Mónica's story is collected especially for the SHHH project. All informants and stories in this project have been anonymised. All names are changed.
20 years ago, when abortion was not legal in the Federal District, what is now called Mexico City, I was a student. My experience with my abortion can be summed up to be an arduous search; first trying to obtain information on how not to become pregnant, and then how to have the abortion.
I did not know anything about organizations that could provide me with the necessary care. All I knew was that it was a sin, that they could put me in jail, and that I could also die. Still, I had a very clear and firm decision: “I did not want to be pregnant”.
Money was scarce. Scarce with my family, scarce with friends. And, the person with whom I had sexual relations disappeared physically, emotionally and financially as soon as I told him. Investigating among friends, and superficially inquiring with some doctors, I heard about some "cytotec" pills that at that time cost $ 3,500 Mexican pesos. This amount was then equivalent to 28 minimum wages, and for me it was almost impossible to get something like that together. They gave me $ 200 a week in bus money to go to school. Half of it I spent on the transportation and the other $ 100 on breakfast and lunch, because it was 2,5 hours going there and the same time going back home.
Well, the plan was to get the money. To save. To work. I worked taking care of children, helping to collect money and clean the minibus that my dad drove on weekends, I was “la cacharpa”, cleaning the house of an aunt who was a doctor, and another job came up assembling money for excursions to the famous Cervantino Internacional in Guanajuato.
And, I did it! I managed to raise the money to get the pills that were only sold in the "Paris" pharmacy, one of the main pharmacies in Mexico. Now, the problem was getting the prescription. I ended up falsifying it, because I was afraid to steal, although I thought about it more than once. At the same time, I also found out about a clinic located in one of the most populated and unsafe parts of the city (Iztapalapa). But, I was very scared to go there and not get out alive, because it had a bad reputation. In addition they were charging $ 9,000 Mexican pesos, and that would have been impossible to put together. After two and a half months I had managed to get the $ 3,500 together. Finally, and with a lot of fear, I bought the pills.
Along with the pills, I prepared a tea that they sold me in the Sonora Market. The tea had various herbs, I remember Zopatle, rue (ruda), cinnamon. I made the tea and applied two pills vaginally and took two orally and, yes, I started to bleed and expel clots. In itself the process was not complicated and the next day I felt liberated, free, happy as if a sack of stones had been removed from my shoulders.
I bled a lot for months, I thought that everything was fine and that it was normal. Nobody knew in my family, I preferred not to tell them. They would surely have tried to pressure me to continue the pregnancy, since my family is very conservative and Catholic. Still today they say that a child is a blessing from God. Abortion was a topic that was never ever spoken of.
As days and months passed, I felt normal, but I kept bleeding, sometimes more, sometimes less. It would not stop. One day I felt very bad and was terribly pale. I asked to be accompanied to the hospital. Being a student, I had social security. There, moments of great uncertainty began; they wanted to keep me at the hospital due to something they called "HMR". They did not tell me anything, I did not know what was happening, and I could not say anything. They asked and questioned me. And I just kept silent, I never said anything. They told me that they had to clean me up. They asked me: "What did you do?". At that time it was customary to denounce women who had aborted, and to put them in jail (it is also done today, in some places). With me they did not succeed, no matter how hard they tried. They couldn't get a word of confession out of me.
I kept saying that I had been having normal periods, only that it was stronger now, and that was why I had come to the hospital. I had a very low level of hemoglobin and had to get a transfusion. There were moments of great fear. I thought they would remove my womb. Finally, I was informed that I had been pregnant and that they had to clean me so that the "HMR" would stop bleeding. The "HMR" was a Huevo Muerto Retenido, a Retained Dead Egg. I pretended not to know about the pregnancy. To this day I never have returned to the subject, I have not discussed it with my mother, sister, with my father. I returned to my house, and my family hugged me. They thought I was suffering because I had miscarried without even knowing about the pregnancy. I did not contradict their feelings nor their assumptions.
Today, I accompany women in abortion processes. I firmly believe that women's networks save lives and that each one of us has the right to decide if and when we want to become mothers. If the State does not give us that right, we have to organize to make it possible. In my opinion an abortion is a personal decision that changes the course of our lives.
My dream is that no woman has to go through social stigma for not wanting a pregnancy, that no one has the fear that I had to talk about it, and that no woman lives through a process of abortion in solitude.