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Four Pennsylvanians who had an abortion reflect on life after Roe

We haven’t heard enough from those at the center of the abortion debate, those who have the lived experience of exercising their right to choose.

Clockwise from top left: Amy Eusebio, Kendra Brooks, Meg Makransky Sheketoff, and Nick Greiner.
Clockwise from top left: Amy Eusebio, Kendra Brooks, Meg Makransky Sheketoff, and Nick Greiner.Read moreHeather Khalifa, Tyger Williams, Jessica Griffin

We’ve heard from the members of the highest court in the land in the form of a leaked opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, strip away one of the fundamental rights of reproductive health, and obliterate a half century of legal precedent and so-called settled law.

We’ve heard from politicians — man, have we heard from the politicians — who have done more to keep Supreme Court justices from being disturbed by a series of so-far peaceful protests than to acknowledge the fear, the frustration, the burning-hot rage from Americans having to fight for a right they’d already fought to make theirs.

And we’ve heard from plenty of people on either side of the debate over the future of Roe v. Wade for whom the issue is either an abstract crusade or yet another overly politicized battlefield in the nation’s ongoing culture war.

» READ MORE: As Roe v. Wade is threatened, Inquirer readers respond

But one group that we haven’t heard enough from are those at the center of it all — those who have the lived experience of exercising their right to choose. Those whose voices the justices have all but shut out by erecting an 8-foot fence in front of the Supreme Court building in an effort to protect themselves from those trying to protect their constitutional rights.

The onetime teen mother who knows what it’s like to struggle in a country without equal access to child care or family leave.

The grandmother who knows what life was like before a woman had the constitutional right to make decisions over her own body.

The transgender man whose ability to make a choice over his own body saved his life.

The young woman who knew an unplanned pregnancy would upend the generational progress for which she’d worked so hard.

Here, in their own words, are their stories:

“I’m not ashamed.”

I was a teenage mom, working full time and in college. It was a very hard decision to make, but it was the right decision. The way abortion is kind of narrated here in this country, it’s a shaming thing, when in actuality it’s something I’m not ashamed of, and if I had to make that decision again, I would do it again.

No one talks about the cost of child care or milk or any of the other things, it’s just — you should just have a baby that you can’t afford or are not ready to have.

» READ MORE: At a Mother’s Day Mass in Philadelphia, these Catholics held a range of views on abortion

Even with abortions being legal in our generation, I had girlfriends that couldn’t come up with the money and took drastic measures. Some of them ended up not being able to have kids for the rest of their lives. I think about friends that ended up getting subjected to that doctor on Lancaster Avenue.

It’s something that people are doing, still, in secret. I know it’s a very personal thing, but we have to take the stigma off of it. Women have to be able to make decisions for their body that are right for them. I think we’ve been asleep, and now we have to do whatever we can to prevent us from going back.

Kendra Brooks, 49, is a member of Philadelphia City Council.

“I was driven, blindfolded.”

It was 1968 and I was a freshman in college and I got pregnant. At the time, getting an abortion was illegal. I got in touch with my brother and asked him to find me something. I was driven, blindfolded, to somewhere and I was lucky to be given a shot of something and some pills for $500, which didn’t work but did no harm. My parents ultimately found out and had the family doctor induce bleeding so an OB-GYN could give me an abortion.

I ended up getting pregnant again, but by then abortion was legal.

The main difference between the two: fear and naivete and isolation with the first; none of that with the second.

» READ MORE: Women at St. Joseph’s University wrestle with Roe news

I’ve been married 40 years and have two beautiful, wanted, loved daughters and two fantastic grandsons.

None of this would have been possible if I had those babies. I doubt that — if born — those babies would have grown up as well as my daughters, and I certainly wouldn’t have had the life I have. Men shouldn’t be making decisions about women’s bodies. I knew that at 17. I know it now.

Meg Makransky Sheketoff, 72, is a retired schoolteacher in Elkins Park.

“I would have killed myself.”

I am a trans man who had an abortion and whose legal existence hangs on Roe. Roe is all about the right to privacy and bodily autonomy. They’re already starting to attack the existence of trans people by going after trans kids. It’s all tied together.

I transitioned when I was 39 years old. So as far as the world saw me, I was a woman, non-conforming, but a woman, so I’m always outing myself. The whole purpose of that is to make things easier for the people who come behind me and the idea that the people who come after me — the women primarily, but anyone with a uterus — are going to be denied the same rights that I had, even less, is abhorrent.

» READ MORE: Abortion debate is a reminder that those with disabilities are worthy of life

I would have killed myself or done something dangerous to try to stop the pregnancy. I barely survived puberty, so watching my body go through the transition of being pregnant would have torn me apart.

This puts so much on the chopping block. We’re not just fighting to regain one right, we’re fighting to regain recognition of a huge section of this country as actual participating citizens with full rights as a human being. As a veteran, I fought for everybody’s rights and the idea of the minority usurping the rights of the majority terrifies me.

Nick Greiner, 46, is a Coast Guard veteran.

“The fallacy of pro-life”

In 2007, I graduated from Temple and was taking a gap year because I had gotten into grad school, but I wanted to work a little bit. That fall, I got pregnant. I kept thinking, “I made it through college, I just did this big thing that a lot of people don’t do in our communities, I’m not ready for this.” I didn’t tell a lot of people for a long time. In my head, I’m like, “Am I going to be punished by God?” I knew it was illogical, and I also knew the alternative.

No one should be able to tell me what to do with my body. My partner was supportive and said, “Yeah, we conceived this child together. But it’s not my body. It’s yours,” and yet we have all these legislators feeling authorized to take this stance and make access to abortions illegal.

» READ MORE: People in poverty will suffer the most if Roe is overturned, Pennsylvania experts say

They veil it as pro-life, but had I carried to term that would have had educational impact for me, financial impact, emotional impact. Nobody was going to pay for my child care, nobody was going to help me get back to grad school. That’s the fallacy of pro-life, it’s not even about life, because if it was, then we would have real safety-net programs, and I think that’s why it’s time for me to share my story more out loud — let’s normalize this.

Amy Eusebio, 37, is the director of Philadelphia’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.