16 College Women Explain

Why They Changed Their Minds

About Abortion


Do people change their minds about abortion?

Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it. Arguments about it are so personal—tied to the most fundamental questions about bodily autonomy, gender equality and the social safety net—that it feels impossible for people just to see where the other side is coming from, let alone change their opinions. But college is a time when people are questioning everything they know about the world, and abortion is no exception. In fact, in our survey, 20 percent of respondents had changed their minds about abortion at some point. Twenty-one percent of pro-choice college women were once pro-life, and 19 percent of pro-life college women were once pro-choice.

That’s not an insignificant number, and when we saw it, we had to follow up. Below, 16 college women talk about changing their minds about abortion. Whether it was seeing a friend go through a traumatic experience, becoming sexually active, or just getting outside their hometown bubble, these women found their perspectives shifting.

Pro-Life to Pro-Choice

Originally, I was very pro-life from a legal and moral standpoint, generally supporting a federal constitutional amendment outlawing abortion except in cases regarding life of the mother, rape, or incest. Although I still remain pro-life personally, I’ve started viewing abortion in a pragmatic way. I believe that abortion should still be outlawed after fetal viability or the first trimester, but a nationwide blanket ban would likely cause more problems than it solves. Furthermore, I believe that the most vital arena in the pro-life vs. pro-choice battle is cultural, not legal, and the pro-life movement needs to change hearts and minds to believe that every life has worth and that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare, as it used to be, in order to dissuade women from wanting an abortion in the first place.
— Junior, Niagara University
I changed my mind about abortion when I became sexually active. It’s easier to say that getting an abortion shouldn’t be legal when you don’t have to worry about getting pregnant...I never want to birth children, so having abortion as a back-up plan just in case is really important to me. It’s not about not wanting children, or not feeling that I could take care of one, I just genuinely never want to experience pregnancy and I should have the right not to do so, as should all other women.
— Zoey, freshman, Louisiana Tech University
While I did not have a personal experience that led me to change my views, I did learn more about feminism, which made me understand the systems of domination in which women have to make their reproductive ‘choices.’ I grew up in a Republican family and just believed what they did—that abortion was wrong. Facts and statistics about who actually has abortions made me change my opinion.
— Graduate student, Eastern Michigan University
I grew up in the South and my first experience involving abortion was when our church would put up small crosses on their lawn once a year to represent the abortions that had occurred over the year. My mom was the first to explain what abortion was to me as plainly as possible and I didn’t get it, but I also didn’t think about it too much. I was pretty uninformed on the topic and didn’t think much about it until high school where I started reading articles about it online and seeing civil discussions about women’s rights. Around that time my aunt was pregnant and got briefly sick and was diagnosed with preeclampsia. My mom also explained that to me and I ended up reaching a conclusion: that would be me if I ever got pregnant. I was born with medical issues relating to my urinary tract system and currently only have one kidney, high blood pressure, and I self-catheterize through an opening in my belly button that goes to my bladder, so I realized around that time that if I ever got pregnant I would be a high-risk pregnancy and would put myself at risk. I decided that I probably shouldn’t physically have children and would do everything I could to prevent getting pregnant but I also knew that if I got pregnant I would probably have to get an abortion. My gynecologist confirmed this during my senior year of high school and since then I’ve been very pro-choice and open about it.
— Emily, freshman, James Madison University
I was raised with conservative social values and thought the idea of abortion was terrible when I was a young high school kid. But then I had a pregnancy scare with my first serious boyfriend and reality really hit. I was with a guy I certainly did not want to spend the rest of my life with (more a teenage bad-boy phase) and I was in no place to be able to support a child. I realized that I would lose all chance of pursuing my dreams if I was stuck raising the child of my loser boyfriend.
— Graduate student, Tufts University
I grew up in a Christian, conservative environment where I was taught early on that abortion was ‘murder.’ Because of this, I never thought about it as a women’s rights issue. It wasn’t until I took a Women’s Literature class during my junior year of high school that I began to question my beliefs. We read works by Simone de Beauvoir, Margaret Atwood, and other amazing feminist authors and I began to realize that a woman’s body should not be regarded as a ‘vessel’ with its sole purpose being to carry children. Also, I realized that denying access to safe, legal abortions only leads to more illegal, dangerous ones. I also recently learned that a family member of mine got an abortion, and if she didn’t, she wouldn’t have been able to finish college or escape an abusive relationship. My view of being pro-choice is much more informed than I ever was when I was anti-choice.
— Sydney, freshman, Point Park University
I was exposed to the ignorance of a pro-life stance and realized that policing women’s bodies was something that I had participated in by supporting pro-life. I was beginning to explore my identity as a feminist and they were conflicting stances. [Later] I experienced sexual assault and never wanted anyone else to feel as helpless and scared as I felt. I later joined a peer health education program and became more exposed to sexual health education and reproductive health.
— Caitlyn, Senior, Kennesaw State University
I realized my sophomore year of college that I got a lot of my political views from my parents—which isn’t a terrible thing. But as life went on, I realized that I didn’t necessarily believe these things, but I only supported them because my parents did. I started to really think about why I supported things—and I realized my reasons for supporting a ban on abortion were not substantial. I decided that I do not believe that I am in a position to control what a woman does with her body, and I believe the government shouldn’t be either...I think the reason a lot of my views changed is because I have started to look at things from other people’s perspective. Although I would never choose to have an abortion, I do not think that abortion should be illegal. My personal beliefs are not the same as my political beliefs. There are people who need these services, including better sex education and birth control, and the government should be very careful about restrictions.
— Stephanie, Senior, Winthrop University
When I became pro-choice, I had already been taking birth control and using male condoms as an extra contraceptive. Shortly after coming to terms with my feelings on abortion, I had a pregnancy scare that involved the use of Plan-B and I thought about what I would do if I really was pregnant. I decided that I would not have an abortion because I didn’t think it was necessary, but I was happy to know that my lack of desire to have an abortion did not change my mind back to being pro-life, but solidified my beliefs that choice is important.
— Jocelyn, Sophomore, University of Minnesota Duluth
After my best friend had an abortion, I realized that being pro-choice didn’t mean needing to change what I think about life and pregnancy, it simply meant allowing every woman the choice to formulate their opinions the same way I had. I still believe that life begins at conception, and that doesn’t mean that I don’t understand the need my best friend had when she made the life-changing decision to terminate her pregnancy. It was the right thing for her to do at the time, and I supported her 100% because pro-choice means having the freedom to make my own choice while letting other people do the same.
— Isabela, freshman, The New School
I was raised a strict conservative, but I’m curious so I constantly questioned everything. In my Women and Gender Studies class in college we had to pick a topic to do real life research on. My city in Alabama is a larger one, and we had a clinic that performed abortions. I knew I needed to see and understand more about the choice to have an abortion. During the research, I watched women struggle and talked to them about not wanting to identify as a mom and sacrifice their life. When I became okay with abortion I became okay with IUDs, and immediately got one.
— Brittany, Senior, University of Alabama Huntsville
When I was in high school, I was a big believer in being pro-life. When I came to college though, I came to see how unplanned pregnancy in and out of marriage could really throw someone’s entire life off the rails if they are not yet ready to have a child. We only have one life, we shouldn’t have to spend it always wishing we could go back in time and change things.
— Sarah, Sophomore, Belmont University
I grew up in a generally conservative area, from Catholic grandparents to a very Christian majority school. The way people described abortion was terrible. I remember those chain texts everyone would send in middle school, and how some of them were about a baby excited to meet her mom when she was born, and then she was killed. As a kid, it all seemed so brutal. As I grew up, my school in Ohio had abstinence only, which is dumb. I did my own research, and kind of found myself in a way. I have my stance, and I am solidly pro-choice. In college, I met a friend who needed an abortion when she was in high school, and I am incredibly glad that she had that option, or she would not be where she is now. She can now choose her own future, one where she is not ready for a kid. This is not pro-abortion. This is about letting women have the choice they deserve, the choice no one should control for us.
— Areli, Freshman, Ohio State University

