When Sam Blakely found out she was pregnant, she balled up her shower curtain and put it in her mouth so she could scream as loud as she needed to without her roommates hearing.
After a night out, a coworker had brought her to her home and raped her, an experience that came to haunt her when they would run into one another in the casino where they worked.
Now — as a result of that attack — she was pregnant.
Blakely had an abortion. She knew the decision was right for her at the time and, she felt, was reinforced as she went through trauma treatment for her attack — and as the man continued to stalk her, sending flowers and showing up at her house.
“If I didn’t have access to an abortion in 2017, I would not be here right now. I was going through so much emotional turmoil,” Blakely said. “I couldn’t imagine carrying my rapist’s child to term.”
She is one of many people who are intently watching the outcome of a United States Supreme Court hearing over access to abortion; oral arguments began Wednesday. The justices are being asked to uphold a Mississippi ban on abortions after 15 weeks. The court’s decision could overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision legalizing abortion nationwide prior to viability, which can occur at around 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Not every abortion comes out of a traumatic attack, but Blakely said it makes her angry to think about people not being able to make their own decisions about carrying a pregnancy.
As lawyers go before the Supreme Court, women who have sat with the decision shared with CNN what access to abortion meant to them — both in times they chose to do it and times they did not.
After Megan Jeyifo had an abortion, she remembers taking a taxi home by herself, putting on her gray sweats, lying down in her bed and feeling relief wash over her.
At the time she was 16 years old, had just lost a parent and knew then she was not ready to have a child.
“My abortion was something I knew I wanted the minute I found out I was pregnant,” Jeyifo said. “It took me some time to figure out how to actually make it happen.”
She said she was raised in a family that was pro-choice, but the stigma around abortion and teenage pregnancy left her worried that she would not be supported. As a result, she navigated the process of getting an abortion on her own.
There are young women who get pregnant unexpectedly and can raise children and want to do it, Jeyifo said. Now that she is a mother, though, she sees even more clearly what she saw then: how difficult lack of support resources makes choosing to be a teenage mother.
“I feel such relief now, when I look at my life and I look at my children, that I was able to get that abortion because my life would look really different now,” Jeyifo said.
Kenya Martin now calls her 21-year-old daughter her “broke best friend” and thinks she is perfect, but she is also transparent with her adult child that there was a time she heavily considered not going through with her pregnancy.
“Having access to abortion really enabled me to be a better parent,” Martin said. “When it’s time for her to be safe with making these important life decisions, she can do that without feeling like she’s forced to.
“She knows that she’s supported in whatever her choice is.”
Martin was in college and had just started seeing someone when she got pregnant with her daughter. She turned to her parents to discuss her options when it came to whether to go through with the pregnancy.
Having children had been in her vision for her future, but she was worried that she did not know the man she would be raising a child with well enough and that, having to drop out of college to have the baby, it might not be the most financially stable time in her life to bring in a child.
“Motherhood was really dark in the beginning,” Martin said. “I didn’t really fully embrace motherhood until she was a lot older.”
The father of her daughter soon became abusive to Martin, she said.
When she became pregnant again, Martin said she knew that she needed to leave the father and end the pregnancy so she could be the kind of mother she felt her daughter deserved.
Eventually, Martin went back to school and started a career as a counselor at an abortion clinic.
There, she was able to help women talk through their options and empower them to know that whatever path they take is their choice, Martin said.
By age 17, Stephanie, who we are identifying by only her first name, had already been working for three years, had started college, been a translator for her parents, acted as another parent to her siblings and undergone an abortion after a sexual assault.
She had gone to her parents the first time she needed one and told them what happened, she said. Coming home from the abortion, her father threw out her birth control prescription and told 15-year-old Stephanie that she needed to “keep her legs closed.”
So, two years later, after her attempts to access more birth control options were thwarted and she became pregnant again, Stephanie knew she could not go to her family for help, she said.
In Florida, however, she needed to have her parent’s consent to have an abortion as a minor.
She found on Yahoo Answers that she could seek a judicial bypass, where a court could grant her permission to seek an abortion without notifying her parents.
The process took about three weeks of attorney meetings, secret phone calls and a court appearance. The obstacles in her way were no deterrent from what she said she knew she needed to do.
“I was so clear about the picture I wanted for my life and at the time was very rooted in survival,” Stephanie said. “I just needed to make it until I was 18 years old, so I could move out of my parents’ house, so I could help my mother leave my abusive father so we didn’t have to go through what we were going through any more.”
Since then, she has graduated with two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s in social work by 23. Now, she lives with no regret.
“It is actually painful to try to imagine my life as a young mother after watching my young mother go through many experiences living with her abuser and try to survive,” Stephanie said. “I live with a lot of love for that young woman that I was.”
™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.