Angela's Story

I was just looking around the web and found your site. Wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed it, a lot of good and sensitive information. Here is the story about my abortion. Not only do I think I will feel better for sharing it, but if anyone else can relate or feel less alone, it will be worth it. Keep up the good it goes....

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As a college student, I was strongly pro-choice. A rather liberal thinker as it was, I took a keen interest in women's health issues. The way our bodies worked fascinated me. I have memories of myself walking across campus in a T-shirt depicting some praying hands that said "Keep Your Hands Out of My Womb". I felt empowered. At the same time, there was always something very maternal and nurturing about me. I really did love children. My mother recalls me, even as a young child, being the one that babies smiled at in the store, the one who all of my young cousins gravitated toward.

In college, I worked in a day care while going through school. The children made me feel happy. They also made me feel sad when I saw some of their home lives, but that's another story. I felt some slight dissonance here....on one hand was the me that was an honor student, an intellectual, a liberal. On the other hand was the me that loved to hold children and bake cookies. I didn't realize at the time that the two didn't need to be mutually exclusive.

So I took my pills like a good girl, studied hard, and got my degree. I moved in with my long-term boyfriend after college. 28 days later I noticed that something was missing. Namely, my period. I bought a home test when he was at work, and was shocked but not necessarily unpleasantly shocked when I saw the two little lines. I thought about it all day long as I sat through my fifth day of my first "real job" after college at a local mental health center. After work, I went to the bookstore and bought a pregnancy book. I touched my belly in disbelief. Something was in there! I had only 20 dollars and a tank of gas to my name, but my job had started and there was more in my future. "Options" did not enter my head. I was having my baby. The only options that would exist were that Paul would or wouldn't be there, and those were the options that only he could decide. I was nervous but determined.

I told Paul. He was wonderful. He held my hand and we sat outside on the picnic table and pondered the "options". I began to realize that abortion was an option he would consider, but I still wouldn't. He stated that whatever I wanted to do, he would be with me 100%. I was so relieved. To think that I'd doubted him! I told him I wanted the baby. And he said all of the right things, that the baby would not grow up without a father, that he was happy with me and always wanted children. But I saw it there in his eyes, a brief flicker of emotion that he couldn't hide from me -- he was disappointed. He'd wanted an abortion.

Over the next week or so, the anxiety began to build. Paul and I spent a lot of time together, were very loving toward each other and very encouraging, but the nervousness that he had was growing quickly and while it wasn't spoken, I could definitely feel it. He wasn't eating well. His ulcer had flared up and he was throwing up blood. I would wake up in the middle of the night to see him, staring wide-eyed into space. I felt guilty, like it was somehow my fault for wanting to have the baby. I finally brought up the subject one night, inviting him to talk about it with me. An outpouring of emotions came out. I had never seen him so upset. I sat with him until 4:00 in the morning, vaguely nauseous from morning sickness. I felt guilty and selfish. He was freaking out.

Finally, in the middle of the night, I looked at him directly and asked what he wanted. He admitted the truth. He would rather not have the baby. Full of fear for his well-being and "obligation" feelings after he'd been so nice to me when I told him about the pregnancy, I told him, "Well, then, we won't have it. I'll call the abortion clinic in the morning. This is something we should both want. We can do this later in life when it's right for us both." I told him it was okay. In my heart it was not. I kept thinking that in the morning, when the sun came back out, things would be calmer and I could tell him I didn't really want an abortion.

But I called the clinic in the morning and made an appointment, still in the back of my mind planning to cancel it. Paul became more relaxed, I was more upset. He tried to comfort me, tell me everything would be all right. But it wasn't. The day before the appointment, I canceled it. Paul had taken the next day off of work so we could go together. I told him on the phone. Mr. Nice Guy was gone for a little while. "But you told me you were going to have the abortion!" Suddenly the promises of being with me no matter what changed to promises of watching the baby every now and then, down to talk of financial support only, and finally to thoughts of leaving for "this great job in Colorado". We were in Michigan. He called me back after we got off the phone and quickly apologized. He hadn't meant all that stuff, he said, he was just stressed. Come home and we'll talk. I came home, he tried to be kind and comforting, he apologized.... but I was just numb. Numb and disappointed.

I had the abortion. The whole time I sat in the clinic I thought about walking out, but just didn't quite have the guts. The counselor asked me if I was making this decision for myself. I lied and told her yes. I wish she had known I was lying, but how could I expect that? They did an ultrasound and I made them show me. They looked a little uncomfortable, like they didn't want to upset me by it. 8 weeks pregnant. It was quite small, but unmistakably there. They passed out Dixie cups with a little Valium pill. All of the women were in this large room and they called out our names, one at a time, to take the pills. They called mine first. I felt like telling them I didn't think I wanted to have an abortion, but I dutifully swallowed the little pills so as not to hold up the line. In a little while, I was more relaxed. Paul sat in the waiting room, holding my hand.

