Uma Thurman wrote an op-ed about having an abortion in her late teens

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Uma Thurman has written an op-ed in the Washington Post about abortion. The Texas law effectively banning abortion in the Lone Star state has not been on the books for one full month. There are already plans afoot to challenge the constitutionality of the law, and pro-choice advocates are already trying to force American women to understand what is at stake here. Uma’s op-ed is something we’ll likely see more of: celebrity women sharing their abortion stories, humanizing the issue and trying to make people understand why access to abortion is a human right. You can read Uma’s full op-ed here. Here’s part of the piece:

I started my acting career at 15, working in an environment where I was often the only kid in the room. In my late teens, I was accidentally impregnated by a much older man. I was living out of a suitcase in Europe, far from my family, and about to start a job. I struggled to figure out what to do. I wanted to keep the baby, but how?

I telephoned home. My mother was gravely ill in the hospital. My father went to her bedside to discuss my options. We had never spoken about sex before; this was the first time, and it was terrible for all of us. They asked me about the status of my relationship — it was not viable — and warned me how difficult it would be to raise a baby as a teen on my own. My childish fantasy of motherhood was soundly corrected as I weighed answers to their very precise questions. I was just starting out in my career and didn’t have the means to provide a stable home, even for myself. We decided as a family that I couldn’t go through with the pregnancy, and agreed that termination was the right choice. My heart was broken nonetheless.

An older female friend in Germany offered to help me. In her doctor’s office in Cologne, I was given a local anesthetic and had an abortion. I lay awake on the table while the doctor, who was a kind man, explained every step of the process as it happened. It hurt terribly, but I didn’t complain. I had internalized so much shame that I felt I deserved the pain.

My fingers were tightly locked across my chest, and when the procedure was done the doctor looked down at me said, “You have beautiful hands — you remind me of my daughter.” That single gesture of humanity is seared in my mind as one of the most compassionate moments I have ever experienced. In his eyes, I was a person, I was a daughter, I was still a girl.

[From WaPo]

She goes on to call her abortion “my darkest secret until now,” and she reflects on how that early abortion allowed her to be ready for motherhood later in life, and that “I have nothing to gain from this disclosure, and perhaps much to lose.” She hopes to reach “women and girls who might feel a shame that they can’t protect themselves from and have no agency over.” It’s a really powerful piece. But I hate this – I hate that women have to pour out their souls and fight and cry and beg for society to recognize us as human beings with agency and not merely state-owned uteruses. It f–king sucks. Women my age have known OUR ENTIRE LIFETIMES that Roe is always just a hair’s breadth away from being overturned. Millions of us have always voted accordingly. But a minority of Americans wanted the orange Nazi to be president, so here we are.

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Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.

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41 Responses to “Uma Thurman wrote an op-ed about having an abortion in her late teens”

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  1. Bettyrose says:

    I’m glad she wrote this piece but I hate it too, that it always has to be steeped in shame. Imagine an article that said something like “I had a whoopsy and it was taken care of, no regrets.” The outrage at a woman not feeling shame. Well, I guess that’s the plot of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, a movie that could never be made today. I’m surprised at how much it still flies under the radar with no widespread bans or public scorn.

    • Steampug says:

      The choice to have an abortion is not a whoopsie glad I got rid of it. I dont say you have to agonize over it if you know its the right choice or that you should be ashamed – definitely not. But calling the whole process a whoopsie is callous

      • lunchcoma says:

        Eh, people feel all kinds of ways. Mine was a “well that kind of sucked, and now I’m out $500 too” on the decision scale. I think we should make room for people to feel all kinds of ways, from very sad to nothing at all. We let people have a variety of reactions to most other decisions.

      • Lucía says:

        It is for many people. Some would even say it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to them. Maybe let’s not tell people how they should feel about their abortions.

      • LovesitinNM says:

        It’s not callous.

    • Macm says:

      I did actually have a whoopsie took care of it, totally fine with my decision for an abortion. I was 40 years old, I have family older than me, no extended family. There are food shortages and natural disasters and pieces of shit who refuse to wear masks during a pandemic. Not the environment for a child. The worst part was sitting through an entire day with people judging me only to get 2 pills that get the job done. No regrets, I did the right thing. Plan C, if you are in need.

