During the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings considering notably anti-abortion judge Amy Coney Barrett‘s nomination to the Supreme Court, a woman from West Virginia gave testimony about her abortion at age 16. She said that her “right to access health care is why I am here today.”
Crystal Good said she experienced an unintended pregnancy when she was 16, and immediately knew she wanted an abortion. Her testimony comes as many debate how Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court would impact access to healthcare of all kinds. Coney Barrett, who was reportedly part of an anti-abortion group and has expressed anti-abortion sentiments in the past, could tip the court toward overturning Roe v. Wade should a case concerning the matter come before them.
In her testimony, Good outlined the challenges she faced in trying to access a legal medical procedure. Because of her age and the laws in her home state, Good couldn’t access the safe medical procedure without either notifying a parent or seeking permission from judge. Having experienced sexual abuse, Good said she didn’t feel safe asking a parent, so she went to court.
“The fate of my future — whether or not I would become a parent at 16 — rested in the hands of one judge. My journey to seek an abortion started first with making sure I had my homework done. I then had to navigate not only how to get to the judge but how to do so on a school day,” she said.
Good was seeking what’s called a judicial bypass, a process through which someone under 18 in a state that requires parental involvement for an abortion can instead get a judge to rule they can have the abortion without telling their parents. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 37 states require parental involvement for a minor’s abortion.
In the judge’s chambers, Good says she made her plea by talking about her good grades, her opportunities, and by underscoring how much was at stake if she were forced to have a baby instead of being allowed an abortion.
“I said, ‘your Honor, I have a future. I want an abortion,’” Good said during the hearing. “Thankfully, he granted permission. It felt like a miracle, that an adult believed ME; an authority figure deemed ME to be in charge of my own body and my own future.”
While she did get an abortion, Good, who is biracial, said she often thinks about how easily the outcome could have been different.
“I still think about what might have happened if I didn’t have that list of accomplishments, or if the judge didn’t think I was competent enough to decide when to start my family, or if he believed the harmful stereotype I was raised to believe — that Black girls were ‘fast’ and promiscuous,” she said. “Access to abortion should not depend on our GPA, the color of our skin, where we live, or the luck of the draw. It should not depend in any shape, form, or fashion on who our governor is or who is sitting on the Supreme Court.”
While abortion remains legal in the U.S., many states place restrictions on the healthcare procedure that make it hard to access, particularly for low income people and people of color. Good spoke to this, noting that “government restrictions on abortion — especially those not based in science or medical necessity — harm those of us who have fewer resources.” For young people, that can be even more true. While she noted that many young people do involve their parents when they need an abortion, for those who can’t — for whatever reason — should not be made to navigate complicated legal processes that can decide whether they get an abortion. These same young people need no permission to become a parent.
Now, Good has helped pass laws, gone to college, had three children, and created a full life for herself. “I did all of that, because I had an abortion,” she said.
“Every abortion story is different, but I share my story with you to be clear that only the person who is pregnant should be making this decision, because only they know their lives and their circumstances. None of you have walked in my shoes in central Appalachia, a region that I believe offers insight into the challenges of America as a whole. My story is my own but represents so many people left out from Supreme Court Nominee Hearings — an entire caste of people,” Good said.”
“Please, listen to people who have abortions. Hear us when we ask you, do not confirm this nominee. Our futures, families, and lives depend on it,” Good continued. “We, too, are America.”