I awoke to a chorus of muffled sobs and occasional sighs. Where the hell was I? In the dim fluorescent light of an antiseptic-infused room, my whereabouts began to take shape.
New whimpers accompanied the requiem as nearby occupants stirred from drug-induced slumber and remembered. I don’t know if I cried. Instead, I observed the distant murmur of my beating heart, and slow formation of ice crystals protecting it.
I was nineteen and in love for the first time. We met the year before, having the time of our lives, until we didn’t. Like other teenagers playing roulette with birth control. I was late.
I called for test results from a pay phone at the restaurant where I was having lunch with a college buddy. It seems an odd thing to do now, but I just couldn’t wait, still clinging to a sliver of hope for a negative result that I could celebrate with my friend. The handset clicked back into place, and I returned to our table. I couldn’t bear the weight of my situation, so I asked about other friends from school and kept quiet about my late-breaking news.
Thanks to Roe v. Wade and a multitude of devoted feminists, I had a choice. I could have the baby, give the baby up for adoption, or schedule an abortion. I don’t remember discussing it much with my boyfriend, I think my decision was made when I disconnected the call at the restaurant. He was drifting through college, I had dropped out of school to find myself, and was still searching. We were immature and reckless, and more than flirting with drugs and alcohol. I couldn’t imagine us as great parents. Low expectations and ruining a child’s life was not something I could commit to.
I was terrified of marriage and motherhood since I was old enough to think it through. My older brothers made disastrous choices with their marriages and parenting; I didn’t want history to repeat itself. Would I be a good mother? I had no money and no faith that I could. I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to marry and have children. I chose hope instead. Hope for a better life for myself and my children, if I decided to have any. I made an appointment at the clinic.
We arrived anticipating the gauntlet of protesters brandishing images of aborted fetuses, screaming, “murderers,” and crushing the air between us with their fists. Catholic high school subjected us routinely to abortion presentations with the same horrific photos, so I was somewhat prepared for the ambush of strangers determined to dictate my future.
We made it inside without physical harm, but my boyfriend was furious and shattered. He wasn’t exposed to the same propaganda in public high school, but coming from a devout, Irish-catholic family, he was wrestling with his own demons. I completed the paperwork with robotic efficiency and found a seat.
The waiting area was filled, occupied by people resisting eye contact and conversation. A forty-something woman took the seat beside me. We nodded hello and stared off into space. Moments later she started to cry. She told me her family couldn’t afford another mouth to feed and made the appointment without telling her husband. I think we held hands. My heart went out to her, briefly forgetting my own worries, considering the gravity of the choice for her family’s well-being, and so thankful we had options.
Afterwards, we drove silently to a cheap motel. I don’t remember speaking for hours, the residual effects of sedation, and an icebound heart, blanketed and blank. As I laid there staring at the TV, my boyfriend snuggled up beside me eventually attempting intimacy. Horrified almost as soon as he began, he apologized and left to collect himself or drown his sorrows. It was forty years ago; his emotional state was not my first concern at the time. But forty years later, we’re facing the same old debate about women’s rights.
I’ll never convince the pro-life radicals that they have no business in my business. That while entitled to their opinion, my body is not theirs to legislate from congress. I can’t fathom how they rationalize judgment over empathy in the name of God, yet turn their backs on the poor children and parents struggling to survive their “pro-life” hypocrisy. That authoritarian position has played out again and again from The Inquisition to the Witch Trials, and 300 years later, women are back at square one, legislated and manipulated for political gain and glory.
So, why share this story: in solidarity with all mothers and daughters. For hope, and opportunity of our own making, as I had, untethered from government-dictated poverty and struggle. The same choice given to men, realized and resolved for good with my vote, the votes of all others who support equality, and the steadfast advocacy for an unalterable constitutional amendment.
Supporting Reproductive Rights
This is a critical time in our fight to preserve access to abortion and reproductive healthcare. We believe that every action counts. Here are three things you can do.
- Fight stigmatization by sharing your story and/or supporting people who have shared their stories. Supportive comments and likes make a big difference to the people who have chosen to share their personal experiences.
- Reach out to your representatives on the federal, state, and local levels and tell them that you want them to pass legislation that protects reproductive rights including abortion access.
- Donate to organizations committed to protecting access to safe and legal abortions. This writer recommended Planned Parenthood for the work they are doing to ensure access.