A personal choice: Pennsylvania woman shares her medication abortion experience

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing on behalf of the Supreme Court, wrote that while the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue over the FDA's regulation of mifepristone, “it is not clear that no one else would have standing to challenge the FDA’s relaxed regulation of mifepristone.” (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, writing on behalf of the Supreme Court, wrote that while the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue over the FDA's regulation of mifepristone, “it is not clear that no one else would have standing to challenge the FDA’s relaxed regulation of mifepristone.” (AP Photo/Amanda Andrade-Rhoades)

By Ashley Adams

July 8, 2024

In 2023, medication abortions accounted for 63% of all abortions performed across the US. This is one Pennsylvania woman’s story about why the decision to have one was right for her.

 

Audrey Wrobel found out she was pregnant in a grocery store bathroom.

“I remember I wasn’t feeling like myself and I was having morning sickness, and I had been a little late with my period,” she said. “I took a pregnancy test in a grocery store bathroom because I didn’t want my mom to know. I didn’t want anyone to know.”

It was 2015, and the now 28-year-old Pittsburgh resident was just 18. Both she and her then-boyfriend knew they didn’t want to have a child at such a young age. 

“Sometimes people think my story is a bad abortion because I was healthy enough to carry a pregnancy and I was fortunate enough to have a family that would have helped me, but I just didn’t want to be pregnant at age 18, period,” Wrobel said.

She went to a Planned Parenthood in Allentown, where watched a video and received counseling—both of which are mandatory in Pennsylvania before receiving abortion care.

“I told them, ‘I know I want an abortion,’” Wrobel said. “But I remember having to watch this very terrifying video on a very tiny TV. I was like ‘What am I watching?’ It felt like it was supposed to scare me out of it, but they told me this was a mandated thing they had to do. They were very apologetic about it.”

The clinic in Allentown didn’t have an appointment available, so Wrobel traveled to a clinic in Philadelphia a few weeks later. She took the first pill in the office with the doctor after receiving an ultrasound, and then took the second pill the next day at home.

“It was the most painful thing I have ever encountered in my life,” Wrobel said.

But, she said, it was the right choice to make.

“The medication abortion was discreet,” Wrobel said. “I didn’t have to tell anyone about it until I was ready to.”

What is a medication abortion?

A medication abortion is the process of ending a pregnancy using two medications. The first, mifepristone, blocks the hormone progesterone. Just like during a typical menstrual cycle, when progesterone levels drop in the body, the uterus initiates a period, shedding the uterine lining. So when mifepristone blocks progesterone in early pregnancy, the body naturally prepares to have a period, and a pregnancy is no longer able to progress. The second medication, misoprostol, induces uterine contractions, which help the body to fully expel the remaining tissue.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, there were more than 642,000 medication abortions in the US in 2023, accounting for 63% of all abortions in the formal health care system. This is an increase from 2020, when medication abortions accounted for 53% of all abortions.

The most recent statistics available for Pennsylvania show that in 2021, medication abortions accounted for 55% of all abortions in the state.

“People don’t understand that you can live in both spaces, being comfortable with the decision you make, yet still feeling guilty about it,” Wrobel said. “It is a stupid societal stigma. It’s so loud.”

The fight over medication abortions

Medication abortion using mifepristone was first approved for use in the US by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000. The two-drug combination of mifepristone and misoprostol is the most common medication abortion regimen offered by providers nationwide, and decades of research have shown that medication abortion using mifepristone is highly safe and effective, according to the Guttmacher Institute. 

But that hasn’t stopped some conservatives from spreading disinformation, and trying to outlaw or severely limit access to abortion medication.

Last month, the US Supreme Court unanimously rejected a challenge to the abortion pill mifepristone. The case, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. US Food and Drug Administration, was the first time the conservative-majority Court has heard a case relating to abortion access since its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in 2022. The lawsuit was filed by a group of anti-abortion organizations and conservative doctors who sought to reverse the FDA’s 2000 approval of mifepristone—or at least limit access to the drug, which is commonly used to treat miscarriages as well.

Wrobel said she doesn’t know what she would have done if the option wasn’t available to her when she was 18 and pregnant.

“I would have felt so stuck in my body and so stuck in a life that I didn’t want yet,” she said. “I don’t think I would have achieved my education goals, my career goals. I don’t think I would be where I am today if I would have been stuck in my situation.”

“It is just mind boggling that these crusty-ass old men are making these rules for people. It is so infuriating. I don’t have a nice, eloquent way to put it. It’s just bulls**t.”

Author

  • Ashley Adams

    In her 16 years in the communications industry, Ashley Adams has worn many hats, including news reporter, public relations writer, marketing specialist, copy editor and technical writer. Ashley grew up in Berks County and has since returned to her roots to raise her three children.

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