Jemima Kirke Tells The World About Her Abortion

In 2007, British artist and actress Jemima Kirke, otherwise known as Jessa Johansson of HBO's Girls, received an abortion. Kirke has been open about her choice for years, and now, she's partnering with the Center for Reproductive Rights' Draw the Line campaign to share her story and build support for "every woman’s constitutional rights and access to safe, legal, high-quality reproductive health care."

"My name is Jemima Kirke, and I live in New York City," Kirke begins. "I'm an artist and an actress and a mother of two." When Kirke became pregnant by her college boyfriend, she continues, she knew she wasn't prepared to raise a "healthy, happy child." Kirke couldn't tell her mother, and so she emptied her checking account and pooled funds with her boyfriend to pay for the procedure. 

She didn't have enough to pay for anesthesia, however. "I realized that if I didn't take the anesthesia, I would be able to afford to do this," Kirke recalls. "The anesthesia wasn't that much more, but when you're scrounging for however many hundreds of dollars — [it] was a lot — I just didn't have it."

Kirke's difficulty procuring treatment shows only a sliver of the tremendous systemic barriers facing U.S. women in need of abortions. The National Women's Law Center reports that over 50% of women who receive an abortion pay over a third of their monthly income for the procedure; for low-income women, this cost can mean foregoing personal necessities such as food and shelter for themselves and their families. 

And, because of the Hyde Amendment — which dates back to 1977 and prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions "except in cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest" — it's illegal for Medicaid to provide low-income women with abortion coverage in any other circumstances. Hopefully, Kirke's testimony will shed further light on the barriers preventing countless American women from accessing the medical care they've decided is best for them.
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