"We'll get through this together," he told me. No we won't, I thought dully. They would not let him into the room with me. He would be in the waiting room while I put my feet into the stirrups. He would be reading Calvin and Hobbes while I had a date with the vacuum aspirator. But I didn't say that. "Okay."

The procedure itself was over quickly. The nurse held my hand, and the doctor was quite gentle. I remember crying in the reclining chair when it was over, and the doctor asked me if I was in pain. I told him that I wasn't in PHYSICAL pain. He patted my head and told me it would be okay, that I'd done well. I appreciated that, and wanted to believe him.

The abortion has disturbed me since then. I remember being utterly depressed in the weeks that followed, crying and saying "I want my baby" over and over. It gradually got a little better, but I still thought about it quite a bit. I was angry at Paul, but stuck with him anyway. I wished he had been a complete jerk when I'd told him I was pregnant and he had taken off on me. Then I would have had less sympathy for him and not have been swayed. I stayed with him physically, but emotionally I was in my own world.

What was going on here? Pro-choice woman that I was, wasn't I supposed to feel relieved? Empowered? Content? Grateful for this country in which I could terminate my pregnancy safely? I began to rethink my beliefs. Maybe I wasn't what I thought I was. Maybe I really was better suited to domesticity and motherhood than this career and academic world. Maybe abortion rights weren't so great.

I toyed with these ideas for a while, and even went to a pro-life clinic that offered post-abortion counseling. One of the counselors herself had aborted and felt distress like I did. I must admit they were quite kind. I was afraid they were going to condemn me, but they didn't. They were starting a group, would I like to come? I agreed. Prior to the group, I came to pick up my workbook. There was one young woman in the waiting room, nobody else. I walked up to the receptionist and told her I had come to pick up my post-abortion workbook. She quickly pulled me into a side room and asked in hushed tones "What's your name, dear? I want to protect your privacy so I pulled you aside. I don't want everyone out there to KNOW." She meant well, and she put my workbook into a brown bag so I wouldn't have to face the "shame" of carrying it out into the lobby where one harmless-looking young woman sat. I took it out of the brown bag and displayed it openly. I was not going to hush about this. I started to feel empowered for the first time. I carried it boldly up the steps of the apartment complex, waving it in greeting to our neighbor.

Yes, I had an abortion. Yes, I am sad. But I will not be ashamed. To put it mildly, the group ended up not being for me. The women, in their own way, were really trying to help, but when I opened the workbook and turned to the pages in the Bible study where I was told that, yes, I was a sinner, but if I would just repent it would be okay, I didn't quite agree. As it was, I had put everyone else before myself. Paul's feelings, my family's feelings, my employers, my baby that I feared so much would not get enough from just me. And I felt wretched for doing it. Now I was a sinner, to boot? I will be forever grateful to those women, but not for the reasons they might expect. Hearing that helped me to crawl from my pit of self-pity and dust myself off.

I slowly began to take responsibility for myself. I talked to Paul about my anger, which is still there at times. I examined my feelings of deep "gratitude" to him for trying to support me, which is actually MY RIGHT! After all, I didn't force him to have sex. It took us both to make that baby. He talked to me about his guilt, knowing that his lack of rising to the occasion had been a deciding factor in the abortion decision. I started to look at myself. What was going on inside of me that made me discount my own judgment and listen to what others wanted me to do?

I have come full-circle. Something inside of me clicked when I was reading about the 25th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade this past January, on the 2nd anniversary of my would-be child's due date.

PRO-CHOICE. I slowly examined the words in the bold print on the front page. Pro-choice. It doesn't say "pro-abortion", it says "pro-choice". I may choose what happens to my body. I may choose if I am pregnant whether to end the pregnancy or carry it to term. I may choose to keep the child I bear or give it up for adoption. Nobody else may choose. All of the laws were in place to protect my choice, but I did not protect it myself. My choice would have been to raise my child. But I gave my power away.

As I type this, I'm wearing the T-shirt that I proudly displayed in college. "Keep Your Hands Out of My Womb". And I mean it, more than ever before. Because I won't let anyone else's hands in there anymore. I'm taking the power back.

April 1998

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The April 1998 World Bank Safe Motherhood Conference reported that as many as 200,000 women DIE each year worldwide from unsafe abortions. Nearly 600,000 women die each year during pregnancy and childbirth.