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An abortion ‘saved my life,’ and this bestselling author explains why

"I was experiencing one of the worst bouts of depression I have ever experienced," Erika L. Sánchez said in a recent interview as she discussed her new memoir.
Crying in the Bathroom by Erika L. Sanchez
Penguin Random House

New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist Erika L. Sánchez wrote about an abortion she had several years ago in her third and recently published book, “Crying in the Bathroom.”

Sánchez, 38, an award-winning Latina poet, essayist and novelist, wrote her memoir before the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade. But she is using her book's release and press tour to talk about her experience and why having the procedure was critical for her.

The abortion took place during an “incredibly terrible time,” as she suffered from a severe bout of depression, she told MSNBC host Alicia Menendez on her show, “American Voices.”

“I am certain the procedure saved my life," Sánchez said.

“It’s really critical that women, whoever, have access to abortion, whenever they need it,” Sánchez told Menendez.

Sánchez opens up about her experiences in her memoir, including dealing with suicidal thoughts and coping with depression.

In an interview with USA Today, Sánchez said she was “almost certain” she would have committed suicide if it hadn’t been for the abortion. “I just couldn’t go on,” she said.

Sánchez's previous book, “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter,” was a New York Times bestseller and National Book Award finalist. She is also the author of “Lesson on Expulsion,” a poetry collection, and she has written for years in many publications, including NBC Latino.

Erika Sanchez
Erika Sánchez at the National Book Awards in 2017.Evan Agostini / Invision / AP

Sánchez, a writer-in-residence and the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz chair of Latin American and Latino Studies at DePaul University, is putting a spotlight on the issue of mental illness, describing how she underwent treatment for depression by undergoing electroconvulsive therapy and spending time in a psychiatric ward.

“People believe that mental illness is some sort of choice, that you can snap out of it, that you can fix your illness if you try hard enough and think positively, drink — certain elixirs — it’s just not the truth,” Sánchez said.

“It’s an illness that really takes over your entire life, and you need a medical specialist to determine what it is that you are suffering from and to get the right kind of treatment,” she said. "I think oftentimes there's this idea you need to suffer through it or go to church or speak to your pastor, but that's not the way mental illness works."

Her memoir also tackles life growing up in a working-class Mexican immigrant household in Chicago, exploring her sexuality, religion and feminism and grappling with racism and colorism.

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