We pawned video games to pay for $800 abortion
This item is part of POPSUGAR’s 50 states, 50 abortions, a large-scale storytelling project that aims to make the voices of people who have had abortions heard. For more information on how to find an abortion clinic near you, please visit The Cut’s abortion services search engine.
I was 15, living outside of Anchorage in an even smaller town than the one I live in now. He was also 15 and my second boyfriend.
I had a missed period. I felt like something was wrong, even though I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I was educated about my body, but I was just a little in denial. Eventually, enough time passed for me to take a pregnancy test. Then I took another. Then reality set in.
None of us should have been shocked because we were. . . we didn’t use condoms because he constantly complained and tried to avoid using them. I don’t think he was very interested in discussing what to do about my pregnancy until he thought about how much impact pregnancy would have his future, going to college and everything. Then it became a conversation.
We cried for a long time. For us, it ultimately came down to what our parents wanted us to do, because we were both minors at the time. Many of our decisions were based on the fact that our parents would be very upset. I knew my father was a religious man; we were never a religious family, but he became religious after going to prison. I knew he would have panicked. I kept thinking, “Oh, he’s just going to kill me. He’s actually going to kill me. He’ll be so mad, he’ll be so mad that murder could be a real possibility.”
So when I found out I was pregnant and I had to have an abortion, I didn’t tell a lot of people about it. I didn’t feel safe talking to anyone in my family. I told a few of my girlfriends about it, who at the time were trying to convince me to maintain the pregnancy and put her up for adoption.
I remember confiding in a teacher a lot. I was writing it in these poems and notebooks, then I was handing in my homework, so she contacted me. She did not contact my parents; she didn’t report me to anyone. She just asked me if I needed any help and gave me a link to a high school counselor I could talk to. She tried to get me extra resources to keep my life from being harder than it needed to be, which was really nice.
But I remember feeling disconnected and not having many people to confide in and feeling isolated, like no one could understand. This was before “Teen Mom” on TV. I remember very well when “teen momcame out – it blew my mind; I was like, ‘Oh, shit.’ As trashy as it got, it was a very important resource.
I had the conversation with my partner and we decided to look into getting abortion services. The procedure, with a tapering discount, costs around $800. I worked at Blockbuster Video, so I was saving my paychecks. We eventually ended up pawning our Xbox and games for around $500 to make up for the rest of the money. I went to Planned Parenthood, where I was referred to another clinic that would eventually perform the D&C.
Then they put you in this waiting room, so you have time to readjust before they send you back out into the world. I remember sitting shoulder to shoulder with my partner, feeling a whole host of feelings: remorse, a little scared, relieved, and then also confused about what was going to happen next.
Meanwhile, my partner was playing games on his Game Boy. This guy brought a Game Boy Classic into the waiting room so he wouldn’t get bored. Instead of comforting me, he was face to face in a certain Mega Man. This was emotionally more painful at the time than the procedure itself. I felt a tremendous sense of relief that my life was not going to change; that my secret would not be discovered, and that my family relations would remain the same. My love life, my relationship with my boyfriend, could go on. We finally broke up a year later.
That was in 2002. In 2006, Sarah Palin became governor of Alaska. Alaska has been a fairly libertarian state since its inception, but over time it has become more and more republican. Towards the end of her term as governor, she supported a bill that would require people under 18 to obtain parental consent before having an abortion, even though abortion is legally protected in the US constitution. State of Alaska.
I remember writing him a letter saying, “Hey, if you do that, it would have a direct impact on people like me. I had this service done when I was 15, and I can tell you there are a lot of teenage girls who really appreciate your support rather than working against us.” I haven’t received a response and she supported the initiative. It has been changed now (Editor’s note: It was ruled unconstitutional by the Alaska Supreme Court, the Anchorage Daily News reports), but for me it was really the start of thinking that abortion rights might be restricted – a conversation we weren’t having at the time. It really made me think about the people who came after me and what happened to them, the kind of difficulties they had to face.
Years after my abortion, I ended up confessing in a heated argument with my father, when I had already kind of left the house, but not officially. I was 18, and I kind of spat on him, and it screwed him up for a while. He held it against me for a very long time.
What I didn’t know was that my older sister also had an abortion as a teenager. I don’t think he knew that at the time, not until it was too late. He would have liked to have had the opportunity to talk us out of it, because he could have talked us out of it. Years and years later, my father confessed that in his own family there had been dramas about unwanted pregnancies concerning his mother. If she had had access to abortion, it is possible that he and his sisters would not be there. The idea of ”losing a child” – having an abortion – was so repugnant and upsetting to her. In our family, this was simply unacceptable.
I can’t imagine being a young person having to deal with this now, in the political climate we have today. It must be terrifying and polarizing. I’ve been lucky to have girlfriends in my life who, even if they disagreed with my decision to have an abortion, certainly didn’t vilify me or make me feel like shit on top of how I already felt. They could tell it was a tough decision for me and something I would be struggling with for the rest of my life. They didn’t need to stack. I hope people get the same respect from others today, but I’m not sure that’s happening. Just being on the internet as a human, I feel like those days could be over. People hide behind online personalities and profiles. Back when I had an abortion, I didn’t have anyone in my face calling me a baby killer or anything, unlike what you’d see on social apps these days.
Now I’m 37 and trying to start a family. It was extremely difficult. During the pandemic, I had two miscarriages. When Roe was knocked down, my current partner and I were talking about what would happen to women who miscarry. The idea that this law could still affect me – it’s fucking terrifying. If the MAGA mob is successful and the Alaskan constitution is threatened – which it appears to be – then yes, all women in Alaska will be directly threatened.
– Kass Smiley (she/her) (Alaska), as told to Chris Roney
Image sources for “Click for stories from each state”: Aaron’s Unsplash / Burden, Getty / Sergii Yaremenko / Scientific Photo Library, Unsplash / Manik Roy and photographic illustration: Patricia O’Connor