Jordan promised herself she wouldn’t have another baby.
While carrying each of her kids, she wrestled with severe morning sickness, diagnosed as hyperemesis gravidarum, which left her constantly drained. She also had preeclampsia, the life-threatening high blood pressure condition that can damage the kidneys, heart, and other organs. After giving birth to her second child in early 2020, Jordan started having seizures, a complication of preeclampsia. She feared another pregnancy would be only worse and potentially deadly.
“Children are beautiful and childbirth was beautiful, but my pregnancy journey was not fun for me,” she said. “It was like nine months of anxiety, like, am I going to make it? Is my kid going to make it?”
So when the 26-year-old Cleveland woman learned last month that she was pregnant again, she immediately scheduled an abortion. But days later, her appointment was canceled after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide, allowing Ohio to enforce a ban at six weeks of pregnancy. At that point, Jordan was roughly 10 weeks pregnant.
Hearing that she could no longer access the care she needed to live her life on her own terms felt like a death sentence.
“Like, what do I do? Do I suffer for nine months? Do I put myself out of my misery now?” Jordan, who asked that she only be identified by her first name to protect her family’s privacy, recalled in a recent interview with BuzzFeed News. “I can’t eat, I can’t stand up without getting dizzy, I can’t play with my kids. I’m miserable, and there’s nothing they can do. I know, I’ve been through this. So you can’t tell me it’s going to be OK on the other side, because the last time I almost died.”
With Roe out of the way, 26 states are expected to ban abortion early in pregnancy or outright, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research and advocacy group that tracks state legislation. As of Tuesday, abortion access has been completely eliminated in seven states, including Texas, Mississippi, and South Dakota, though state courts have temporarily blocked total bans from being enforced in Kentucky, Louisiana, Utah, and West Virginia — for now.
Jordan is just one of countless people who were suddenly forced to figure out how to end an unwanted pregnancy after the Supreme Court’s decision. At one Ohio clinic alone, more than 600 patients had their appointments canceled after a federal judge allowed a six-week ban to take effect hours after the court struck down Roe, according to a lawsuit that providers filed against the state seeking to block the law.
Jordan, who works as a shift manager at a Starbucks in the Cleveland area, was ultimately able to drive to Michigan this month for an abortion after receiving financial assistance to help cover the cost of the procedure. She shared medical records, receipts, and other documents with BuzzFeed News to show what it took for her to obtain care. Ultimately, she said, she feels like one of the lucky ones: She overcame multiple obstacles, any one of which could have blocked her path.
“I had financial support, I had family support, and I had means in a way, but that’s not everybody’s case,” Jordan said. “I was one [flat] tire away from not being able to make it, one paycheck away from being forced to have a child, and that’s scary.”
Shortly after her daughter was born in February 2020, Jordan inquired about getting a tubal ligation, commonly known as getting your tubes tied, to ensure she couldn’t get pregnant again. But when she was in the process of getting that procedure scheduled, her doctor’s office said they had to postpone due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead, she relied on a birth control shot but then switched to an oral contraceptive pill because she experienced heavy menstrual bleeding with the injection. She figured that she’d try to get her tubal ligation surgery scheduled when COVID settled down and she had more vacation time saved.
Jordan said she made sure she took the pill at the same time and picked up her refills from the pharmacy every three weeks so as not to miss one. But when she went to Rite Aid one day this spring, the pharmacy employee said they couldn’t give her the prescription because they had given her more than a month’s worth the last time, which she disputed. So she paid out of pocket for a new pack of pills. When she went back for the next month’s refill, she was told her prescription wasn’t ready and to come back in another week.
“I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal,” Jordan said. “No one told me if you stop this week you’re instantly going to get pregnant.”
She still doesn’t know whether being off the pill for several days led to her getting pregnant or if her contraception simply failed. But in April, she started feeling sick and couldn’t keep food or liquids down. She hadn’t gotten her period in a couple weeks, so she went to urgent care and asked for a pregnancy test. But the tests came back negative. A week later she was still feeling sick and her period still hadn’t started, so she went back again but was told the same thing.
Finally, in June she went to Preterm, an abortion clinic in Cleveland, for an ultrasound that confirmed what she had suspected for weeks.
“I was trying to be careful, trying to prevent everything, and it still happened,” Jordan said.
Being unable to get her tubes tied, having trouble getting her birth control, and then getting a delayed pregnancy confirmation was deeply frustrating. When the Supreme Court overturned Roe on June 24, Jordan didn’t initially realize the ruling would impact her personally. That evening when her fiancé Joey came home, he asked if she could still still get her abortion in Ohio.
