The draconian Texas antiabortion law that went into effect on September 1 "is a staging ground for a human rights crisis for American women," writes actor and mother Uma Thurman in a poignant, heartbreaking op-ed for the Washington Post. For the first time, she opened up about her "darkest secret," the decision to have an abortion when she was "accidentally impregnated by a much older man" as a teenager.
"In the hope of drawing the flames of controversy away from the vulnerable women on whom this law will have an immediate effect, I am sharing my own experience," Thurman wrote. She recounted the early days of her acting career, when she was often the only adolescent in a room full of adults, and the shock of finding herself pregnant and living out of a suitcase in Europe, far from her family, about to start a job. Though she wanted to keep the baby, she wasn't capable of caring for a child while barely keeping herself afloat. She consulted with her parents — it was their first time ever discussing sex, "and it was terrible for all of us," Thurman wrote — and they agreed an abortion was the right answer. "My heart was broken nonetheless," she noted.
"There is so much pain in this story. It has been my darkest secret until now. I am 51 years old, and I am sharing it with you from the home where I have raised my three children, who are my pride and joy," Thurman explained. "The abortion I had as a teenager was the hardest decision of my life, one that caused me anguish then and that saddens me even now, but it was the path to the life full of joy and love that I have experienced. Choosing not to keep that early pregnancy allowed me to grow up and become the mother I wanted and needed to be."
The cruel, Republican-backed law effectively outlaws all abortions in Texas. It bans terminating a pregnancy once medical professionals can detect an embryonic cardiac activity, which is typically around six weeks, long before most women know they're pregnant. The law was passed by the Texas legislature in May and went into effect at the beginning of September.
As Thurman noted in her essay, the law doesn't put the women and children of wealthy families at risk, because they "retain all the choices in the world." Instead, it implements almost insurmountable obstacles for vulnerable populations, like teenagers, low-income individuals, people of color and undocumented immigrants. According to the Guttmacher Institute, around 70% of the abortions performed in Texas in 2019 were provided to women of color.
Thurman said she felt a responsibility to use her privilege to give a voice to other women. "I have nothing to gain from this disclosure, and perhaps much to lose," she wrote. "In revealing the hole that this decision carved in me, I hope that some light will shine through, reaching women and girls who might feel a shame that they can’t protect themselves from and have no agency over. I can assure you that no one finds herself on that table on purpose."