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A Tampa woman shares why she's scared for pregnant teens in a post-Roe world

Woman stands on the front porch of her suburban home. She has a button on her shirt that reads "Ask me about my abortion."
Stephanie Colombini
/
WUSF Public Media
Anita Jimenez, 67, wears a button that reads "Ask me about my abortion." She felt compelled to share her story terminating a pregnancy as a teenager after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this year.

Anita Jimenez remembers what it was like when people had to travel out-of-state to access legal abortions. She shares how that affected her experience getting the procedure as a 15-year-old in New York.

As the number of states banning abortion increases, so does the number of people who will either have to travel elsewhere to get the procedure or be forced to continue pregnancies against their will.

That worries people like Anita Jimenez of Tampa, who got an abortion in 1970, a few years before Roe v. Wade established Americans had a right to the procedure, which the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently overturned this year.

Jimenez, now 67, was 15 when she got pregnant and living in upstate New York. The state was one of the only places in the country where elective abortion was legal. Jimenez shared her experience getting the procedure with Health News Florida and said recent efforts to restrict abortion access could harm pregnant teens:

“I knew when I was having sex, intellectually I knew, that that could lead to other things. I was 15. But I was also naive, and really didn't connect the dots. So it took me two periods before I thought something might be up and I started to have some symptoms of pregnancy.

"It's kind of strange, because I think any woman who gets pregnant, there is a thought that, you know, I could have this child. But the reality is, and it sets in pretty quick as a teenager: first of all, it's not just my choice that I'm making, it’s my whole family because certainly at 15, I'm sure that it would have been very difficult for me to even dream of taking care of this child and continuing to go to high school and getting a job. So the responsibility would really have fallen on my mother.

Up against the clock

"It was 1970 and abortions had just become legal in New York state. In order to just go to a clinic, you had to be less than 12 weeks [pregnant]. That would have been an outpatient procedure. It would have been, you know, just in and out. I was about nine weeks when I figured out that I was pregnant. So I didn't have much time.

"When my brother and his girlfriend tried to find a clinic for me to get an abortion, there was really nothing in my timeframe that I was going to be able to get because of all of these crazy rules everywhere else, people were coming to New York state in droves to get abortions. Finally, they were legal, you know, in New York state. So the only option I had was to go to the hospital.

"My brother made me tell my mother, which is a very hard thing to do at 15. I was just really embarrassed about having to tell her. She was very supportive, disappointed, but supportive, and ended up finding a gynecologist, who was the only gynecologist in my hometown who would provide abortions. They put me in the hospital overnight on the maternity ward.

"I actually was sharing a room with a woman who had just had a miscarriage, and was crying and upset. It was a pretty traumatic experience. They [hospital workers] shaved me and did all kinds of prep like if it was major surgery. And the next day after the procedure, when the physician came in to release me, I asked him about birth control, and he just turned around and walked out the door. But I did have it done. And that is the remarkable thing is that I had the opportunity.

I just can't believe that we are at this point. We're just being burdened unnecessarily.
Anita Jimenez

"The cost was a lot more than if I had gone to a clinic and had the outpatient procedure. The cost at the time, I remember it being about $350, which in today's dollars would be over $2,500. I have no idea what it cost to go to the clinic, but I know that it was significantly less than an overnight stay in the hospital. And that was the burden my mother had to bear.

"That was really difficult for my mother. I know because, you know, she had four kids, a single mother at home. And it was something that she had to work out a payment plan with the hospital.

"My mother is amazing. She was incredibly supportive and you know, she just got things done. I think my mother was on board because she is practical, and our religious beliefs were not that this was something that needed to be done, it wasn’t ‘God's will.’

"I have a difficult time with people who talk about ‘God's will’ because I have a great 31-year-old son who I had by choice. I got married, got pregnant because I wanted to be pregnant, and had a child that I adore. Isn’t that God’s will?

"Going backwards"

"When I see what's going on now with all these states banning abortion, it just makes me so sad for the teens. At 15 and me not really understanding what was going on until I'd missed two periods, I was already nine weeks and you know, girls like me, in this day and age will not have the opportunity in the states where they have a ban at six weeks. I just can't imagine what it would be like to be a girl in that situation today.

"Florida's current 15-week ban, I have to say, at least our law is not as horrible as some other states so women can still get an abortion. But I mean, somebody who has amniocentesis at 16 weeks and then finds out that they have an abnormality, you know, you're forcing that woman to carry that pregnancy that may end up in a severely disabled child. I just can't believe that we are at this point. We're just being, we're being burdened unnecessarily.

"It's surreal to think that all the progress that we have made in women's rights, it's all just going backwards. It's very scary. And we have to vote people out of office who are not respecting a woman's right to choose and a woman's right to autonomy."

We've been sharing how access to abortion affects members of our community in an occasional series. Thanks to all who've filled out our engagement form. You can fill it out here and, if you’re willing, a reporter may contact you.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.