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Falmouth woman shares her abortion story to fight for abortion rights

Sarah Murphy.jpg
Sarah Murphy
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Falmouth resident Sarah Murphy.

People on both sides of the debate have been speaking up about abortion following news the Supreme Court will likely overturn Roe vs. Wade in the coming weeks.

Women who’ve had abortions, but never talked about them publicly, are also coming forward with their stories.

CAI’s Kathryn Eident spoke with Falmouth resident and abortion rights activist Sarah Murphy about why she went public about her abortion after nearly 25 years of keeping it a secret.

Murphy I was prompted to go public right before the 2020 election, after seeing so much negativity online and shaming of women who had exercised their reproductive rights. I physically couldn't keep the secret in any longer, so I wrote an essay for my blog and then finally shared it with my family.

Eident What was it like to finally talk publicly about a story that you'd been keeping inside for so long?

Murphy There's so many things to it because it brought up a lot of pain for my family, because they should have been able to be there for me. And it's not that they weren't there for me. It's that I was so terrified by the way I had been raised in a church that spoke about sex as a sin. So, my first thought when I learned that I was pregnant wasn't to go to my family, the people who were always there for me, it was that it probably would be easier to take my life.

So, if I hadn't had access to a safe, legal abortion in 1995, I would have at least attempted to take my life. So, I say every day that my abortion saved my life.

Eident What is it been like for you in recent weeks after hearing about the fact that the Supreme Court will likely overturn Roe vs. Wade?

Murphy Well, it brings up what women who have gone through this have experienced, which is post-traumatic stress disorder. It's like anything else; you don't have to go to an actual war to suffer trauma. And when you keep that secret inside of you for so long, it dictates your entire life.

Since I went forward at first, I shared my story, and I was attacked on social media. But in this second round, I'm just seeing so much outpouring of activism and outrage. And I think people unfortunately, were just a bit complacent and didn't think this was going to happen. And so, when one person tells their story, it empowers others. So, I'm seeing people everywhere coming out. And it's inspiring because these are people who have been hiding something that they should never have had to hide or feel ashamed about.

Eident Could you talk a little more about the circumstances that led to your abortion, if you're comfortable?

Murphy I got pregnant a couple of weeks before graduation. The person who impregnated me wasn't capable of loving me or becoming a parent himself because he was a heroin addict. If I had become a mother to that child, as people are so quick to tell women that's what they should do, I would have been a single mother. But I believe I probably would have become a heroin addict because I didn't have enough of an identity back then, as a 23-year-old woman, to care about myself. I cared more about this person and trying to fix this person.

Eident Did you go through this experience alone?

Murphy I had two friends I was luckily able to go to, and they helped me emotionally and they helped me financially. One of them, he paid for my half of the abortion. My other friend was there for me after having a surgical abortion, which is a traumatic experience.

And then, I had to just go back to class, and then I had to sit there on my college graduation, which should have been such a proud day for me and my family. And I was so ashamed. And I still felt so sick. And I had lost a lot of weight.

My family would have been there for me in a heartbeat, but the shame of the Catholic Church is so overpowering that I couldn't even fathom calling my parents. And it pains me that my family feels that they weren't there for me because they were always there for me. And that's why I felt so ashamed, because I felt like I had let them down. And I also felt like the oldest lesson from the Catholic Church, "God punished you," for lack of a better expression. "You made your bed, so lie in it."

Eident The stakes were really high for you then when you were considering what to do. And it's still so emotional.

Murphy Because it's not the fact that I didn't know about birth control. The problem is, when you're a Catholic, that's great to be educated, you didn't have access back in 1995. You didn't go into a CVS and buy yourself condoms that you just didn't.

Eident How do you feel now?

Murphy I just turned 50 and I woke up feeling so grateful for my life, where I am today, for my career, for the people I know that I have helped. So, I am passionate about this topic, and I will spend the rest of my life fighting for reproductive freedom for everyone.

Everyone knows someone who has had an abortion. Somebody you love has had an abortion. And they are either keeping it a secret because of your politics and the way you're talking about people on social media or have talked about people in the past. Or, they're simply keeping a secret, not because they can't tell you and they don't love you or trust you, but because the shame is so deep seeded. It's something you can't fathom unless you've gone through it yourself.

Eident Sarah, thank you for sharing your story.

Murphy Thank you.

This conversation was lightly edited for grammar and clarity.

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Local News Heard on CAI's Morning Edition
Kathryn Eident is an award-winning journalist and hosts WCAI's Morning Edition. She began producing stories for WCAI in 2008 as a Boston University graduate student reporting from the Statehouse. Since then, Kathryn’s work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times, Studio 360, Scientific American, and Cape and Plymouth Business Magazine.