Abortion is critical healthcare. Personal stories could help foster broader understanding of that. (Credit: PickPik)

Statistics have the power to convey the true scope of a problem. But it’s personal stories that could lead to action. 

In the U.S., the data paint a harrowing picture when it comes to abortion access. The maternal death rate in our country – already abnormally high in comparison to other wealthy nations – is expected to jump up as much as 24% following last year’s reversal of Roe v. Wade. The loss of federal protection for abortion access paved the way for a tidal wave of restrictions and the enactment of trigger laws, making it illegal to get an abortion in most every context in 15 states, and exceedingly difficult in several others. Maternal and infant death rates are already notably higher in those states, specifically.

Fear of legal retribution, combined with hardships such as prohibitively long travel times to the abortion clinics left standing, is harming Americans in droves. Tens of millions of people are hurt by the bans themselves. Plus, an estimated 2 million women now reside in counties where they cannot access abortion services or maternal health care.

The figures are staggering – and at times, they can be difficult to wrap one’s head around. 

That’s why experts say storytelling is needed to humanize the people behind the numbers. Because it’s the stories that stay with us – some of them, heart-wrenching ordeals rife with needless suffering caused by one thing: lack of abortion access. Scenarios that can, and will, play out for thousands, even millions more in America.

The Story Exchange spoke with Planned Parenthood about its Our Abortions, Our Stories program, through which individuals who have had abortions share their “why,” whatever it may be, in hopes of fostering understanding. (Organizations such as Shout Your Abortion and We Testify offer similar opportunities.) And, we connected with two storytellers – Carolyn, a woman who had to travel out of state to abort a non-viable pregnancy with almost no notice; and Ash, a transgender person who says their abortion saved them from dying by suicide.

The interview provides context for understanding the critical state of the nation, and the importance of these stories as an activism tool; the personal experiences drive home that broader need for access to safe, legal abortions.

Below, you can read our discussion with Planned Parenthood, as well as these individual abortion tales.

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