Hustle Mindset

Missourian Tells House Panel How She Self-Managed Her Abortion


A woman from Missouri testified in front of a congressional committee this week about the harrowing details surrounding her self-managed abortion in a state that has banned most abortions.

When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June 2022, a “trigger” law took effect in Missouri that became one of the country’s most restrictive abortion bans, outlawing all abortions except in cases of medical emergency. The Supreme Court decision also prompted a huge increase in the sale of abortion pills. (Medication abortion is the most common form of abortion in the U.S. Though its use is technically still legal at the national level, it is challenging to obtain.)

Rev. Dr. Love Holt told the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability on Monday that she was rushed to an emergency room on Jan. 20 “for severe blood loss.”

“I nodded in and out of consciousness in the lobby for several minutes as blood began dripping down my legs. I sat in that wheelchair and instead of thinking about survival, I thought about not going to jail,” Holt told the committee members.

“I told myself to make sure you tell the staff that you’re having a miscarriage, but I knew I was having an abortion. I also knew that for that medication pill, [it] needed to be taken orally because it showed up like a miscarriage in front of the doctors,” said Holt, who is from St. Louis.

Holt, a mother of five, is a community engagement manager at Abortion Action Missouri, an organization working toward reproductive freedom. Her bio on the Abortion Action Missouri website says she is an abortion doula, herbal womb practitioner and cultural competency consultant.

Holt, who describes herself as a pro-choice storyteller, believes she is one of the first people to testify to Congress about her personal experience with a self-managed abortion.

Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), a member of the oversight committee who was at Monday’s meeting, said that more people need to hear stories like Holt’s.

“These are the stories that we need to hear more of in hearings in Congress because the reality is that Rev. Dr. Holt’s story is not an anomaly,” Bush told HuffPost. “Rather, it represents the reality of so many people struggling to terminate their pregnancies in states that have banned or severely limited access to abortion care.”

Bush, along with Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas) and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), invited Love to Monday’s meeting.

During the testimony, Holt described the day she took the medication abortion pill — which she characterized as the day she almost died. Holt was approximately 13 weeks and six days pregnant on Jan. 20, but medication abortion pill guidelines recommend taking the pill before the 13-week mark.

But Missouri’s 2019 trigger law banned nearly all abortions, except during emergencies or when necessary to save the life of the birthing person. So Holt had to opt for a self-managed abortion, even if it meant taking the medication beyond the 13-week mark.

Holt’s first order of the pill had been stolen in the mail. And she didn’t have the set of two pills until 18 days after ordering the second one.

Within 45 minutes of taking the pill, Holt said she experienced heavy bleeding, cramping and blood clots, then she became lightheaded.

According to Planned Parenthood’s website, there are “extremely rare” instances in which a patient who takes the pill could face life-threatening complications — including bleeding so heavy it saturates more than two maxi pads per hour or blood clots that are larger than the size of a lemon.

Medication abortion is regarded as safer than taking drugs like penicillin or Viagra, but in these rare instances, Planned Parenthood urges someone experiencing these symptoms to contact a doctor or health center immediately. However, someone living in a state with strict abortion laws, like Missouri, might decide to delay seeking medical advice or care out of fear of revealing the abortion.

Holt’s children were home as the bleeding persisted, so she decided to seclude herself in her car so her children wouldn’t be traumatized by the sight of her bleeding. Holt’s kids later called Holt’s mother, who discovered her unresponsive in the car “completely covered in blood.”

Holt said that they rushed her to a Catholic-run hospital nearby, where she received a dilatation-and-curettage surgical procedure. Recounting the experience to HuffPost, Holt said the hospital staff then hosted a “funeral service” for the tissue she passed — and even offered her a “death certificate.”

“I was forced to participate in having my tissues in a mass grave with a headstone,” Holt told HuffPost. “I was sickened.”

Holt’s story inspired her to talk to the congressional panel on behalf of many Missouri residents who have been left without access to abortions and must take extreme measures to obtain them.

“Forcing people to carry unwanted pregnancies drives people into further positions of poverty, and poverty gives birth to violence and survival modes that make people unpredictable, and they do things that they would normally not do, like me,” Holt said Monday.

“I almost lost my life that day,” she continued. “I would have left my children, my Black children, alone in this cruel, cold world to navigate it alone. Nobody to protect them, nobody to support them.”

Abortion rights advocates demonstrate June 30, 2022, against the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that had established a constitutional right to abortion.

J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press

With the Dobbs v. Jackson decision that walked back Roe, some conservatives are pushing forward with plans for a nationwide abortion ban.

“See, the Dobbs decision is a death sentence for thousands of Black women and birthing people alone in Missouri,” Holt said. “So I want you to take a second and consider what will happen if this ban is national. How many people will die and suffer at the hands of the consequences of not having access to safe, medical abortions?”

In a phone call with HuffPost, Holt underscored the importance of speaking to members of Congress.

“There was a lot weighing on this conversation. And I knew that … maybe as a local St. Louis activist, this might be my only chance to have a national platform to tell people about the things that working people experience from these bans,” Holt told HuffPost.

“I think I might have drawn a tear from every eye in the room — masculine or feminine presenting — it didn’t matter. It seemed like everyone was engaged in my story,” she added.

Holt told HuffPost that there are a multitude of ways for birthing people to get access to abortion care — including Pills by Post and Plan C, online organizations that help individuals find access to abortion medication.

“One of the things that is always overarching, as a Black activist fighting for a marginalized community of working people, is that the lawmakers and larger figures don’t care about saving any one of our children or any one of our bodies,” Holt said.

“We add to the working force, we add to the balance that they know needs to exist to have wealth and poverty, good and evil. They understand that there has to be somebody on the adverse side. And they want it to be everyone but them,” she said. “But that will never stop me from telling my story until the day I die.”

Alanna Vagianos contributed to this report.

If you or anyone you know needs assistance self-managing a miscarriage or abortion, please call the Miscarriage + Abortion Hotline at (833) 246-2632 for confidential medical support or the Repro Legal Helpline at (844) 868-2812 for confidential legal information and advice.

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