When my mother was 16, she terminated a pregnancy that was the result of rape. Twenty years later my mother became pregnant again, a blessing for her and my stepfather; but my mother also had an incurable chronic pain and seizure disorder, and she learned that attempting to carry the pregnancy to term could kill her, leaving her existing children motherless and her husband a widower. The ultrasound tech knew why she would abort, yet the printed images of the embryo read “Hi, Mom and Dad!” She had an abortion (and my stepfather had a vasectomy) because it was the best choice for her and her family, but she never discarded the images that reminded her of what they had so desperately wanted.

As a teenager, my older sister was repeatedly raped and assaulted by a string of abusive boyfriends; she became pregnant when she was 16. She began to miscarry early in the pregnancy, but the process was excruciating and the bleeding very heavy (she wouldn’t be diagnosed with endometriosis for another decade). She had an abortion because it was the best choice for her, but her boyfriend stood outside our home that night and bellowed at my parents — loud enough to draw our neighbors outside — that my sister was a bitch and that she had killed his baby.

When I was 16, I was in a long-term, monogamous relationship. We used condoms when we had sex; whether we used them incorrectly or inconsistently, I cannot recall; the bottom line is that I became pregnant. Someone offered to pay me to carry to term, but I was not ready to be a parent, nor would I submit a child to a life in foster care when so many children already wait for someone to love them. I had an abortion because it was the best choice for me.

Now I have a daughter of my own. I did not choose to carry the pregnancy to term; it was forced upon me by the lies, manipulation, and abuse a man inflicted upon me. My daughter was not chosen, but she is very much loved; she is a fortunate child in that regard because many children are neglected or abused by people who never wanted to be parents, but felt forced to conform to society’s expectations.

My experiences, the stories of other women, my love for my daughter and the circumstances that led to her existence: these things motivate me. I look at my daughter and see not just what might have been but what is and what could be; I feel an obligation to make the world safer, healthier, kinder, and more just — for her, for her friends, for others. It is because of this that I am and will always be pro-choice.