Kerry Washington on Having an Abortion in Her 20s, Giving a Fake Name

Kerry Washington is revealing for the first time that she had an abortion in her late 20s and used a fake name to keep the procedure a secret.

In an excerpt from her upcoming book, Thicker Than Water: A Memoir, that appears in Time, the 46-year-old actress shares the lengths she went to in order to keep her abortion a secret and how her cover was almost blown, when the nurse helping the doctor perform the abortion asked her if she knew she looked like the actress Kerry Washington.

“I sat in the waiting room and completed the paperwork with false information: a made-up name, a pretend address, a nonexistent email,” Washington writes in her memoir. “I remember looking around the room and wondering about the circumstances of the other women there. Were they pregnant, too? Did they want to be? Were they wondering the same about me?”

At that point in her career, Washington says she wasn’t yet famous but her “star was on the rise.” 

“But my work had not become an impediment to how I traveled through the world,” she continues. “Still, I wanted to be careful, wanted this procedure to remain private.”

Washington says the nurse treated her with great kindness and reminded her to stay calm and breathe through the procedure. But then, she writes, she felt the nurse lingered as if “trying to solve a problem.”

“As the doctor opened my cervix and inserted the thin vacuum tube, the nurse looked down at me, smiled, and very gently said, ‘Do you know who you look like?'” Washington writes in her book. “I think she was trying to comfort me, to tell me that even though this moment was incredibly difficult, she could see the beauty in me, could see that I reminded her of a movie star. She said my real name. I could hear it under the muffled sound of the water in which I was drowning. Kerry Washington. It was my name, but the version she was calling out had nothing to do with me. And so, in that moment, I didn’t know who I was.”

In her introduction to the excerpt, Washington writes she decided to go public about her abortion all these years later because the shame and embarrassment she felt — while remaining silent and hiding her personal truth — made her “complicit in a culture of secrecy that shames women, our bodies, our choices, and our power.”

She added, “As I was writing my memoir, however, I realized how important it is to speak openly about experiences that have been kept in the dark, because when we do so we liberate ourselves and each other. The reality is that abortion is a very real and normal part of women’s lives. I share the story of my abortion procedure because our right to make choices about our bodies and our lives is under attack both culturally and legislatively. This is my story. I am one of many. And we will not be silenced.”

David Buchan/Shutterstock

Washington’s memoir chronicles her struggles with disordered eating, suicidal thoughts, having an abortion and childhood trauma. Speaking with ET recently at a book signing at Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club Gymnasium, in her hometown of Bronx, New York, Washington admitted that she wasn’t always sure she wanted to bare her most profound secrets to the world, but she doesn’t regret it.

“I think every day I sat down to write, I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ because I’ve been so private. But it just felt like if I was gonna tell this story I wanted to tell enough of the story to feel as true as possible,” she confessed. “I was really, I think in a lot of ways, just trying to make sense of my journey, so the parts that I’m sharing are the parts that I think are important to put the puzzle pieces together.”

Thicker Than Water: A Memoir is available now. 


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