When the Supreme Court handed down their decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Brandy Lyons was emboldened.
She became a volunteer at the Allentown Women’s Center, assisting by answering phones and relieving medical assistants.
“I felt like I had to do something,” Lyons said. “I was freaking out.”
Lyons previously worked as a nurse in labor and delivery rooms in area hospitals. The women she encountered were dealing with various kinds of pregnancies. She said these experiences have helped her work at the center because she understands the women who call each day.
Lyons said her pro-choice activism started after former president Donald Trump was elected. She said she marched in Washington D.C. to advocate for abortion rights in January 2017.
Her passion primarily stems from personal experience: in 2009, Lyons had an abortion after unintentionally getting pregnant while living in Arkansas.
“I was in a long-term relationship with someone who really cared about me,” Lyons said. “I was working as a perianesthesia nurse — it was a management position and a good job. I desperately wanted to have kids, but I knew that it wasn’t the right time.”
Lyons opted to have a medical abortion, which involves taking a pill early in pregnancy to induce an abortion.
She remembers Googling abortion clinics and finding only one in her area. The doctor there was on her last month of work, and the clinic would soon close.
“The doctor drove on the icy roads through a weather warning to bring me the pill,” Lyons said. “I don’t know what I would have done (otherwise).”
The medical abortion cost around $500 out of pocket for Lyons. She was required by Arkansas law to undergo an ultrasound and watch the screen during the procedure before she could be given the medication.
Lyons said choosing to have an abortion was the best decision she ever made.
“It turned out the guy I was with was bipolar and had been gaslighting me for like two years,” Lyons said. “No wonder my body was saying no. It was protecting me.”
Lyons would not be able to receive the same kind of abortion access in Arkansas today.
She said she felt great shame after getting the abortion and didn’t tell anyone for years. As a nurse, she said she felt she knew better than to get pregnant.
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of,” she said. “We need to do something about it because I did feel shame for so long.”
Lyons met Natascha Grief, organizer of Bans Off Lehigh Valley, after attending an abortion rally.
“People need to tell their stories because it normalizes it — it takes it out of the shadows,” Grief said. “One of the things that the anti-abortion side does so well is manipulating us into believing that it’s something that we should feel ashamed of.”
Grief said the reason they organize rallies is to expose people to this issue. She said she hopes in the future a woman won’t have to be considered “brave” for sharing her story.
Lyons enjoys working with the Allentown Women’s Center because it allows her to “keep her finger on the pulse.” She said she always knows where rallies are and how to stay active in the fight.
“My abortion changed my life,” Lyons said. “If I didn’t have that abortion, I would not have my kids now. They’re gorgeous and amazing.”