was I was here to keep Jack on the right path. His family always believed I was the kryptonite to his chaos.

No part of me assumed the people in my life would be happy about the recent developments. After Jack and I separated, I discovered the concerns they expressed about him while we were together were only the tip of the iceberg.


I had a mentor throughout childhood from a program for youth with incarcerated parents. We stayed connected long after the program ended, and she was a valuable source of guidance and inspiration for me. Always level-headed and kind, I figured she would be at least mildly supportive, so I told her my pregnancy news first.

She met me at a Starbucks on short notice because I told her I had big news. Much to my chagrin, my pregnancy announcement was not met with excitement or support.

I feared this was why you wanted to meet, but I hoped I was wrong. You know that you have other options, right? You don’t owe anyone a baby, and certainly not Jack. Your life is just starting.

This was the first time she had ever been anything less than supportive of any choice I made. Despite the sudden onset of doubt, I assured her that this was what I wanted to do. When she began asking about the plan for childcare, finances, and college, I realized I hadn’t thought things out as far as I thought.


Do you see my life? It’s stressful and at times kind of miserable. I walked into this life with eyes wide open. I knew what I was getting myself into, and I was okay with that because I had already lived so much of my own life. You haven’t.

In all honestly, I did not like her reaction at all. Part of my discomfort stemmed from this being the first — and to this day only — time I had ever heard pessimistic input about my life choices. The rest of my discomfort was rooted in how deeply her fears reflected my own. Suddenly, they didn’t seem irrational anymore.

Once again, one expression of concern stood out among all else. No matter how hard I tried to rid it from my mind, it played on repeat.

I don’t regret my choice, and I love being a mom, but I fear that you won’t. At least not right now, and certainly not with him.


Jack never knew the full extent of my mentor’s reservations. I kept it vague by relaying her concerns about potentially forfeiting my full-ride scholarship and the obscene cost of childcare.

Jack's love-bombing was in full swing: Gifts, promises of an idealized future that included everything I wanted, lengthy text messages, and love letters. Once I told him I threw up my smoothie at work, and he walked 4 miles round trip to deliver me Pepto Bismol I didn’t want. He checked every box, and his manipulation tactic worked. I grew increasingly convinced that keeping this baby was the right choice.

When I told my mother, I watched her eyes swell with joy. For years, I was adamant that I never wanted to have children. As a cancer survivor with ongoing health issues, she felt immense joy over the fact that she really would be around to meet my children. I felt firm in my resolve again. 

I decided it was time to tell another mentor whose guidance I relied on. Rachel was my first cheer coach. When the woes of middle school and mental illness alienated me from my peers, I found myself eating lunch in her classroom every day. We stayed in touch over the years, and at one point she even flew me out of state to visit her.


When she answered my FaceTime call, she was all smiles and excitement. A cheerleader always remains a cheerleader. When I told her I was pregnant, however, her expression morphed into horror of equal intensity.

I don’t recall exactly what she said, but her concerns echoed that of my other mentor. A key difference between the two, however, was the visibility of her fear. She was very straightforward about the fact that she did not think this was good for me. At some point, I began crying and told her that the choice was made. Rachel took a deep breath before her conclusive bit of input.

I will support you in whatever you do. Always. Just please don’t forget that you can change your mind. If you do, I don’t want cost to be a barrier. I will pay for half if you need it.

My Abortion Probably Saved My Life fizkes / Shutterstock


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Jack was incapable of keeping up the over-the-top loving and supportive trope. That simply was not who he was. He was a controlling, volatile abuser, and a baby was never going to change that.

One night when we were lying in bed late at night, I turned my back to him and faced the wall while scrolling on my phone. This hit a sore spot for him. He began screaming about how I didn’t love him and punched a hole in the wall directly above my barely swollen body.

Devonte came rushing to the door, but it was locked. He demanded to be let in. I assured him everything was fine, and I tried to calm Jack down to prevent a confrontation. Jack lowered his voice, but Devonte stayed near.


Jack and I stood up, and I asked him to leave. His volume increased steadily until eventually, he was screaming in my face and at Devonte through the door.

You kicked me out of my house and took it over once, I’ll be damned if you’re gonna disrespect me like that again.

I reminded him that I had always paid all of the rent and that he wasn’t on the lease anymore, so he needed to leave before I called the cops. He ran from the door straight into me and tackled me to the ground. Upon hearing the thud, Devonte kicked the door in to find Jack sitting on top of me, holding my wrists, and screaming “Filthy wh*re!” in my face repeatedly.

Devonte picked Jack up by his shoulders like a rag doll and carried him out of the room, down the stairs, and to the door. Seeing someone who had always seemed so formidable to me be brisked off with ease was a welcome and shocking sight.


Regardless of Jack’s threats when the door was closed, Devonte refused to engage further. He knew that was the last thing I needed.

At some point, Jack left, and once again Devonte and Steph wrapped their arms around me and held me as I cried. There was no longer a choice. I was suddenly aware that as long as I remained tied to Jack, I would never be safe. Devonte couldn’t protect me forever.