Pro-Choice to Pro-Life

I always identified as pro-life due to my religious beliefs, but I used to believe in abortion for victims cases of rape, illness, and severe complications. However, as I grew both personally and within my faith, I started to question the church’s stance on the issue of abortion. Through my own research, speakers, and testimonies I made the difficult decision to completely disagree with abortion in every and all cases. This was an education, a personal decision that I had to make. A human life is a blessing in all circumstances, and there are other ways to handle the situation than terminating a human life. On a more personal note, my mother shared her own experiences with me, and it was brought to my attention that I could have very possibly been an abortion, and would not be here today. I wrote an article explaining that story, but ultimately if I were to retract my stance, I would feel very hypocritical.
— Madison, sophomore, University of Connecticut
Becoming pro-life was not some sort of epiphany for me. Over a period of time, interactions, and experiences I came to the conclusion that I find abortion to be morally and ethically wrong. As I grew more and more in my faith, I learned that every human life is significant, including those existing inside the womb. During high school, a girl I was friends with decided to have an abortion and I saw the way it impacted her first hand. She knew that she was taking away the life of not just any human being, but of a human being in which she would share some of her own DNA with. To this day, she deals with the ‘what-ifs’ of the life she would’ve had with her child had she carried out the pregnancy. Personally, I cannot justify the fact that if you were to deliberately kill a newborn child you’d be charged with first degree murder, but intentionally terminating the life of a child just a few weeks prior to its birth can be called a human right. Many of the friends I’ve made over the course of my time in college are pro-life activists who have familiarized me with the March for Life. I’ve become more in touch with the pro-life community and have learned that I agree with nearly everything pro-lifers stand for. Over time, my pro-life views have been solidified and I proudly stand against abortion.
— Katie, Sophomore, University of Nevada - Reno
I used to be pro-choice because I thought that being pro-life meant interfering with people’s personal choices. However, when I came to college, I came to know that having an abortion meant taking away the rights of the most innocent and helpless—the babies in the womb. If we can’t grant them fundamental rights, then who’s to say that we deserve rights? Why should we get to determine who is worthy of living or not, or worthy of coming into this world, based on circumstances that may change in the future? Also, abortion takes away the unique gift that women have—being able to give birth—which to me, is not standing with women. Women deserve better than to be convinced that they don’t have what it takes to raise a child...Although I am pro-life, I would never judge anyone for having an abortion. If anything, I would want to be there for them in any way that I could be. Just because someone makes a decision that I don’t agree with doesn’t mean that I don’t care about them or look down upon them. I do care about women, especially those who have gone through the life-changing decision of having an abortion.
— Senior, George Mason University