- A Missouri woman had to cross state lines to access an abortion after Roe v. Wade was overturned.
- She was targeted by pro-lifers posing as abortion-clinic workers who tried to shame and pressure her.
- This is her story, as told to Bethany Dawson.
This article is based on conversations with Anna Smith, who asked that her real name not be used, from Kansas City, Missouri, who needed an abortion in a state where the procedure has been illegal since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. She detailed the problems she faced trying to cross the state line to get an abortion.
Roe v. Wade being overturned broke my heart. In the red state of Missouri, we had a trigger ban waiting for the Supreme Court judgment to drop. The moment it did, I knew every woman in my state would have their life changed.
But I didn't realize how soon, and how personally, it would affect mine. I already have five children, three of whom are my own and two are my stepchildren. I love them with all my heart, but my partner and I didn't plan to grow our family. First, we couldn't afford to, and second, I have had difficult pregnancies, and I couldn't put my body through that again. I decided that from the moment I gave birth to my last child.
Three weeks after the Supreme Court decided the Dobbs case, which allowed states to make their own abortion laws, I started feeling sick. But we were in a heat wave, a pandemic, and I'm on contraception, so the chances of it being pregnancy were low. Asking my partner to get me a pregnancy test was just a precaution to ease my racing mind, and I assumed it would come up negative.
But the two lines came up very clearly. They also appeared on the second, third, and fourth tests. I found out I was six weeks pregnant.
Immediately, I knew what I had to do: I had to have an abortion. There was no question. But because of the new abortion ban, I knew I had to travel across state lines to Kansas City, Kansas.
Before those pregnancy tests, I thought I might have cancer. It's awful to say, but I don't know which would have been better. Honestly, there were moments where I wished it was cancer, because at least I could discuss it with my very pro-life family. I felt so isolated from them. They wouldn't understand the situation that I'm in. They still have no idea.
I realized these people weren't there to get me out of a dangerous situation. They were putting me in one.
The week leading up to my abortion was sheer panic. I was constantly stressing that the wrong person would find out about this and would tell the police. With the laws in each state changing so rapidly, I didn't even know if I could be prosecuted.
The only thing I could think about was I have five kids and can't go to jail.
Traveling out of state wasn't an easy option for us. Taking time off of work — me to have an abortion, my boyfriend to look after the kids — meant losing money when our income is already low.
We didn't think finding an appointment would be so hard, though. Or so dangerous.
We started calling every clinic that came up when you Google "Kansas City Kansas abortion." The first place had no availability for weeks, and I didn't have that much time to wait.
The second clinic also had no availability for weeks, and the same went for the third clinic I called.
Then I called a fourth, a clinic called A Better Choice. They said they did have appointments available and would schedule me for a consultation. Great, I thought, because we all know that there is a limited time to get an abortion, especially as I wanted a medical one, which is only available up to 11 weeks after your last period. My time was ticking.
I explained to the clinic worker that I wanted an abortion. I expected a suggestion of dates available, but instead, they started talking about my other options, focusing specifically on adoption. I already knew this wasn't right for me. When they kept persisting, I realized these people weren't there to get me out of a dangerous situation. They were putting me in one.
"You don't have to do this," said the voice at the other end of the phone. My blood ran cold. She wasn't just making sure I "knew my options."
"You don't have to end this innocent life. You have other options. You can put them up for adoption," the now-ominous voice said.
I wasn't considering adoption. As I said, my health was endangered by being pregnant. In my other pregnancies, I'd experienced intrahepatic cholestasis, a painful liver condition that causes intense, unbearable itching. This condition wasn't just excruciating but terrifying, as babies whose mothers have ICP have a higher chance of being born prematurely or stillborn.
- Read more: Fake abortion clinics now outnumber real ones 3 to 1, campaigners say, as pro-life activists try to pressure and shame women into abandoning terminations
- Plus, I didn't want to put a baby into an already overrun, underfunded adoption system.
