I Had A 'Secret' Abortion Before Roe v. Wade

08/06/2014 02:27 pm ET | Updated Aug 06, 2014

When an Alabama judge equates women's reproductive rights to gun rights in order to make abortion access more agreeable, the stigma that still surrounds women and abortion is made abundantly clear.

Sherry Matusoff Merfish is trying to break that stigma by sharing her own experience -- and encouraging others to do the same.

Living in Texas at the time, Matusoff Merfish ended an unplanned pregnancy before the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalized abortion in 1973. “The doctor I got in rotation at the heath center referred us to a clinic in Albuquerque, but my experience there reinforced the stigma of terminating a pregnancy because the staff there had a very negative and disparaging attitude towards the clients,” she told HuffPost Live host Ricky Camilleri. “So that definitely imprinted my experience, as well as having to keep it secret for many many years.”

Twenty-nine years after terminating a pregnancy one year before abortion was made legal, Matusoff Merfish had shared her experience with her college-bound daughters.

“I wanted to tell my daughters when they were about to embark on their college careers because I knew they would be making decisions and having experiences that would be new to them,” Matusoff Merfish said.

When Matusoff Merfish's daughter Beth wrote a column in the New York Times recounting her mother's story, the outpouring of support and appreciation convinced the pair of the power of personal narrative to humanize the abortion conversation. Along with Sherry's oldest daughter Brett, the Matusoff Merfish women founded "Not Alone" to encourage women who have had an abortion to share their stories, primarily via videos uploaded to YouTube.

"The whole idea that the woman who has had an abortion is a construct -- who is not someone you know -- is a fallacy. One in three women under the age of 45 will exercise their right to a safe, legal medical procedure," Sherry Matusoff Merfish told HuffPost Live. “Once you know someone, [you realize] that person can be you…,” she said. “That changes the conversation dramatically.”

Watch the full HuffPost Live conversation here.

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