@modernlawaz My abusive ex is always harassing me via text. What can i do? #custody #narcissistic #abuse ♬ original sound - Modern Law AZ

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While no one was happy about how I came to my decision, everyone was relieved that I arrived there. I scheduled an appointment at Planned Parenthood the next day only to learn that the procedure was a staggering $500. The woman on the phone was sympathetic to my sorrow, and she informed me that there was a fund that could cover about $100 of it.

As a barista at a drive-thru coffee shop, I was living paycheck to paycheck. I knew that there was no way I could acquire $400 in the time I needed to. Despite my aversion to asking for financial assistance from anyone and my displeasure of admitting I was wrong, I called Rachel.

There were no expressions of, “I told you so.” She did not enjoy being right about this in the least. She held space as I cried and reiterated the positives that accompany this choice.

Rachel offered to connect me to friends of hers who had been through similar situations. With surprising accuracy, she warned me that shame and sorrow often resurface when women who have had abortions have children later on.


She is the one who told me to write the letter that I revisit now and again. Often after I put my stepdaughter to bed — who was born only 4 months before my abortion.

Without hesitation, Rachel sent me $250 via PayPal. I never even had to ask outright. My mother was heartbroken when I told her. Having been forced to have an abortion years before I was born by an exceptionally abusive man, she carried a lot of shame. She feared that shame would follow me the way it has followed her all of these years.

You can still do this, Cina! You won’t be alone, baby. I’m here. I’ll raise the baby with you.

When she realized I was unwavering in my choice, she shifted to a state of reluctant support. Her reluctance and support both stemmed from the same place — a desire to protect her barely adult daughter from the harsh realities of life.


My mom gave me the remaining amount needed for the abortion and drove me to my procedure.

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By law, I was required to attend two separate appointments. Surprisingly, there ceased to be a single protester present for either one of them. The first consisted of a pregnancy test and a mandatory ultrasound. The second was the procedure. My take-home paperwork included aftercare instructions, birth control options, and a photograph of the ultrasound. The bottom of the photo read:


“9 weeks and 1 day”

I was over 11 weeks along by the time their next available appointment opened up. Those two weeks were excruciating. My mother cried over the ultrasound photo I never wanted. Jack showed up at my job several times and waited at the nearby gas station to bombard me and beg for reconciliation.

Aside from showing up for work, I did nothing except sit on my recliner and watch Juno on repeat. Steph single-handedly kept me alive. She ensured I ate and drank water. Devonte was in between jobs and spent his days watching Juno with me. Steph joined us to watch it at night.

On a hot, July morning, my mother dropped me off at my appointment. Abortion patients have a separate waiting room from those there for other reasons. Visitors were not allowed, and if I left at all, I forfeited my slot. It’s a safety measure. Considering that Planned Parenthood had been the victim of a fatal mass shooting less than three years prior, I didn’t question their policies.


The air conditioning in the waiting room had a chilling bite. Though a welcome contrast to the arid heat outside at first, it became increasingly bitter. My flip-flops offered no reprieve and I spent most of the wait holding my toes and longing for socks.

When the deafening silence became unbearable, I called my mother. I expressed my fears through shaking sobs.

“Just come home, Cina!” she cried back. “We can do this together. You don’t have to do this, honey.”

Mom, I love you, and I appreciate your support, but that isn’t the kind of support I need right now. I have to do this for my safety. Please help me find my strength.

The tone shifted, and she did exactly as I had asked. When I ran out of words and tears, I hung up. Eventually, a cheery woman in her mid-twenties entered the waiting room with me.


With little else to do, we found ourselves chatting. She told me, without emotion or hesitation, that she and her boyfriend aren’t in a place financially to have a baby and she is grateful to be able to make this choice. It was necessary, she said, for the security of her future. I admired her.

Not only did I agree with her wholeheartedly, but I saw that it was possible to take the empowerment that I so willingly afforded to others and embody it myself.

There were options to be sedated lightly or heavily. I chose the latter. I wanted to remember as little of this experience as possible.

The doctor performed a second ultrasound. Technically, I was required to look at that one as well, but she did not enforce that rule. She urged me to get a copper IUD. I agreed readily. I got onto the table, the sedative was administered, and everything else went black.


My next memory is sitting in my mom’s car eating boneless hot wings from Sonic. The fetus had been removed and in its place sat a piece of copper that assured I would not be returning anytime soon.

When Florida’s 6-week abortion ban was signed into law, I cried. My sorrow was not only for the women who are now barred from the same life-saving procedure I had but also for 18-year-old me who would have buckled if any additional barriers existed. That is the goal of the law, but lawmakers cease to understand the implications.

When I got married and became a stepmother, a lot of the “what-ifs” I had were answered. Having my stepdaughter with us full-time has shown me how beautiful, albeit stressful, it can be to have a child earlier than anticipated. Co-parenting with my husband has confirmed that I never would have been able to do so with Jack.

I was right about one thing from the beginning. My abortion did happen for a reason. Though I was incorrect about what that was, I found it at the end of the very letter I opened with.


Getting pregnant gave me a choice. I very distinctly chose the life I wanted. Now, I owe it to myself to live that life.

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Cina Lenee is a memoirist, blogger, and freelance writer. Her blog on Medium features articles on mental health, relationships, social justice, and compelling personal narratives.