I crossed US state boundaries for an abortion - it changed my life

Even before the Supreme Court overturned the national right to an abortion in America last month, abortion access in many places was severely limited.

In Missouri, getting an abortion had become a fraught, complex and burdensome process.

In the years before abortion was banned, there was only one operating clinic in the state serving a population of around six million people.

Even before the court's decision, abortion access in Missouri was limited forcing many to travel for the procedure

Those trying to get abortions had to jump through hoop after hoop, all designed by Missouri’s politicians to limit the number of procedures carried out in the state.

So, for many, an easier option was to make the journey across the border into Illinois where abortion care is more accessible.

Maggie Olivia, who lives in St Louis, Missouri, crossed the border in March 2020 to get an abortion at an Illinois clinic.

“Accessing abortion truly did change my life in every way”, she said when I visited her office in St Louis.

“I truly cannot fathom what my life would look like today had I not had access to my abortion.

“Everything that I do now, everything that I am now, has really stemmed from my experience in that moment and being in control of that moment."

Since Maggie’s experience, it has only got harder for Missourians to get abortion care.

The state was the first in the country to ban abortion after the Supreme Court’s decision last month, leaving behind few options for its residents.

Maggie says it is “terrifying and heartbreaking” to think about those who will have to face even greater difficulties when trying to terminate pregnancies.

“Who knows the number of opportunities and other ways in which their lives could have changed had they been able to access the care that they deserve”, she says.

Maggie now works for an activist group called Pro-Choice Missouri, which campaigns for reproductive rights.

Working there, she says, is a “dream job”.

But the new American reality, where for the first time in nearly 50 years there is no nationwide right to an abortion, feels more like a nightmare to her.

Maggie wipes away tears when she talks about the impact the court’s decision has had on those on the frontline of America’s abortion divide.

“The bit that makes me the most emotional is to think about all the people who do everything that they can everyday in Missouri and everywhere to be prepared for this moment…the care and the bravery of our providers and our support networks that ensured the last legal abortion in Missouri could be performed before the decision came down on Roe.”

Despite the work going into to protecting abortion access, Maggie is pessimistic about the future.

“It's not going to be enough”, she says unhappily.

As I come to the end of our time with Maggie, I notice the posters lining the walls of her office.

Posters line the walls of Pro-Choice Missouri's office in St Louis, Missouri

‘Stop banning abortion’ pleads one, ‘Abortion is a human right’ states another.

Pro-choice activists still see the procedure as a human right, but it is no longer a constitutional one.

That fundamental shift will mean access will continue to decline and journeys across state lines, like that taken by Maggie, will become more common.

America’s already chasmal abortion divide will only deepen.