Rebecca's Story

Harpers magazine asked Rebecca Walker what she would say to a woman if she were the physician required to discuss abortion due to the then-new state-mandated 24 hour waiting period in Pennsylvania in 1992. Here is her response. (reprinted with permission)

Because you have come to this office for an abortion, I trust you have already thought about what you are doing. So I hope that these words do not sound condescending, but instead will encourage you to see that your abortion can be a rebellious and empowering act. It is an act through which you can assert yourself; one which can enable you to feel more connected to women around the world. Indeed, it is a surgical operation with a mission.

I hope it does not shock you that I view abortion positively, but in light of the role it played in my own life, I have no choice. When I was fourteen I was madly in love with a boy from around the way. He was my first lover, and we spent many days and nights rolling around my little bedroom, experimenting and generally having a great time. Even though I was on the Pill, one month I missed my period and soon found myself at the foot of my mother's bed telling her I was pregnant. Two weeks later I was in the doctor's office with my little family. I remember worrying that the white doctor was racist and might try to sterilize me. When the relatively easy and painless procedure was over, we went to the movies.

That part is easy. It is what happens after the abortion that is crucial. I hope that what happened to me after my abortion happens to you too: that you'll begin to understand what it would mean to have little or no control of your body and your life. That you'll begin to think, as I did, of what you would have been prevented from doing had you been forced to have a child you did not want. That lack of control, that inability to direct and regulate one's own life, is precisely the experience of many women in this country, and nine out of ten women in the world. Whether it is because abortion is illegal, unaffordable or culturally despised, many women suffer through forced childbirth with no advocate and no relief. When a woman must spend her life raising three, five, ten or fifteen children, the power to choose is no longer hers.

In the months and years that followed my abortion, I have not once felt remorse, guilt, or even the slightest sense of longing for the child I would have had. I have not been depressed, nor have I thought myself a murderer. Instead I have been grateful -- grateful to my mother for paying for and seeing me through the procedure; grateful to all of the women who fought so hard to make abortion safe, legal and a woman's right.

Today you will claim that right. My hope is that after your abortion you will commit some part of your life to making sure that others are able to claim their own rights. By doing this, you will use your abortion to connect you with women everywhere. You will connect your very special personal with the very important political, and you will begin to know your own power.

Rebecca Walker is a writer, activist, and cofounder of Third Wave, a national multicultural organization for young women. [copyright 1992]

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"Don't compromise yourself. You are all you've got."
- Janis Joplin (1943-1970)

This text is available in a full color poster from FWHC.