  2. Nicole says:

    I was in my second year of graduate school. I met a man at Christmas break and I had a great time one night. I missed my period and told my mom. She said she kinda already knew. I took a pregnancy test from a friend and confirmed that I was, in fact, pregnant. I had a deep conversation with my mother. I knew that my parents wanted grandchildren. My mother straight up told me two things. “We may want grandchildren but you have to be the one to raise it.” In addition, “You are very angry. Are you sure you won’t take this out on your child?”

    So with that, I also thought that I would be a Black woman, pregnant, trying to go on job interviews. Being a Black, overweight, pregnant woman are not factors in my favor. I decided to terminate the pregnancy. Like Uma, it hurt terribly. I also made a vow, that no man should decide should impact what is a very very very very intimate procedure. That was 14 years ago. I still have no children but my dog. I do not regret my decision.

  3. Anna222 says:

    I’ll never forget the looks on the faces of the women and girls in the clinic as I waited for mine. It’s never the easy choice it’s the hard choice and every woman has the right to make it if she needs or wants to. I respect Uma for speaking up but I’m disgusted that it is necessary.

    • Driver8 says:

      Yep, people never talk about that. When I had mine, I was ready and couldn’t wait to get on with it. It was emotional, but I knew it was right and have never regretted it. The thing that does haunt me are the faces of the young women whose decision was difficult for them. Their tears broke my heart. Abortion isn’t a “La Dee Da, oops, got knocked up, at least I can get rid of it” decision. It’s difficult and nuanced and women deserve respect and support for their choices.

  4. Quincytoo says:

    Heartbreaking
    I’m so happy to live in Canada
    My thoughts go out to every female in the world who doesn’t have access to this medical procedure

  5. Emma says:

    So heartbreaking. To Uma and all the others — you do NOT deserve pain! I’m horrified her anesthetic did not protect her and her doctor did not check on that. Sending love to all who’ve had abortions and especially those who have been told to feel shame or guilt or pain.

  6. aang says:

    I had an abortion at 17. I’m not ashamed. It saved my life. I’m well educated, happily married, a mother to two successful young adults, a successful business owner, and most importantly a mature and fully realized human who is able to love myself even with all my faults. That never ever could have been the case if I had given birth as a teen, married or not. My mother and grandmother were both teen mothers and I watched them and their children struggle to overcome all that can mean, trauma, addiction, abuse, and poverty. And for my mother, her sister, and my youngest brother it meant tragic early death.

  7. Aphra says:

    She is always brilliant and fabulous. Really the celeb I admire most.

  8. lunchcoma says:

    I was 28. I hadn’t known I was pregnant until I took a routine test before another medical procedure. I hadn’t missed my period and initially didn’t know how pregnant I was.

    I’d spent the preceding couple of months recovering from a bad breakup by sleeping with my ex and also by starting to date someone new. I’m in recovery from alcoholism and bulimia now. I wasn’t in recovery then. I definitely shouldn’t have been anyone’s mother, then or now, and I was concerned that the embryo wasn’t healthy.

    I talked about it with a couple of friends but not with either man. It did not hurt terribly. I had planned to take a cab home and actually felt like walking instead. Then I had a week of a heavy period with weird blood clots, and after that, life went on.

  9. Stacy Dresden says:

    My abortion was one of the greatest gifts in my life. It allowed me to complete college, find a more suitable partner who loves me and build a healthy family when I was ready and able to do so. I applaud anyone who speaks out but we don’t need any added shame. We will never go back.

  10. Ann says:

    I haven’t had one, but my older sister did. She got pregnant while in college. She had a steady boyfriend and was using birth control the whole time. Sometimes it fails. She has three kids now and zero regrets.

    I was thinking about a friend of mine whose daughter, only about a year younger than mine (just out of college), is about to have a baby. Her daughter also has a serious boyfriend and was on birth control. She had an IUD. When she told my friend she was afraid she was pregnant, my friend was sure it was impossible. But she took her to the OBGYN and there they both were…..the IUD and the fetus.

    When the Texas law happened, she PMed me on Facebook that she couldn’t sleep thinking about it. Hadn’t slept for two nights. Her own daughter chose to keep the baby (she is lucky as her parents are supportive and her boyfriend, though not ready for marriage, wants to be in the child’s life), but she said had it been her other one, two years older, she would have been scheduling the abortion the next day.

