In honor of the 10th anniversary of my abortion...
Ten years ago, when I was 21, I had
At the time I was just out of college and had just begun a
new relationship. We had had sex once without using a condom (before that, I never
believed women who said "Just once!") with the predictable result.
took me nearly nine weeks to figure out I was pregnant. Since my periods had always
been irregular and accompanied by fairly severe PMS, I didn't worry when my period
was late and my breasts got sore. Once I began feeling queasy all day, though,
I realized that something was amiss and took a pregnancy test.
was positive. I was enraged at myself, shamed, angry that I had made such a stupid,
thoughtless mistake. Wasn't I the one who everyone came to at school when they
needed condoms? Hadn't I been careful up to that point? How could I do this to
myself? There was no question of what I was to do; the realization that I was
pregnant made me feel like an animal in a trap. I called the local clinic.
week later, I had an abortion at ten and a half weeks past my last period. The
doctor who did the procedure was a private gynecologist with her own clinic in
a converted small house. The place was quiet and comfortable and very private;
there were no protesters outside at the time. I was tense and asking dozens of
questions, which the nurse and counselor met with good humor. Even the doctor
commented that I asked a lot of questions during the procedure. I'd done my research
prior to going in but still wanted to know what was going on.
About a half
hour after my abortion, the friend who'd come with me drove me to get breakfast
and then home. The feelings I'd been expecting didn't hit me until later that
afternoon, after the residual effects of the tranquilizers had worn off.
felt relief. I felt immense gratitude toward the women who had helped me. I felt
powerful, because I had gotten my life back. I felt humbled, because other women
had braved disapproval and harassment to provide abortion services in my small
town. And I swore two things: first, that I'd never get into that position again,
and second, that I'd do what I could to continue to preserve choice in my community
and in the country as a whole.
About five years later I became a peer counselor
with the local Planned Parenthood. Talking to other women, telling them about
my own abortion, and hearing their stories was an incredibly liberating experience.
After a few years of working at Planned Parenthood, I moved to a job at the clinic
where I'd had my abortion. The same doctor still ran it, the same counselor still
worked there; only the nurse was different.
When a woman would call and
say, "I'm so ashamed to be calling you" my first response was always,
"I've had an abortion, too. It's okay." Without fail, the women on the
other end of the phone would say that I was the first person ever to admit so
readily to having had an abortion. Ironically enough, I was also the only woman
working at the clinic who'd ever had one! Many women expressed disbelief that
we were so "nice" and so "caring", as though they expected
to be punished for their choice. By that time, there were protesters lining the
sidewalk on procedure days; we did our best (with the help of a committed group
of escorts) to keep their message, that a post-abortive woman would be punished,
from taking hold.
Eventually the doctor retired and the clinic closed, but
people still recognize me from that job. Once in a while a woman will steal up
to me in a restaurant or the grocery store and quietly ask me to thank the women
in the clinic for their work.
I'm proud of the job that I had. I'm still
inexpressibly grateful for my doctor, for the women who cared for me, and for
the ability to choose to end a pregnancy I neither planned nor wanted. I'm humbled
that I got to be a part of the fight for a woman's right to choose her destiny--for
the fight for reproductive rights is nothing less than the ability to choose how
one's life will unfold. And every time I think of that abortion and the circumstances
around it, my determination to continue to make a difference is renewed.
I'm studying to become a nurse. The man with whom I got pregnant has been my husband
for the last eight years. I count myself lucky in many ways, but these two might
be the most important: having an abortion gave me my life back. It also awakened
a love for the work of helping women understand and respect their bodies. And
it gave and continues to give me huge respect for the people who provide abortion
and reproductive health services every day in the face of continuing pressure
from anti-choice forces.
Thanks for the opportunity to tell somebody my
story. It's been on my mind the last few days, but this isn't something you can
just send to the newspaper.Meg
11 December 2001
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