My name is CoWanda. I am 20 years young, and I live in Dallas, Texas. I found out I was pregnant when I was 17. I realized I missed my period, which was unusual, but the fear of confirming a pregnancy prevented me from taking a test right away. And when I did, the test simply confirmed what I already knew: I was indeed pregnant. It was around a month before my 18th birthday, and that would make all the difference in the process I’d have to go through to get an abortion.
I was living with a friend at the time, and I was completely isolated from my family. Immediately, I knew I did not want to be pregnant but was unfamiliar with abortion—how to get one, where to go, how I would pay for it. The lack of knowledge I had is something I know now stems from the barriers, state and federal restrictions, and societal stigma placed on people seeking abortions. When I found an abortion clinic to call, they said I had to be 18 or have a legal guardian with me, and it really didn’t make sense at the time. I thought about continuing the pregnancy because of it and pleaded with the clinic staff by explaining my situation. I had been disappointed by a system I didn’t even really understand at the time. (I later learned that in 37 states, parental involvement is required for people under 18 seeking an abortion.)
But I was determined to figure something out, and I had a very supportive friend who helped me feel like I could. My friend told me about Jane’s Due Process, an organization that helps young people under 18 gain access to abortion (and birth control) without involving our parents. Because even though most young people do involve their parents when making the decision, the ones who don’t have valid reasons not to and can fear their safety. Jane’s Due Process connected me with a free attorney to help me obtain a judicial bypass, which is permission from a judge to have an abortion. And because of the support of Jane’s Due Process, navigating the process was a peaceful experience for me.
The whole process took me about two weeks. The judge asked me to explain why continuing a pregnancy would impede already planned events in my life, like school, graduation, and college acceptances with scholarships. She also asked me about my parent’s whereabouts and the involvement of the person who got me pregnant. (I call him the “fetus father.”) I was also asked about my emotional state, and mostly about the procedure I would be getting (a surgical or in-clinic abortion). I had to explain the procedure step -by -step, and prepared for that by learning about both abortion methods ahead of time.
I was prepared for all of this by the attorney, but it was challenging when the judge asked me to reiterate the fabricated risks included in the state-mandated booklets (such as Texas A Woman’s Right to Know) that clinics are required to give patients, which state things like “abortion may cause infertility, breast cancer, or death” — even though abortion is safer than continuing a pregnancy, and there’s no evidence showing abortion causes infertility or breast cancer.
Luckily, I was able to show the judge I was mature enough to make this decision and successfully had my abortion shortly after — which I also received financial assistance for, so I didn’t have to pay. But sometimes other young people aren’t so lucky, and it isn’t right that a judge can make such an important life decision for us. Jane’s Due Process made things so much easier, and the support I had from them and my friend kept me going. In 2019, Jane’s Due Process helped 164 young Texans secure a judicial bypass and answered more than 2,000 texts on their text hotline about birth control, abortion, STI testing, and more.
And now, I’m a Peer Support Leader for Jane’s Due Process, where I educate other young people on the process of getting a judicial bypass. I also share my experience with abortion as a storyteller with We Testify, a program dedicated to the leadership and representation of people who have abortions, and I’ve participated in two of their cohorts: Youth Testify and We Testify Texas. During these cohorts, I learned how to share my story and advocate for myself in life and against stigmatizing healthcare systems — I’ve traveled to Washington, D.C., and the Texas State Capitol to talk to different legislators on important matters that would impact the reproductive lives of young people. I joined Deeds Not Words (an engagement and advocacy organization) as a campus organizer, attended several reproductive justice conferences, spoke at and hosted events, and most importantly, I’ve loved everyone who’s had an abortion because I know first hand how restrictions on access to abortion create barriers for those who seek them most.
I’ve even shared my story with multiple online media outlets, like Bustle, Teen Vogue, PopSugar, Bitch Media, and more. Because I hope to end the stigma so many other young people experience when seeking abortions, and I want them to have the knowledge to access the resources they need to continue with a decision they know is right for them. Our voices need to be heard in conversations, especially when they are so often left out of conversations our legislators have when lawmaking. I want young people to have full autonomy and access to resources free of stigma and shame for the health care they need and want. And if you’re going through this right now, know that I love you, and there is support available. You are fully capable of receiving the care you want and need, even when laws are restrictive and stigmatizing.
*If you’re under 18 and needing an abortion without parental consent, call Jane’s Due Process at 866-999-5263 or text the same number from 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Central Time. Austin Women’s Health Center works with Jane’s Due Process to ensure young people can access the health care they need, and you can let us know you’re working with the organization when you call to schedule a consultation with us. You do not need parental consent or a judicial bypass to have an ultrasound, only for the abortion.