A portrait of Brianna McLennan

In 2009, I was getting ready to go off to college, and found out I was pregnant during a routine check-up. The doctors told me, “You know you’re pregnant, right?” I thought it was a joke because I didn’t have any symptoms.

I decided that I did not want to be pregnant. It was not the right time in my life. I was about to move to Atlanta for college. I had a job, but it wasn’t enough to support me and a child. I could barely even take care of myself. Even though my partner and best friend were supportive, it still felt like something taboo, like a mistake. I was still living at home with my mom who is very old-fashioned and does not support having kids before marriage. If she found out I was pregnant, I could very well see her kicking me out of the house. And because it took time to find financial assistance, my abortion was delayed to the point where I was starting to have symptoms and was afraid my parents would find out. There was a lot of stigma and I was afraid of facing it. I just didn’t want them to know.

I wish I knew back then what I know now: that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures

Back then, all I really knew was from TV or movies like Dirty Dancing, where the subject of abortion would show up here and there. But it was always really vague. The doctor’s office didn’t give me a lot of information about my options, and I didn’t know anybody who had gone through the same experience. I didn’t know about all the different organizations fighting for people to be able to get abortions and making sure they have access to all of their reproductive needs. So I just had no idea what it’s actually like to have an abortion, and what you need to do to get one. I felt like I was really on my own.

I wish I knew back then what I know now: that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures, that I would still be able to have kids, that it does not cause breast cancer, and that so many other misperceptions about abortion and the people who get them are inaccurate. Most of all, I wish I had known people I felt I could talk to and share my story — and that there was an entire movement of people fighting for abortion rights, people with their own stories and experiences to help me know what to expect, and that I was not alone.

Abortions are not always sad, like they’re often portrayed. I walked out of the clinic extremely happy. Having an abortion allowed me to continue my education, and I now have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work. I’ve joined organizations like We Testify and run programs to share my own experiences helping give people emotional support, give them an idea of what might happen during their abortion, and why they should not base their decision about whether to get an abortion on other people’s opinions. Ultimately, it’s up to you. Our bodies and experiences are all different, but we all have one thing in common: this is a decision that we should make ourselves, and ourselves alone.

Learn more about Briana’s story below:

A photo of Briana McLennan with the text "ACLU We Testify."
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We Testify is an organization dedicated to the leadership and representation of people who have abortions. We Testify unapologetically believes that people who have abortions are our future. We believe that everyone who has abortions deserves unconditional love and support. We are the leaders we’ve been waiting for. Read more at wetestify.org.