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‘Straight From The Mouths Of Mississippi’ is an ongoing series that centers the Black lives, experiences, histories and geographies of the Magnolia State. As Mississippi continues to be a victim and site of national and state politics and racism, with the highest population of Black people and the poverty rate in the U.S., MADAMENOIRE’s goal is to share real and rich stories straight from the horses mouth.  

“Thank God I had an abortion because I wouldn’t be where I am at right now.” – V.J. of Jackson, MS

An early memory I have of even hearing the term “abortion” was sitting in the office of my elementary school. I was in fourth grade, and had gotten in trouble for who knows what. A girl I didn’t have class with, but who I’d seen around walked in. She had dark bags under her eyes, and looked sad and tired. She handed one of the women at the front desk a small piece of paper. Once she left, the secretary and other staff began to whisper and I got bits and pieces. Pregnant…abortion…shame…where’s her mama… and then the familiar humming of judgy aunties. The only other reference I had to it were movies depicting young women, legs high up in stirrups, faces bent up in pain, and metal looking equipment poking their insides.

Back then, I was being groomed by the church with all the typical nonsense about chastity and submission, but abortion never came up. It was not until I was a teenager when girls at school began to get pregnant more frequently. There were also conversations among us girls, casually talking in the bathroom or during lunch, about how to make yourself “lose” a baby: Drink bleach; Throw yourself down the stairs; Punch your belly; Clothes hangers.

There was no such thing as safe abortions in our world. Fast girls who got pregnant were forced to have their babies as punishment, or figure out how to fix it before anyone else found out. If you’re grown enough to lay down you’re grown enough to face the consequences was a warning I heard so much growing up. Except the consequences seemed to exclusively be for the girls, not the men and boys who were just as culpable. We are taught early that our bodies don’t belong to us, while simultaneously being fed the lie that we are solely responsible for everything that happens to it, whether consensually or not.

I met V.J. when I moved to Jackson, Mississippi for college. We were a part of a very small group of Black women at a predominantly white liberal arts college. V.J just happened to be from a small town not too far from mine, and we hit it off immediately. Like me, she did not grow up knowing much about abortion. It was something she heard about on occasion at school or through the grapevine, but it was not spoken of outside of that.

 

V.J. talks about hearing the word abortion for the first time:

We both learned about the Pink House after moving to Jackson. Several of our classmates volunteered as escorts for patients, due to the persistent anti-abortion protests that took place outside of the clinic. During our senior year of college, V.J. discovered she was pregnant, and she was pretty sure immediately that she was not ready to have a child. She was the first person I’d known personally who had an abortion. At that time, I had never really developed a stance on it other than, it’s not my business. I also knew that I wouldn’t want to have a baby at 21, so I fully supported her decision.

On the day she went for her official procedure, myself and two other friends waited nervously back in our dorm room for her. She returned to campus slightly sedated, so we slowly guided her back to her room to rest. The next day we talked in detail about it. Mostly us in our naivety asking a bunch of questions.  What was it like? Did it hurt? How do you feel now? Do you regret it?

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