My name is Karen Thurston. I am 62 years old, a mother of two sons, and a grandmother of three.
I had two abortions when I was very young — one at the age of thirteen and one at nineteen — and they allowed me all the great things in my life. I got a great education, had a good career, met a wonderful man, and we built a wonderful family together.
I never thought about my pregnancies as losses. The relationships that created them were coercive and abusive.
And so, I never grieved two potential babies. I never once thought wistfully of what ifs. And I never reflected on things like how old they would be as years went by, like I know a lot of people do.
But I grieved other losses, though. I grieved the loss of my childhood.
And mostly I mourned the loss of meaningful connections with people. I just really lost a true sense of belonging.
No one talked about abortions through all the years of my life. And it really wasn’t until I was in my 50s that I learned that I wasn’t the only one to have an abortion, and to have more than one abortion.
I regret that I let fear interfere with all my relationships; they all felt so very fragile for most of my life. I just thought people would reject me or abandon me if they knew. So, that’s one of my regrets, that I never felt really connected well with others.
I regret believing in the religion that frightened and shamed me. I regret looking up to men as authentic authority figures. I regret allowing shame to keep me silent, small and insecure.
But when the internet became available, an entirely new world opened up to me.
First, I was able to see that I was not alone in having abortions. But even more important, I saw that so many wonderful people were working on ending things like abortion stigma and, you know, I just realized that I could get involved to help, and so, it was wonderful to learn that.
But more importantly what I’ve learned, I’ve learned that so many hardships in the world are entangled with our reproductive lives. And they’re brutal hardships like racism and ableism, and all the kinds of discrimination that I was shielded from simply by being a white person of privilege.
So, I learned it’s up to me and other white people to pay our privilege forward and to be active in trying to bring about reproductive justice for everyone.
And we all can find a way to contribute to a better world. There’s room for all of us here to help.
And for me, it’s always started with listening unconditionally to other people and their experiences. It’s about believing them, it’s about doing my best to understand what they share, whether it’s about abortion or any other experience in their life.
So, this is simply giving to other people what I never had and what I never received.
This ability, it’s a privilege and an honor, to listen with love, and it’s the gift that came from my abortions.