I told that to the woman at the clinic, who was pleading with me to reconsider — as if it was her body — but she didn't have an answer for how to fix the systemic issues with our adoption system. She just told me about families that wanted a baby.
"You don't have to do this" and "you're making a mistake," read the texts
It's not my job to give birth, I thought. They were acting like it is my duty just because I have a uterus.
Clearly, I wasn't getting anywhere, so I hung up the phone and breathed a sigh of relief. I was done with that.
But then my phone pinged, making it clear that they weren't done with the conversation.
"You don't have to do this" and "you're making a mistake," read the texts. "You can make an appointment with us now."
I wasn't just angry that these complete strangers had been given the boost to tell other people what to do with their bodies. I was terrified.
I wondered what would happen if these people gave my phone number to the police. Could I get arrested for having an abortion out of state? I couldn't be taken away from my children — they need me.
Before the call, my mind was already racing, and this made it worse. I felt nauseous.
My phone pinged again with the same messages. They tried calling me, too.
I blocked the number.
This was already a scary time. I needed an abortion in a state that loudly and proudly believes women don't have a choice to do what they want with their bodies.
I had to have an abortion, knowing that if my parents ever found out, they'd disown me.
I was sitting and staring at my phone, waiting for the terrifying stranger to crawl out of it and scream at me for not putting a baby up for adoption — or worse, waiting for the police to be called. But I didn't have time to wait.
I took a deep breath and started dialing numbers again. Finally, I found a Planned Parenthood in Kansas City that would be able to take me in time.
Two friends drove me 40 minutes on a Saturday to the Planned Parenthood clinic, where I was given two abortion pills, mifepristone and misoprostol. I took the first pill at the clinic, as is standard.
As we pulled into the clinic, I braced myself to see pro-life protesters at the entranceway, ready to scream in my face about my choice.
Instead, there was a small group of people holding signs that read "Fake clinic this way." I was confused. When we looked closer to see what they were talking about, we saw that they were warning people away from another fake clinic that posed as an abortion clinic. All the buildings along the street looked identical and were built so close together, anybody could have easily taken a wrong turn or be wrongly persuaded by a sign. Thank God we had the protesters pointing us toward Planned Parenthood.
It's funny, when I saw the sign for the fake clinic and I saw the group of protesters standing up for my (dwindling) right to an abortion, I knew I was making the right choice.
It broke my heart, knowing that seeking medical care was now a risk
There was very little to report about the clinic visit once I got inside. I took a pill. I was given a green sheet of paper saying I had had an abortion. I'm not showing that to anyone in Missouri, in case it could get me in trouble.
Then I got home, and the bleeding started.
This is normal, and I know that. But then it let up. What if the abortion hadn't worked? What if there was something medically wrong? My mind wouldn't stop racing.
I was just as confused and concerned when, on Tuesday, the bleeding started again, and the cramping got so intense I had to leave work.
I was terrified. I didn't know what was normal and what was not in an abortion. I'd never done it before, and the reason I was on birth control is that I didn't want to have to do this.
I wanted to get checked, but I didn't dare go to an emergency room in Missouri. What if I got arrested? I felt sick at the thought of being treated like a criminal for making a choice about my body for the sake of my family.
I just did not want to take that risk, and it broke my heart, knowing that seeking medical care was now a risk.
I ended up having to go to the hospital for a different problem a week later and whispered that I had had an abortion. I winced and waited for the cold, harsh judgment of their words and braced myself for a criminal accusation or a call to the police.
Nothing. They took my blood and continued doing their job with care and compassion. But the fear still sits with me.
The government is making it impossible for us to do anything now without fear. I'm scared my contraception will be denied to me; I'm scared to get medical care. I'm scared of everything. They're putting a big fear in everybody. It feels like "The Handmaid's Tale." We're just here to birth, nurse, then do it all over and over and over until we die.