Jemele Hill opens up about getting an abortion at 26

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In an op-ed written in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Jemele Hill has revealed that she had an abortion when she was 26.

The sports journalist, now 46, penned a personal piece for The Atlantic, opening up about the decision for the first time publicly.

Jemele Hill opens up about getting an abortion at 26. (Photo: Getty Images)

Jemele Hill opens up about getting an abortion at 26. (Photo: Getty Images)

“I had an abortion when I was 26 years old. I was not raped. I wasn’t the victim of incest. I was not in the midst of a life-threatening medical emergency. I simply had no desire to give birth to a child,” Hill wrote. “I know that I’m likely to be attacked for being candid about my decision. But I’m choosing to share some of my experience now because, like so many women in this country, I am angry, appalled, and disgusted about the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that previously guaranteed federal constitutional protections for abortion rights.”

Hill spoke about the context surrounding her abortion, sharing that she was a sports journalist for Detroit Free Press in Michigan at the time. “I was financially able to support a child. I have no doubt that my family would have been present for me. The man I was involved with at the time would have provided support. His family would have been there for us too,” she explained. “However, I didn’t see a long-term future with him. And given that my mother and father never married — and I knew their tumultuous history very well — I didn’t want to bring a child into an unstable relationship.”

With a lot of job ambitions, as well, the timing for Hill to become a mother didn’t feel right.

“My career meant everything to me,” she continued. “I was pursuing my dream of being a sports journalist. I understood clearly that having a child would have drastically limited the future I saw for myself. Parenting would be difficult to fit into my lifestyle because, as a college beat reporter, I was on the road for nearly eight months a year covering Michigan State football and basketball.”

Hill’s career goals felt in reach as she was covering a nationally prominent basketball team, and having a child, she explained, felt like a threat to that.

“I didn’t want to sacrifice my body or devote my time to raising a child. I wanted to travel the world. I wanted the freedom to live wherever I wanted and to navigate my career without having to factor a child into my plans,” she wrote.

While Hill acknowledged the harsh judgement she’ll likely face as a result of her openness surrounding her decision-making, she addressed the important difference between the pressures and expectations facing men and women.

“I’m aware that some people will read this and think that I was selfish. Women are judged harshly for pursuing their goals as ambitiously as men do,” she wrote. “Some people will probably call me irresponsible. But mistakes happen. Just because an unwanted pregnancy occurs — and it doesn’t matter if it’s within the context of a relationship, a one-night stand, or a ‘situationship’ — that doesn’t mean a woman should be punished by being forced to have a child she doesn’t want to raise.”

Hill assured readers that she was confident in her decision and didn’t experience guilt around the abortion itself, but rather the idea that others might find her inhumane as a result.

“It took me some time to realize that I shouldn’t have to apologize for wanting control of my body and life. Women consider and choose abortion for a variety of reasons, and sometimes one of those reasons is that childbirth simply isn’t something they wish to do,” she wrote. “That’s the meaningful thing about choice: You have the right to make a decision based purely on what you think is best for yourself.”

The writer touched on the “moral complexities” surrounding the debate about abortion but offered that even as a married woman in her 40s, she remains secure in her decision to be childless. She also expressed her gratitude for the abortion clinic that made it possible, as well as fear for women who won’t have that same access after Friday’s ruling.

“Future generations of women will not have the same right to an abortion as I had. That I have fewer rights as a woman today than I did when I had an abortion more than 20 years ago is a pitiful commentary on the direction of this country,” she wrote. “The Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling was regressive and political, and those states that have trigger laws banning abortions should know that these laws will not stop abortions. Women will always try to decide what is best for their bodies, whether it’s legal or not.”

Hill concluded, “The pain so many women are feeling right now is unshakable. Our status in America — our very freedom — has been irrevocably diminished. Yet sharing our abortion stories carries enormous power. No woman needs to think of herself as immoral because she had an abortion or wants an abortion. What’s immoral is telling women that they don’t deserve bodily autonomy.”

While Hill faced some negativity from critics online, she also was met with support for coming out with her story — most notably those praising her statement “we don’t need to justify shit.”

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