Speaking Story...

My name is Cinthia Gutierrez, I am 25-years-old, I am currently living in Santa Cruz, CA. I am originally from San Francisco, specifically the Excelsior District. You can use my first name.

When I think of my RJ story, it gets pretty emotional for me. Growing up in a Catholic household; I’m mixed, so I grew up in a Nicaraguense household and Salvadoran and grew up Catholic. I went to Catholic school, I learned about abstinence in Catholic school; never really followed that. As I got older, I never imagined myself getting an abortion, it was something that was looked down upon not only in my family, but in the Latino/Latina community. So when I first found out that I was pregnant in 2012, I was actively using drugs. I had just relapsed after having been six months clean. At the time I had to…I was a student at UC Santa Cruz and I had take another leave of absence because I was using drugs. I was with someone who was actively using as well and I was pregnant. At the time I remember I had a job at this place, I think it was called Surf Dog, they had hot dogs and hamburgers. I remember being pregnant and still using and not being able to stop and knowing that this was a problem that I had. I couldn’t…despite how much I cared for and loved a being that was growing inside of me, the desire to stop using was not there. After having conversations with the mother of the father and being really honest with her and realizing that if I decided to come to term with this child, I too would be a single mother like my mother. I wouldn’t have had any support, I don’t know if I would have stopped using, I didn’t know what kinds of defects my child would have been born with because of my using narcotics, so I made the decision to have an abortion.

I was given the pill that you can take at the luxury of your own home. I remember at the time living in this really small apartment and being really adamant with the doctor that I was not going to take any narcotics pills yet, I was still using, which is very ironic now that I think about it. I remember taking the pill and not taking any sort of pain medication for it and all of a sudden I remember just screaming, vomiting all of the carpet, and bleeding; it got so painful that the ambulance had to be called. I went to the emergency room and they checked me out to make sure everything happened as it’s supposed to happen. And just having a lot of shame and guilt around that and not being able to tell anyone in my family about it. That was probably the most painful part, but later on, ironically, a couple of months later I got clean and this January I’ll be celebrating three years clean. In the process, I’ve been able to tell my mother that I had an abortion and although she might not be able to understand the situation, her beliefs might not agree with what I did, she supports me the best way she knows how because we’re all going through our own traumas and sometimes we just do the best that we can.

At this time it still brings a lot of emotions from it, it still makes me really sad, but I have less guilt and I have less shame and that’s a direct correlation of being a part of CLRJ. Before I was a part of this group, a part of this sisterhood, a part of this resistance, a part of this RJ movement, I kept this to myself and I would mourn by myself. And now I get to hear how my RJ sisters have been through similar experiences, or they’ve had family members or friends who have gone through this and it makes the experience not so isolating. I think that’s the beauty of CLRJ. They are able to bring together all of these Latinas and put us in a space where we not only get to hear our RJ stories, but we get to heal collectively. This is something I never anticipated, finding a space like this. I’m really grateful to be a part of a chapter leader, especially for the Bay Area, for Oakland.

How did you feel…you talked a bit about how you feel now about it, how do you feel telling your story?

It feels healing because as part of being in recovery, I’ve done a lot of personal development growth, I’ve done a lot of writing, I have a support group, I have a sponsor, and through the twelve-step process, I’ve been able to address this. So it’s not as difficult to talk about it as it used to be, but I just can’t keep emphasizing how unique CLRJ is and that space. Because I’ve heard of women, especially white women, having abortions and taking ownership of their bodies, but having women of color, immigrant women, Latina women, trans women, women coming together who don’t necessarily fit that paradox of the mainstream feminist, especially white feminism, it’s so gratifying.

So it’s kind of like having that freedom to sort of not be just one thing or the other. That’s one of the things I love especially about how reproductive justice is among us, being a Latina group, you don’t have to be one way or the other.

Definitely, I don’t have to put on a mask or feel like I only have to show you so much of myself because if I expose too much, then you’ll have something against me. Being part of this collective has really shown me how to have ownership over myself and not be embarrassed about what I’ve been through or the traumas I’ve experienced. And learning that the trauma I’ve been through, whether it’s sexual assault, or addiction, my mother has been through it, and my grandmother, and the women in this room, it’s so healing. I can only hope more women find a space like this.