In February, Paris Hilton shared for the first time that she’d gotten an abortion in her 20s. Now, in an excerpt from her upcoming memoir, Paris: The Memoir, Hilton divulges further details about her abortion experience. She hopes to demystify what happened, she writes, because she wants other people faced with the same decision “to know that they’re not alone, and [that] they don’t owe anyone an explanation.”
“Paris Hilton: Why I’m Telling My Abortion Story Now,” which was published in Time on Tuesday, drops readers into the year 2003, in the months leading up to the premiere of The Simple Life. At the time, Hilton says she was having a “glorious…wild-child moment,” clubbing “almost every night” and hamming it up for the paparazzi with co-star Nicole Richie. But the glitz of that moment “all came crashing down” when Hilton realized she was pregnant as a 22-year-old and began to feel the physical and emotional effects of her unplanned pregnancy on her body:
“It was like waking up on the ledge outside a 40th-floor window. I was terrified and heartsick. The hormones sent my ADHD symptoms spiraling. Everything I knew about myself was at war with everything I’d been raised to believe about abortion. No one can ever know how hard it is to face this impossible choice unless she’s faced it herself.”
At the time, Hilton had been dating a model named Jason Shaw for nearly two years, who she describes as a “lovely, down-to-earth guy” with a degree in history and a Tommy Hilfiger billboard in Times Square under his belt. Shaw bought a house for them, Hilton writes, but she knew she “wasn’t in the right place to make any sort of commitment.” “It had nothing to do with him or a baby,” she continued. “I just wasn’t capable of being honest or loyal or whole.”
The fantasy of a perfect family tempted Hilton, but she knew that the trauma she was going through—healing from sexual assault and her time in a “troubled teen” institution—meant that “there was no happy little family at stake.” Going through with the pregnancy “would have been a train wreck for everyone involved,” and at that moment in time Hilton knew she “was in no way capable of being a mother.” Or at least, not just yet. Hilton understood that going through with the pregnancy would’ve “jeopardized the forever family” she’d dreamed of for the future. She would try again, she knew, but only when she was on her way to healing and better health.
“Choosing to have an abortion can be an intensely private agony that’s impossible to explain,” Hilton writes. “The only reason I’m talking about it now is that so many women are facing it, and they feel so alone and judged and abandoned…When there is no right way—all that’s left is what is. What you know you have to do. And you do it, even though it breaks your heart.”
Hilton says she’s often looked back on this period in her life with “sorrow,” wondering whether she did the right thing. But she knows her vision of family—the family she has now with husband Carter Reum—wouldn’t be possible without the decision to get an abortion.
“I know I wouldn’t have this life if I hadn’t made that difficult choice in my early 20s,” she says. “Women need to control their reproductive destiny. We need to know ourselves, trust ourselves, and know what’s right for us—and when—and stay in the driver’s seat.”