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She had an abortion 8 years ago — now, she fears her community will lose that choice

Demonstrators rally in support of abortion access in St. George, Utah, May 6, 2022
Lexi Peery
Demonstrators rally in support of abortion access in St. George, Utah, May 6, 2022

When Politico leaked a draft of a Supreme Court opinion to strike down the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade ruling the seismic effect was felt across the country. If the decision becomes official, people could lose their right to an abortion in states across the country, including Utah.

In 2020, state lawmakers passed a bill, SB 174, to immediately ban abortions at any stage of pregnancy if the court overturns Roe v. Wade. It includes exceptions for rape, incest and the parent’s health.

If the law goes into effect, many Utah residents will have to travel hundreds of miles to reach the nearest clinic.

“It seems like we're going backward,” said Cándida Duran Taveras, the director of community engagement at Planned Parenthood Association of Utah. “And this shouldn't be something we’re still fighting for.”

People of color, low-income people and LGBTQ+ folks would suffer most, Taveras said. According to a University of Utah-led study, the ruling would disproportionately affect marginalized groups, and restricting abortion care is related to poor health outcomes for both parents and infants.

The Supreme Court is expected to announce its final decision in June.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Pamela McCall: Why did you decide to have an abortion?

Cándida Duran Taveras: I was freshly out of college, very poor, living on my own for the first time. It was just not a good time in my life to become a parent. So I had an abortion instead, and it's a decision that was not hard for me. I knew that my mental health was not in a good place, so it was a pretty simple decision for me and one that allowed me to live the life that I currently have.

PM: Were you at all conflicted? 

CDT: No, not at all. The person I was seeing, we weren't in any way ready to commit to each other or to becoming parents together. And I actually became a parent three years later. I was in a much better place in my life. And I'm so grateful that both times that I've become pregnant, I've been able to decide what the outcome is and that they were the right choices for me.

PM: When you heard about the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion that would see abortions banned in this state once the trigger law is activated, how did you feel?

CDT: Upset. Mostly because it seems like we're going backward and this shouldn't be something that we are still fighting for. And at the same time, I think this gives us an opportunity to think past Roe and to think about how to make abortion more accessible for people. Because at least in my experience, when I was 22, and I had my abortion, I wasn't driving at that time. So I had to rely on public transportation, and I did not live near the closest clinic.

PM: You're talking transportation within Utah, and my understanding is that if abortions are banned, the closest place is going to be in Colorado.

CDT: Absolutely. The closest clinic would be 6 hours away, and not everyone would be able to make that commute. And on top of being expensive, it's going to disproportionately affect people who are already marginalized -- people with low incomes, people who are part of communities of color, people with disabilities, people in the LGBTQ community. So it's going to be bad.

PM: If abortions had been outlawed when you became pregnant, what would you have done?

CDT: Oh, man, I can't even think about that. My mental health would not have been OK. I would not have the child that I currently have, who I love and adore. I don't think I would be in the field that I am in. I would be surviving every day, just surviving and trying to provide for the family that I was forced to have.

PM: Would you potentially have used illegal means or gone to another state?

CDT: I wouldn't have been able to afford it to go to another state eight years ago, so I would have been forced into a pregnancy that I didn't want.

PM: What are you hearing from people about their mental state?

CDT: What I'm hearing within my own community and when speaking with friends and family is people are scared. People are nervous about the future of abortion access and not only abortion access, but what else are they going to try to restrict next? I'm afraid for my child. My child has a uterus, and if they were ever to need an abortion, I want to make sure that they are able to access that like I was able to just eight years ago.

PM: What do you think it will feel like when that ruling comes down officially?

CDT: As a woman of color, our community, at least in my experience, we've always helped each other. I grew up in a household where my family was undocumented, and we were able to survive, and we were able to make it through with the support of our community. So as someone who has had to face quite a few challenges in my life because of laws that target my family and myself, I think it's just going to come down to continuing to support each other and our community through mutual aid — through supporting abortion funds, through becoming someone who your community knows is a safe person that you can reach out to if you are in that scenario and knowing that you are going to be available to support them in whatever capacities that means.

Updated: May 26, 2022 at 12:31 PM MDT
This story was updated to the formal spelling of Cándida Duran Taveras' first name.
Pamela is KUER's All Things Considered Host.
Leah is the Morning Edition associate producer at KUER.
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