“I was like, what are you talking about?” Jordan recalled. “I don’t think they can be like, ‘Oh, we [struck down] Roe v. Wade, your scheduled appointment is canceled now. I don’t think they can do that.’”
The next day she called Preterm when it opened at 8 a.m. and waited on hold for an hour and a half before getting through to a staff person. When the clinic confirmed that Ohio was enforcing its six-week ban as a result of the court’s decision, Jordan couldn’t believe it.
“At first I thought it was a joke, and I laughed,” she said. “I was stunned. I knew it was a thing, and I knew abortion laws in other states were real. But I guess I’ve just been so privileged up until this point that I was just like, oh my goodness, smack in the face, you’re really going to tell me what I can and can’t do within my legal right of my body?”
Once she was off the phone, she broke down in tears and looked up at Joey, asking him what would happen if she died. Learning that she would have to carry her unwanted pregnancy to term if she couldn’t find a way to access a legal abortion in another state felt like punishment. “I kind of felt set up for failure,” Jordan said.
She and Joey both work yet still live paycheck to paycheck to support themselves and their children. Not only would bringing another child into their lives be financially unfeasible, but after experiencing serious complications in her previous pregnancies, Jordan, who is Black, had good reason to believe that staying pregnant would kill her. Black women are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And because she had preeclampsia in previous pregnancies, she would have been at a higher risk of developing the condition again.
“There’s only so many times you can get away with a brush of death, there’s only so many seizures you can have, there’s only so high that your blood pressure can be,” she said. “I felt like my life was in danger. I was legitimately scared.”
Preterm said if Jordan was willing to travel, an employee could connect her to a clinic across the state line and provide a grant to help cover the cost. They initially referred her to an abortion provider in Pennsylvania, but that clinic had a waiting list. So Jordan called Preterm back and together she and an employee searched abortionfinder.org for the next closest facility. By the afternoon, she was on the phone with the Eastland Women’s Clinic, which is located just outside of Detroit and about a three-hour drive away. The person on the other end of the line could hear the worry in Jordan’s voice as she explained her situation.
They told her, “Let’s take 10 seconds to cry together and then we’ll get you scheduled and booked and we’ll help you,” Jordan said. “What she did for me right then and there, it was really comforting because she knew it. I needed to cry.”
Both Preterm and Eastland ended up providing her with grants to help cover the costs of the procedure. All Jordan needed to do was pay $80 and find her way there.
On June 30, after getting a coworker to cover her shift and requesting the next two days off, she and Joey put $60 worth of gas in the tank and set off for Michigan with their 2-year-old daughter (her son and his two daughters stayed behind with their other parents). On the drive there, Jordan worried about getting pulled over because of their Ohio license plates and contemplated what she might say if a police officer asked what she was doing in Michigan; even though traveling between states for abortion care remained legal, she was scared. Joey told her she was overthinking the situation, but she wondered, “What if this is the reality of the world that we’re about to be living in?”
Nevertheless, they made it to Michigan safely and without issue. After spending the night at a hotel — for roughly $70 — they set off for Eastland the next morning. Outside the red brick building, women armed with rainbow-colored umbrellas shielded Jordan from anti-abortion protesters. Inside, she was assigned the number 8 (the clinic uses numbers instead of names to protect patients’ privacy) and took a seat. While waiting for her number to be called, Jordan chatted with other patients. “I made friends with a 14, I made friends with a 17,” she said. “People were from all over — like, all over. It was crazy.”
The procedure itself took about 20 minutes. During her abortion, she talked with the doctor and nurses about what she was planning to eat afterward as Rihanna’s “Umbrella” rang out of a Bluetooth speaker.
“They made what felt terrifying feel really normal,” Jordan said.
On the ride home, they stopped at Arby’s. Jordan cried with relief as she enjoyed a sandwich and a milkshake — the first full meal she could eat without vomiting in weeks.
For her, getting an abortion in spite of efforts by lawmakers in her home state to take away that right was empowering.
“This is still my choice, this is still my body,” Jordan said. “You took something from me, and I took it right back.”
Now, she’s planning to go back to school in the fall and apply for an assistant store manager position at Starbucks. She’s still recovering from the complications of her previous pregnancy two years ago, but she hopes her health continues improving so she can return to the local firefighter academy, a dream she had put on hold.
Jordan also wants to find a way she can help other people who need an abortion. For too long, she sat on the sidelines, thinking the fight over reproductive rights didn’t affect her. Then it did.
“And I had all the help in the world, so now I feel obligated to help someone else,” she said.
Telling her story is a start. She wants people to know that you can practice safe sex and still get pregnant, and you can be a parent and still not want more children.
“It’s still your body, your choice,” Jordan said. “No matter what legislation is passed, there are options and there are people who will help you get to these options legally and safely.” ●