Surviving My Illegal Abortion

Content note: Abortion, pain, medical procedure, descriptive medical language.


It was 1993, and I was a young rebel in the midst of ending a relationship of four years which had driven me to the edge of my sanity. In true dysfunctional fashion, my becoming-ex-boyfriend and I took a road trip to Mexico to celebrate our breakup. We rode his motorcycle to an idyllic fishing village in Baja, and camped in a pasture near a beach. We had crazy, risky, very hot, I-guess-this-is-goodbye sex.

We were, as they say, young and dumb, and fulla cum.

We parted ways in Southern California and I took the Greyhound bus to my hometown in rural Northern California. As the landscape slowly transitioned from golden to green, I reflected on the transition I was in. After many long months of attempting to break free of this toxic relationship, I was finally feeling over it.

But I wasn’t. Little did I know, I’d become pregnant somewhere in the midst of those few bittersweet days of road-tripping.

I had always wanted children, and had for years thought my ex was the one I’d be having them with, though our relationship was the opposite of healthy. Of course I thought about having the baby.

Those thoughts were put to rest once I got my ex on the phone and told him the news; his first words were, “You aren’t thinking of having it, are you?’’ I should have said “Yeah, I was, until I remembered it’s yours,” but didn’t. Instead I said, “It’s my choice. I can have this baby if I want to. I’d never require you to support it.” But he was adamant. He didn’t want to bear the weight of knowing he had a child, whether he was expected to be involved or not.

Feeling pressured into choosing to terminate the pregnancy, I became committed to at least owning  – as much as I could – the experience of terminating.

I told a friend what was going on, and she offered me an option that felt more appealing than going the standard route; she knew a group of people who were involved in an underground reproductive justice collective. They knew how to perform what the book Our Bodies, Ourselves refers to as an “early uterine evacuation,” or an EUE. In other words, they knew how to perform an abortion in the privacy of one’s own home.

My friend told me about the process and the procedure. It was illegal. I wouldn’t know any of the women providing the procedure. I’d never learn their names. I’d have no way to get in touch with them after the procedure.

It was scary, but I was a passionate and rebellious person by nature, and was feeling more than a little bit self-destructive.

I justified my choice by revolutionary reasoning: if my experience could be useful to others, it would be more worthwhile to me. I was doing this for all people who could become pregnant, everywhere. I was part of a movement, walking the talk, ensuring personal liberties regardless of political climate. If abortion were ever illegal in America again (and we all knew it could happen), we’d need health collectives like this one around so we wouldn’t have to subject ourselves to the horrible things pregnant people have had to live through in the past.

An added bonus: the EUE was going to be fifty bucks instead of $150 or more, and the money would be supporting the ongoing work of the collective who would perform the procedure. The EUE would be performed by a group of very aware and empowered women, in a space of my own choosing.

I would have had my baby at home. Why not my abortion? I liked the idea of having more control over the experience, not giving it over to “the establishment.”

I’ll call the contact person Jane. Jane and I talked about what I could expect: there would be five women there for the procedure. I could have my ex-boyfriend there. I’d be responsible for any after-care I needed. If I had to go to the hospital due to hemorrhaging or other complications, I’d have to tell them I was miscarrying. If a post-op emergency came up, I’d have to handle it on my own.

A friend lent us her apartment for the procedure. I’d been staying there on and off during the break-up, and it felt like a comfortable location. The apartment was small and private. It was a safe place with its comfy bed with crisp white sheets.

One of the people in the collective asked if I wanted a lidocaine injection in my cervix. I said no; I wanted to feel it all. I just wanted to be present. I didn’t want to candy-coat the experience. I felt I owed at least that much to this being-that-could-have-been.

In retrospect, I feel I wanted to punish myself for having become pregnant, for having decided to have an abortion, for not standing up to my ex to take the choice – my choice – into my own hands.

Jane showed me the equipment. Sounding-rods to measure my uterus, and a setup that was sparkly-clean, but so low-tech that it was intimidating. A mason jar with a big, black, rubber seal, a cannula (the tip of tubing that goes into the uterus), lots of clear, rubber tubing, and a hand pump. It was a homemade, manual aspirator.

These women would be performing a manual vacuum aspiration on me. All of a sudden, the reality of it was staggering.

I was anxious, but psyched myself into being ready to go. Jane said she’d start by “sounding” my uterus to see how much fluid they’d have to pull out. Then she’d begin dilating my cervix with different sized rods. After this point there would be no turning back.

I told her I was ready.

My ex sat on the bed with my head in his lap. My knees were up and I was stripped from the waist down lying on the clean, white sheets.

Speculum in place, Jane got the sounding-rods and started forcing the tip of the smallest one into my cervix.

