For five decades, abortion has been one of the most heated political and cultural issues in America. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, it instantly became one of the most important issues faced by state lawmakers and voters alike, and it is sure to be front and center in the 2024 elections.
After Roe was overturned, abortion care in Wisconsin became illegal. A state law that dates back to 1849 went into effect, making it a felony for anyone to have an abortion, without exceptions in cases of rape or incest. The law does allow for abortion if it is necessary to save the life of the pregnant person.
Two Wisconsin women spoke with the American Independent Foundation about their experiences getting an abortion. They emphasized that abortion care is health care and said that every pregnant person should have the right to choose whether or not they want to terminate a pregnancy. Both women say they believe that every American should be able to discuss their health care options with a doctor and be allowed to decide for themselves how best to proceed.
Madeline Stone Kutis
Madeline Stone Kutis, a volunteer storyteller with Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, tells the American Independent Foundation that she had her abortion in 2016 when she was 20 years old. Despite the fact that it was still legal in Wisconsin then, because of a required two-day waiting period, she was forced to travel to a Planned Parenthood in Illinois because she couldn’t take the extra days off from work.
“I tell people all the time that, first of all, the abortion is probably the first decision that I made in my life that I really felt just completely absolute about,” Kutis says. “I didn’t feel any doubt or hesitancy at all. Really the feelings that I felt were frustration and annoyance and fear from trying to access what I wanted to do.”
Kutis says some of her most powerful memories of the day she had the abortion were from the time she spent in the recovery room.
“Being in the recovery room and feeling like, gosh, me and these people around me are sharing this experience. Everyone is going to have a different story, but it can feel really healing to be in a space where everyone is being cared for and is safe,” she says.
She adds that the day she learned that Roe was overturned, she could not stop crying: “I kept thinking about the people that I spent time with in that room and how much harder it was going to be for people to find themselves in that space of safety.”
Kutis, who lives in Madison, says of living in a state where abortion is restricted: “I think it’s really easy to feel not wanted as part of this community. … Is this really a place that wants us to be here? Which is heartbreaking because I love my community. The last 10 or so years that I’ve spent here, I’ve really worked hard to become a part of my neighborhood and my city.”
Kutis says that abortion rights supporters need to make themselves heard:
The amount of people who are personally directly impacted by this is much, much larger than I think any of us really can conceptualize. And therefore, it’s not something to sort of be quietly supportive of, I think, even for people who are supporters of reproductive rights and who conceptually agree that people should have access to their own health care and should be able to make their own decisions. Quietly voting that way and quietly feeling that way does not do enough. What people need to do is to have conversations with the people around them, because maybe your parents or someone who is a close friend or otherwise important to you feels differently than you do about this. And all of your quiet advocacy and support in the world doesn’t make a difference to them going to the polls and voting.
Beth, who prefers to be identified only by her first name to protect her identity, moved to Wisconsin in May 2023 and lives in a rural area on the western side of the state.
She was 25 years old and in graduate school when she had her abortion, she told the American Independent Foundation.
“I was in an unhealthy relationship. I was far from my family. And when I found out I was pregnant … I just called Planned Parenthood, scheduled for that week. I was really fortunate that I got in that week. … I think I was there for about six hours. I remember the day very clearly.”
She adds that the man she was with was not supportive of her decision. He was “not helpful at all, didn’t offer to go with me to help take care of me, just kind of reiterated the fact that it would not have been a good partnership long-term,” Beth says.
Today, Beth is 41 and says that because she was able to have safe and legal abortion care, she was able to finish school and finish her first master’s degree.
“I went on to get two more master’s degrees. I’m a licensed professional mental health therapist. Now I’m a homeowner and I have amazing dogs,” she says. “But parenthood has just never been part of my life plan. I’ve never wanted to be a mom, so for me personally, it wasn’t a difficult decision, and I never regretted it. I’ve never thought twice about it.”
Beth says: “I know how lucky I am and I know how privileged I am. My family, they all know, my parents included, and they’ve been so amazing and so supportive. And I want my story to be more common. I want to normalize, like, I didn’t have any medical issues. I wasn’t near death. But I think my story is more common than not.”
According to research by the Guttmacher Institute, 24% of all women in the United States will have an abortion by the time they’re 45 years old.
Beth says when it comes down to it, she believes that abortion care should be a decision between a patient and their physician: “I think it should be an individual’s decision. We should be able to make choices for ourselves. I see it as a health care decision, regardless of why you’re making that decision.”
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.