    The point is, it’s a wrenching decision for most people. Her daughter is having the baby but when she confirmed she was pregnant she burst out crying. The idea that if she had decided not to have it, which would have been LESS surprising than her choice to keep it, some neighbor could have ratted her out for $$$ is just so horrifying and upsetting.

    This is no one else’s GD business.

  11. Jaded says:

    In 1973 I had an abortion at age 21. I was in and out of a horrible relationship with a narcissistic man who dumped me as soon as I told him. I was working at a minimum wage job, living in a basement room, and wouldn’t have been able to cope with a baby. Thankfully I was living in Canada and had no trouble getting the pregnancy terminated. It scares me to think about what’s happening in so many US states (and a few European countries as well), how society seems to be regressing to a point where women’s legal rights over their own bodies are being rescinded. What next? Woman can’t vote?

  12. Kiera says:

    I had one at 22/23 when the birth control I was on didn’t work. It was an easy decision for me but I know was hard for my boyfriend, who is now my husband. He is older and already was thinking about having kids. But he told me he would never hold it against me and that he knew it was a decision that would impact me more than him so I needed to be the one to make it.

    I was early enough on I just needed the pill but it was a horrific night of pain. My boyfriend/husband had to work that night but made sure my roommates would be home and dropped off a bunch of my favorite foods/comfort things and then came over the next day to just hold me.

    It was the best decision for me and for us as a couple. We had only been dating six months when this happened and still had so much to learn about each other. I wanted to go to grad school and pursue a career, which would have been really hard with a baby. Ten years later we have an amazing little girl, I own my own business, and we live in a gorgeous area and deeply love each other.

    Having the abortion not only made this life possible but also made sure that when we did bring a child into the world she was loved and deeply wanted by both parents. I have no shame or guilt about getting an abortion. I used to not tell people or at least only knows I knew well and then I realized it is nothing to be ashamed of. When I had an abortion I chose to pick a path that I knew would one day lead to a better life for me and any future children I had.

  13. Cait says:

    Ever think this is why they did the abortion ban in the first place. Sure Republicans want control over women and to just dominant women in general but the main draw for Republicans is to prevent White Women from aborting children white children in particular. They attacked and gaslit Black women about abortions for years. They used to put out Billboards along the highway and everything Than they became aware of the demographic shift and the great replacement theory entered the chat.

  14. Nina says:

    Good for her! The fact that in 2021 this has to be a big deal is shocking. It’s time to normalise this

  15. Green Desert says:

    I just want to say thank you to all of the people on this post sharing your stories. ❤️

  16. Zara says:

    I absolutely agree that a person should be able to feel and express any number of things about the experience of having an abortion. That includes being able to feel many, sometimes contradictory, things at the same time, and to feel grief or anger without that being interpreted as politicizing the issue. I’m not saying anyone here is doing that, but it’s important to allow people to express their experiences and feelings without some of those feelings being off-limits because they feed into arguments used by anti-choice / anti-abortion people.

    I am 100% pro-choice, and I also wanted to be able to express my mixed feelings about my own experience. When I had an abortion after an unplanned pregnancy, the most difficult part for me was having to make that decision within a specific time frame. It can be hard enough to decide whether or when to have a child, and so to have to decide suddenly, while my body was changing due to hormones, and knowing that my time frame was limited, was really really awful. AND I am extremely lucky because I had options, a good partner, a caring family, and easy access to abortion. Immediately after the abortion I felt relief! And in the days and months after I felt some sadness, anger and regret, and I still do. I don’t know why, exactly, I think in part because it was a situation I really did not want to be in, and I felt it was “unfair” that I was forced to bear those difficult (for me) decisions and interventions when the unplanned pregnancy was equally my partner’s “fault”. Not much to do about that, but that’s how I felt. And my ambivalence and sadness made me not want to talk about it with anyone, because I knew it was “my choice” and also a privileged choice considering what other people face, even though it was a choice I did not want to have to make. Whether it’s an easy decision or not, nobody should face added burdens and obstacles (lack of access, judgement, punishment) when deciding whether to go through with a pregnancy. People need support and resources and room to feel whatever they feel.

