Next Generation Spotlight – HK Gray
– HK Gray, Fort Worth Area
When most people think of barriers that affect access to abortion, they think of things like waiting periods, gestational limits, the Hyde amendment, parental involvement laws and so many more depending on which state a patient resides in. Although these are the most common blocks to access, there are even more that most people wouldn’t even associate with abortion access and I didn’t either until they affected my access personally.
I was already a teen mom when I found out I was pregnant again at seventeen, I was living with my boyfriend and had been since I was fifteen. At the time we were scraping by and couldn’t afford another mouth to feed or body to clothe, I knew the most selfless choice was an abortion. When I found out in Texas I needed parental consent to have an abortion, I had no other option than to go the judicial bypass route which allows minors to go before a judge to prove their maturity to make an informed decision to terminate their pregnancy. I was worried about the judge ruling against me, forcing me and my family into poverty but I had no other choice.
Being the daughter of drug addicts, I had learned very early on that my situation was not the same as the people I went to school with but I had a relatively normal life until my dad got evicted from the home I had grown up in. He supported me for as long as he could, moving from motel to motel until it was obvious it was not sustainable. I moved in with a friend and within months he was homeless but always still trying to provide for me. At the time my mom kept messing up on her probation because of her addiction and was routinely in and out of jail as well as in and out of my life. When I had finally moved out on my own with my boyfriend to raise our daughter three years later, the situation had worsened. My mom was on the run and when caught would be sentenced to prison and my dad was still homeless. I had no parents to reach out to for conversation let alone consent for my abortion, all because of how we as a society treat addicts and homelessness.
Ashwood Recovery puts it into perspective, “1 out of every 100 Americans is behind bars and 50% are there for drug-related offenses”. This is easily avoidable by providing addicted Americans with rehabilitation services instead of putting them behind bars and pushing them further into their addiction. If my mom had been put into a rehab when she committed her first offense I wouldn’t of spent half of my life without her, she would have been in the hospital with me for the birth of her first grandchild instead of awaiting trial and she would have given me consent for my abortion. But instead, she spent most of my life in a system that would much rather profit off of criminalizing an addict than give them the much-needed support to a road of recovery.
Homelessness is not something we as a society take pride in but it’s also something we don’t do enough to prevent. The National Alliance to End Homelessness says that “68% of cities reported that substance abuse was the largest cause of homelessness for single adults” and another survey says, “25% of homeless people identified drug use as their primary reason for their homelessness”. There aren’t many cities that put homelessness as a top priority for their tax dollars, especially if those who are homeless are addicts. They’re left to sleep in tents, benches, on concrete and I know that if people walked through the ‘tent cities’ like I have to in order to see my dad, people would start to understand this is not just a homeless issue. It’s a community, family, and human rights issue that is leaving children without parents like it did in my case. Making parents miss chunks of their children’s lives and ultimately forcing those children to be in a situation where they legally can’t make decisions for themselves medically but also don’t have a parent to sign off on things a simple as a wellness checkup much less an abortion procedure.
The disease of addiction is what kept my parents from making better decisions for themselves and for me but society’s decision to treat addicts as less than human is what ultimately made it to where my parents were unable to think of a life outside of addiction, homelessness, and prison. I should’ve had my parents for every step of my life, including when I had my abortion, but instead, my parents’ situation was one of the biggest barriers I faced in trying to access my abortion. These things that are plaguing lower class communities sequentially force us to not be able to access abortion care and until we realize the intersectionality of poverty, homelessness, addiction, and criminalization of addicts is causing teenagers to go through the stressful parental involvement laws by themselves, we will never be able to fully say we have reproductive freedom.