Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Your Questions Answered About Abortion

A protester dressed as a character from the TV show "The Handmaid's Tale,"  walks back to her car after participating in a rally against one of the nation's most restrictive bans on abortions.
Julie Bennett/Getty Images
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

What is an abortion? Who can get one? When does life begin?

These questions took on new resonance after the passage of restrictive abortion laws in Alabama and Missouri.

Abortion is still legal in all 50 states. But in some states, there are waiting periods, or only one or two clinics available to get one, creating barriers to the process.

But people have been talking about how abortion, and access to it, have affected their lives for a long time.

In 2014, rapper Nicki Minaj said she had an abortion. Here’s what she told Rolling Stone:

When she discovered she was pregnant, “I thought I was going to die,” she admits. “I was a teenager. It was the hardest thing I’d ever gone through.” She ended up having an abortion, a decision she says has “haunted me all my life,” though it was the right choice for her at the time. “It’d be contradictory if I said I wasn’t pro-choice. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have anything to offer a child.”

Not every woman has that experience of fear. Not everyone has the platform of a multi-millionaire rapper.

But, again, more women started sharing their experiences with abortion after actress and host Busy Phillips started the hashtag #YouKnowMe, reflecting the number of people who have told her that they didn’t know someone who had an abortion.

But Phillips had one, hence the hashtag.

Activists and journalists alike largely see these laws as a type of bait for the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe vs. Wade, the case that protected a woman’s right to privacy in abortion and effectively made it legal.

Here’s feminist journalist Irin Carmon, writing for The Cut about the potential future of abortion legislation:

The legal scholar Jack Balkin has used the phrase “off the wall,” or on it, to describe how social movements can convince people the constitution says what they want it to say. Their goals are first ignored or seen as “lunatic,” he observed, then “wrong but interesting,” then “plausible but wrong,” until, through a combination of forces, they get to being considered “probably right.” And when it comes to abortion and a changing Supreme Court, we have no idea what will be on the wall.

This legislation can be confusing and it’s moving at breakneck speed – so we stop and answer your questions.

*Please also note that any medical information you hear on this show is not a substitute for seeing a doctor. We can’t answer questions about a personal medical situation or provide medical advice.

This show will also involve frank descriptions of anatomy in medical terms and situations including abortion, birth and pregnancy.*

Produced by Paige Osburn.


Julie Rovner, Chief Washington correspondent with Kaiser Health News; host, “What The Health?” podcast; author of “Health Care Policy and Politics A-Z”; @JRovner

Nina Totenberg, Legal affairs correspondent, NPR; @NinaTotenberg

Dr. Colleen McNicholas, Obstetrician/gynecologist; abortion provider in Missouri, Oklahoma and Kansas; associate professor, Washington University School of Medicine

For more, visit

© 2019 WAMU 88.5 – American University Radio.

Copyright 2020 WAMU 88.5. To see more, visit WAMU 88.5.