Dirty Dancing Star Jennifer Grey Shares the Story of the Abortion That Changed Her Life

When the Supreme Court decided to reverse an almost 50-year precedent by overturning Roe v. Wade and thus eliminating access to safe, legal abortion for many, it renewed Jennifer Grey‘s desire to speak out about just how life-changing her own abortion was.

The Dirty Dancing star told the Los Angeles Times in an interview about her new memoir this week that she “feel[s] so emotional,” following the ruling. “Even though I’ve seen it coming, even though we’ve been hearing what’s coming, it doesn’t feel real.” She later added that what is happening right now “is just so fundamentally wrong, and it is sounding a bell for all women to rise up and use their voice now because we have assumed, since 1973, that our choice was safe and that it was never going to be overturned.”

In the book, titled Out of the Corner, Grey also recalls her own abortion and path towards motherhood. “When I try to imagine my own daughter at 16, playing house, essentially living with a grown-ass man, doing tons of blow, popping Quaaludes, and going to Studio [54]—not to mention being lied to, cheated on, then gifted with various and sundry STDs and unwanted pregnancies, it makes me feel physically ill,” she wrote. “No teenager should be swimming in waters that dark.” And while she was always careful about birth control and felt empowered by her sexual freedom at that age, she told the Times that her abortion still took a serious toll on her psyche. “It’s such a grave decision. And it stays with you,” she confided, although she also recognizes that she undoubtedly made the right decision. “I wouldn’t have my life. I wouldn’t have had the career I had, I wouldn’t have had anything,” she added. “And it wasn’t for lack of taking it seriously. I’d always wanted a child. I just didn’t want a child as a teenager. I didn’t want a child where I was [at] in my life.” And thanks to that procedure, she was able to have her first daughter, Stella, on her own terms at age 41 with her ex-husband, Clark Gregg.

Grey says that she’s also incredibly thankful to have been a part of the 1987 film Dirty Dancing as it helped show the general public just how dangerous illegal abortions could be at a time when it was something people didn’t really talk about. In the film set in 1963, a decade before Roe, the character Penny played by Cynthia Rhodes has an unplanned pregnancy and must undergo an illegal abortion that results in a botched procedure and a painful recovery. Grey said of that film, “We saw someone who was hemorrhaging. We saw what happens to people without means—the haves and the have nots. I love that part of the storyline because it was really a feminist movie in a rom-com. It was a perfect use of history.”

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