  17. Teebee says:

    I feel very very confident that the number of women that have had abortions is very high, disclosed and undisclosed. It is such an individual experience that no one should tell anyone how they should feel about it, a million feelings are already associated with it.

    I have had one. As a young adult. It was not traumatic but it was unforgettable. And I know so many women that have felt comfortable discussing it, just as I know there are many that do not want to discuss their own experience.

    One of the more recent ones I heard was a very dear friend. A mother of 3, in her 40s. Very catholic. She discovered she was pregnant, and her youngest was just reaching pre-school age. She agonized over starting again with a new baby, and she could not do it. She and her husband agreed, she had the pregnancy terminated and she told me a year later.

    For some reason my friend’s abortion is what comes to mind when I think how valuable the ability to make our own reproductive choices is, and how important it is to have it. There are horrible reasons out there that speak to the importance of having access to safe and legal abortion (incest, rape) but it was poignant to think there are also women who have had and raised their families that still get pregnant and do not want another child. Even ones raised to think abortion is immoral, or prohibited. And the freedom to choose is so appreciated. She was so grateful to have that choice even though it was so difficult to make.

    We need to make sure we never lose this choice. It is not a given, nor a forced, nor a convenient act. It is every woman’s prerogative to think and do what is best for them. Without it women will lose so much more than access to a medical procedure. We lose autonomy, confidence, opportunity, potential, freedom. All of the things men refuse to go without.

    • E says:

      Your right that the number of women who have an abortion is very high. Almost 1 in 4 women in the U.S. have an abortion. We just don’t talk about it, and women are often socialized to be ashamed of it.

  18. Aimee says:

    Ya know, those of us that are pro choice don’t want to ever have an abortion! But we need to be given that choice and not some guy in a statehouse somewhere.

  19. Sigmund says:

    Love to Uma for talking about this, and love to all women who have found themselves in a similar situation. Abortions are essential part of family planning for women.

    I will say, and it’s completely up to Uma how she chooses to tell her story, I would very much interpret her story as one of statutory rape. There can be no consent between a 15 year old and a “much older man”.

    • Annetommy says:

      Uma said she has been working since she was 15 but had the abortion in her late teens so it doesn’t seem she was a minor. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t an element of exploitation of course, particularly if the man worked in the industry.

      • Sigmund says:

        You’re right, I misunderstood her age. 18-19 is still incredibly young, and it does seem like she could have been easily been taken advantaged of.

        Of course, all women need access to abortions, not just the young ones, or the victims of rape.

  20. luna says:

    I appreciate hearing everyone’s experience here. We must never go back. I’m struck by how she calls this the darkest secret of her life so far. I have one of those, and now I wonder what it would be like to get it out in the open, to stop feeling shame for my actions. Maybe someday.

  21. Annaloo. says:

    Abortion should be kept legal and safe. Naturally, there will be a myriad of emotion that different women will feel about it … and they are all okay and accepted. Dispassionately, I feel the emotions shouldn’t come into play over making sure a safe procedure for women’s health remains safe and accessible.

    These zealots will come after birth control next, and like this they will be drumming the Bible as justification. Religion can be wonderful as faith and for inner guidance, but its societal structure is also what ensures patriarchal power.

  22. Fascinating Fascinator says:

    Thank you all for sharing. Sending love and to each of you 💜💜💜

  23. Gail Hirst says:

    Sigh…all your stories. Thinking of all the women the Texas law will affect. My heart is open to each and every one of you with such love for handling one of life’s hardest moments with such grace and dignity.

    Can’t help it, at the back of my mind, a voice is screaming ‘what do all these stories have in common?’ and it’s that men are 100% responsible for ALL pregnancies.

    And the poster who said the lawmakers are particularly interested in making white women have white babies was dead on. How sick is that? And again, it’s (mostly) the men who demand this control over women’s bodies. I’m weeping. Love to you all ~

  24. Otaku fairy says:

    There’s always risk involved for women who share these stories, and it’s probably true that more will be opening up about abortions. That will probably mean that some pouring out their souls, fighting, crying, and begging for society to recognize us as human beings with agency will be women who aren’t exactly our cup of tea. But how those situations are handled matters just as much. The stigma around abortion is never something that can only harm the woman doing the talking.