Guest Commentary

Laws won’t stop abortion, but they put women in real danger

Karena Jensen
Karena Jensen

I cried as I watched the pregnancy test change to positive. As so many other women do in that situation, I spent the entire night just going through possible scenarios in my head, wondering what I was going to do.

For a long time, I was ashamed to tell my story, afraid of being judged for my decision to end my pregnancy. But after owning my truth, so many other women have told their stories similar to mine. It’s important, now more than ever, to tell our stories in the face of these abortion bans across the country — but especially in Missouri.

We must tell our legislators to say no to House Bill 126 and Senate Bill 279.

These bills, if enacted, would insert politicians into a family’s most personal and private decision making. This extreme legislation would ban all abortion after six weeks, including for those families who might choose to terminate pregnancies because of rape or incest.

I have a son, but my pregnancy with him was extremely difficult. I was on medication for the uncontrollable vomiting and on bed rest, unable to work for weeks. Those complications resulted in an emergency cesarean section to save both our lives.

When I had him, I had a job that allowed me medical leave. I had good health insurance, and most importantly, a support system. But for this unplanned pregnancy, I had a new business that I was just starting. I was uninsured and a single mom.

I didn’t know what to do, so I consulted the internet for alternative options to a medical abortion.

I looked up all the herbal mixes, the black market pill sales. I pored over message boards, talking to women in the same trouble about what they tried and how it had affected them — usually not in good ways.

Online, I met women from countries where abortion is illegal — where the only way to access abortion is through dangerous and unsafe measures.

One young woman got her boyfriend to hit her slowly with a car. She broke a rib, but was still pregnant. Many other women put themselves in very dangerous situations in order to get an abortion.

My story is just one out of thousands. And the stories of the women I met online could become the stories of American — of Missouri — women if this legislation were to pass.

Those dangerous situations may very well be happening in Missouri already. There’s only one abortion clinic in the state, in St. Louis. That’s a single clinic for 1 million women of child-bearing age in the state, and it’s four hours by car away from where I live.

Missouri laws already put women’s health at risk by requiring patients to wait 72 hours before a procedure, causing them to take two separate trips to access a safe abortion.

It was nearly impossible for me to get a safe abortion in my state, but I was fortunate enough to access one in Kansas. Many Missouri women aren’t as lucky.

And now the state is advancing an abortion ban that would allow politicians to impose one rule on every woman, regardless of her circumstances.

A woman’s decision to end a pregnancy is hers, as it was mine. And no matter her circumstance, her health provider and her family are the ones who can help her make that decision — not politicians.

These bills won’t ban abortion. They’ll just make it harder for women to get access to a safe abortion.

At least half of American women will experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45. In the latest figures available, one in 10 women will have an abortion by age 20 and one in four by age 45.

Women won’t ever stop getting abortions. They will always find ways, but many of them will be unnecessarily dangerous. It is time we tell our stories without shame.

Karena Jensen is an artist and mom who lives in Kansas City.