Scarlett's Story

I was 19 and two weeks away from my wedding when I had my abortion. I am now 45 yrs. old. In 1975, the abortion laws had just become legal. Free love, sex and just about anything was rampant. Feminists were just starting to really come into their own. I had a boyfriend in high school, was sexually active, but never got pregnant. We never even discussed the possibilities if it should happen.

When I left my home state to go to college, I became involved with a boy several years older, and more worldly, than I was. I knew about birth control, but we never used it. When I became pregnant, I was scared. In those days also, once you were past a certain time, there was no way anyone would do an abortion. You had to find someone doing it illegally, so I lied about how far along I was. Ultrasounds weren't "in vogue" then, so the doctor believed me.

There was only one clinic in the city where I went to college. My boyfriend and I were engaged at the time, and he had gone to Florida to start his last year at college and to get us set up with an apartment. I stayed behind making wedding plans. The more I thought about being pregnant, the more I realized I was repeating the same mistake my mother made. She wasn't ready for children when she married, and because of her religion, never used birth control and had one child after another. I was the one who always ended up taking care of them.

I wanted something better for myself. I always thought if I had had more courage or had been more of a person, I would have had the baby and given it up for adoption. But I was scared, I was embarrassed, and there was still the stigma that "good girls don't." When I went to the clinic, I was given a psychological exam. I passed by telling them I just couldn't keep it. The whole process took longer than normal because I had lied about being so far along. I could see the machines and hear the noises, and I knew the doctor and nurses were very angry with me. I didn't care.

When it was over, my girlfriend drove me home. My boyfriend was furious with me for doing it behind his back and kept saying we had a responsibility. No amount of explaining how I felt about the whole thing did any good. It put a rift between us, but we never spoke of it. At first, I felt enormous relief I wasn't pregnant. My life would go on. Then later, I had to deal with a great deal of guilt because I looked at it from a religious point of view. It was almost unbearable.

Consequently, I had many female problems after my abortion which eventually lead to an early hysterectomy. For many years, I told myself this was my punishment for what I had done. My feelings of guilt also lead to an estranged marriage, and many broken relationships after. I couldn't stand to have a man near me for fear of getting pregnant again. It wasn't until my own daughters were grown and having some of the same problems I had had, that I learned to forgive myself. It still causes me a great deal of pain when I go to the doctor and have to reveal how many times I've been pregnant.

Although abortion is a very personal choice, I don't think it is one that should be taken "as a means out." I have never told my daughters I had the abortion, and when they were growing up, my biggest fear was that they would get pregnant. We spoke very openly of sex and protection. I told them I loved them and would always stand behind them, but there was no excuse for them to get pregnant with all the education and free protection that was available these days. I don't know if I've jaded them for life. Both lead alternative life styles, but seem to be happy. Now that I am going through menopause, I have finally found relief and am at peace within myself. I still think about "my little one" from time to time, and since I am a believer in reincarnation, I can only hope he found a mother stronger than I was.

21 July 2001

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"i know the biggest crime
is just to throw up your hands
this has nothing to do with me
i just want to live as comfortably as i can"

-ani difranco