The Abortion Diarist

Melissa Madera, Ph.D.

Founder and Director | Austin, TX or (sometimes) on the road with the podcast

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @drmelissamadera

Instagram:  @theabortiondiarist



Originally from Washington Heights, New York, Melissa (a.k.a. the abortion diarist) is a  first generation Dominican-American, and the Jill of all trades at The Abortion Diary. She is also the Senior Project Manager and Research Fellow for Project SANA (Self-managed Abortion Needs Assessment) at the University of Texas, Austin.

Melissa has traveled the world with her podcast, and is a story-sharer and dedicated story-listener.  She is also a recovering academic, multimedia historian, full-spectrum doula, and a bilingual reproductive justice educator and advocate. She has also been a high school teacher, adjunct college professor, and Gynecological Teaching Associate, and has trained in Restorative Therapeutic Yoga (as well as an Anusara Yoga 200 hour YTT), Thai Yoga Bodywork, and Reiki I.

Dr. Madera is also the curator of “ar·ti·facts: abortion stories and histories,” a traveling multimedia exhibit. This exhibition gives voice to untold and silenced experiences through audio stories, images, and objects; ar·ti·facts gathered by Melissa over the past three years for The Abortion Diary.  Additionally, Melissa co-created The Mother Wit Conference, which offers people of all ages a safe environment to speak about the full spectrum of womb experiences, including infertility, miscarriage, abortion and post-partum depression.

Her own abortion story and the deep impact sharing it (13 years later) had on her, her family, friends and complete strangers inspired her to create The Abortion Diary. Melissa travels across the country, and around the world creating spaces for personal abortion story-sharing, story listening, and capturing diverse abortion experiences; stories that are as different as the people who share them. She has travelled to 27 states across the United States, over 10 European cities, Canada, The Dominican Republic, and Thailand with the podcast. Since beginning the project in July 2013, she has listened to and recorded over 300 people share their reproductive experiences. These experiences are quite diverse across geographic location (36 U.S. states and 21 countries), socioeconomic background, age (18-85.5), ethnicity, race, religion, and gender, and span from the late 1950s to 2019. Melissa has been featured on the front page of  The Washington Post, on NPR’s Weekend Edition,  a Q&A with Cosmopolitan Magazine,  Latina.comThePool.comRewire, Q&A with Cosmopolitan Magazine, Univision, MSNBC and The Daily Dot

Screen Shot 2016-02-26 at 9.49.01 AM (1)

Melissa holds a B.A. in History from Baruch College (CUNY), a Master of Science in Social Studies Education from Pace University, and a Master of Arts and a Ph.D. in Latin American and Caribbean History from The State University of New York at Binghamton. Her research on gender, public health and reproductive practices in the Dominican Republic led her to become involved in the contemporary global movements for reproductive justice.  She was also the 2015-2016 Laura C. Harris Fellow in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Denison University, where she taught classes in Latinx Studies, and Reproductive Justice.

Melissa on the road with the podcast in Berlin.
Melissa on the road with the podcast in Berlin.

Melissa is currently writing a book based on her experiences traveling with The Abortion Diary in the U.S. and abroad, building community, and sharing abortion stories with strangers for this project, and curating a traveling multimedia exhibit, “ar·ti·facts: abortion stories and histories.” Her writing has been featured in BroadlySelf Magazine and Nursing Clio.

When she’s not story-listening or working on all the other abortion diary things, she can be found practicing yoga, cycling, swimming, knitting, reading and watching science fiction or exploring the great outdoors. You can also find information about Melissa at and Empowering The Body.  

Melissa is available for speaking engagements, artist talks, workshops, classroom visits, public lectures and conversations. Programming with the ar·ti·facts exhibit can vary. She works with audiences to engage with the exhibit, foster dialogue, and gather stories from their own communities. For more information, please e-mail her at [email protected]

Click on the pins on the map to find out where Melissa has travelled to over the past three and a half years to listen to and record stories. Use the -/+ buttons to zoom in and out.