The pain was radiant, white-hot, overwhelming. I was instantly sweating from every pore, and shaking. I had never felt anything so extreme. It was like a red-hot poker was being forced into my uterus. Into the very center of my being. I was straining against the nearly undeniable desire to pull myself away from the pain.

Jane was talking to me in a stern voice, trying to get me to calm down. I felt like I was going to die. My insides were tying themselves in knots, bile rising in my throat.

Jane got my cervix dilated enough to get the cannula into my uterus, but it wasn’t pulling any fluid out. It hurt like hell to have that thing inside of me like that, and I was whimpering, tears streaming down my cheeks. I was in a cold sweat, and told Jane I needed to puke.

She said she’d let me go to the bathroom, but afterwards we’d have to finish the procedure. I needed to be prepared to lie back down. I agreed, got up, went to the bathroom, puked, sat shaking and nauseous on the toilet for a while, puked again, and finally went back to the bed.

Jane shot a few injections of lidocaine into my cervix before she started again. By then it was too late for the lidocaine to do much for the pain. The cannula being forced into my cervix still hurt; white-hot fire, eating at my core. However the analgesic did help some, and Jane was able to get the cannula into my first os, and then through the second os, and into my uterus. Finally, she began pumping blood, amniotic fluid, and tissue into the jar.

In the most horrible way, my physical pain mixed with the emotional, and, head resting in my ex’s lap, I felt my spirit beginning to leave my body.

I was in shock and didn’t know it.

My ex felt me slipping out of consciousness, and grabbed me. He held me tight by the arms and talked to me. As ambivalent as I was about him as a force in my life at that point, he may have been the only thing holding me to the earth in that moment.

It felt like eons but was minutes at most. Jane thought there should maybe be more fluid, but she was satisfied that she’d gotten all of the fetal tissue out.

It was over, and I was still shivering, quaking, crying. I felt like there was something wrong with me because the experience had been so hard on me. That I wasn’t being strong or stoic enough. That I was feeling too much.

I am sure now that none of those women were expecting anything so intense. I certainly wasn’t.


Though the story you have just read may have been overwhelming, I had a much easier go of it than many people had before abortions were legalized in this country, or than people still do in less liberal countries and states.

We know the stories. People died – and still die – while undergoing illegal abortions. People end up unable to later have children due to less-than-sterile environments and inherently unsafe and botched procedures. There are the women, non-binary folks, and trans men who have had to exchange sexual favors with unsavory doctors willing to perform a quiet abortion for a price. Others have killed themselves because of the shame and fear attached to parenting alone, or the shame of admitting to an unplanned pregnancy.

Even a legal, medical abortion is only sometimes easy, and still abortion is absolutely the best possible option for those who choose it. Every time. Period.

While what I did was dangerous, and could have been considered unnecessary at the time, I believe strongly that my values were in the right place and that the risk I took was a righteous one. Time and circumstance have borne out that this is a process and technology that we still desperately need access to.

And gods forbid that it ever be your daughter or son, or partner, or parent, or spouse, who ends up in shock on a borrowed bed. If it is, I pray that they make it through like I did.

For decades I have hoped and prayed that the option I availed myself of would never become the only choice available for people who choose to terminate a pregnancy, but in many states, that time has come. I have hoped and prayed that the efforts that those of us who were paying attention made to keep our right to choose in our own hands would be effective and eternal. And still, we must continue fighting for these rights for those who don’t yet have them–and for those who have recently lost them.

Until the time that our rights to bodily agency and reproductive justice are secured, we have to learn how to safely and effectively provide underground EUEs. We need to again create abortion-access collectives and abortion access underground movements on a larger scale. We need to learn self-controlled pregnancy prevention techniques.

Now that Roe v Wade has been overturned by this dangerous Supreme Court, let’s fight like hell to keep abortions legal in as many states as possible, and to reinstate a federal ruling securing national access to abortion.

About the Author

Lasara Firefox Allen, MSW, (they/them/Mx) is a writer, Witch, nonprofit executive director, and coach. Lasara currently resides in Oakland, with/in the ancestral and contemporary lands of the Ohlone people. Lasara practices from an intersectional and anti-oppression-focused feminist framework. They are a co-conspirator for our collective liberation. Find out more at:, or

Supporting Reproductive Rights

This is a critical time in our fight to preserve access to abortion and reproductive healthcare. We believe that every action counts. Here are three things you can do.

  1. Fight stigmatization by sharing your story and/or supporting people who have shared their stories. Supportive comments and likes make a big difference to the people who have chosen to share their personal experiences.
  2. Reach out to your representatives on the federal, state, and local levels and tell them that you want them to pass legislation that protects reproductive rights including abortion access.
  3. Donate to organizations committed to protecting access to safe and legal abortions. This writer recommended Planned Parenthood for the work they are doing to ensure access.

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