My first abortion was on my 19th birthday, March 12, 1990. I was a student in a Licensed Practical Nurse program, and I was dating my high school sweetheart, Mikey. My primary care doctor at that time still was my childhood pediatrician. I had been prescribed birth control, but I didn’t really know how to use it effectively. Sometimes I would take two to three in a day because I had missed them in the previous days. I got pregnant. The closest place I could have an abortion was 90 miles away, so my boyfriend drove me there and back. At the clinic, I was taken to a private room with a bed and asked to gown-up. I was given a tablet and a paper cup of water. The next thing I remember was waking up having had a surgical abortion. I had a little discomfort after, but not much. Being that young, I suppose I’m grateful for not remembering the procedure. Mikey and I – our relationship didn’t last. I can’t imagine having had a child at that age. The abortion was a complete blessing, and it allowed me to live the life that I’ve lived. Without it I wouldn’t be who I am today.
Later, I had another abortion. I was about twenty-two at that point and working outside of Boston for a few months. My partner and I were there in Boston because his family had work for us to do. I was on the pill then too–but was still learning that if you don’t take it exactly right there’s a huge failure rate. When I had that abortion, I went to the hospital affiliated with Boston University. The doctor was a man. I was a little astonished at the guilt trip he gave me. He blamed me for being pregnant. I defended myself and said I was on the pill. He pointed out that I clearly hadn’t done it correctly. Rather than just doing the job that I had paid $575 for him to do, he lectured me. A strange thing about that abortion: when I showed up in Massachusetts, I walked into a state liquor store and bought a winning lottery ticket. I was pregnant at the time I bought the ticket but didn’t know it. I spent my last $5 in cash on that lottery ticket, and the $500 prize paid for the bulk of the abortion. Somehow the universe was looking out for me.
I knew then that I was right to make that decision for myself, and it’s even clearer now. A year later, my partner, who was 11 years older than I, got drunk and was in a rage. He took a gun that I had purchased to protect myself in this rural area where I was living alone and he held it to my head. I can’t imagine today having his child, having to deal with him. I wouldn’t be an adult student right now. I would be paying for someone else’s education. I
64 storiesmight not be alive. The next day after he held the gun to my head, in 1994, I liquidated most of my belongings, packed up the rest and moved away from that rural area, and I have never been back.
The third abortion I had, I was married. I got pregnant two and a half years into our marriage. We’d been together for six and a half years at that point. It took a fair amount of courage for me to tell my husband I was pregnant. And it took a fair amount of courage for my husband to tell me that if I had the child he didn’t want to be married or have anything to do with the child. I was working as a nanny at the time. I remember being in my parent’s kitchen holding the child I cared for, sobbing and slumped down against their refrigerator, telling my family, “I don’t know what to do.” I wanted a child but I didn’t want to bring them into the world and have to tell that child that their father didn’t want anything to do with them. I also knew that, regardless of what my husband wanted, I would have to deal with my husband’s family for the rest of my life. My father said, “In Washington State a man can’t divorce a pregnant wife.” I said, “This isn’t about divorce. This is about me making a decision about another potential person, and I don’t want that to be an unwanted child.” It wasn’t a completely selfless act. I didn’t want to deal with that situation myself, either. An irony about that abortion: in 2002 in Washington State, when I walked into that clinic, they told me I needed my husband’s signature for him to consent for me to have the abortion. And yet in the same week my husband went to the “snip” doctor and had a vasectomy. The way I found out was I came home and he had a bag of frozen peas on his crotch. He never had to ask my permission.
If I had any one of those three kids or all of them at this point, I would not be able to do the good work that I am doing. I’m back in school, full-time, for nursing, a hospice volunteer, a full-time employee, and in a long-term relationship. I am involved with enriching other people’s lives, at the same time that I enrich my own life. Right now a favorite part of my day-to-day life is the hospice work I do. I plan to work in as a hospice nurse, to some capacity, as I realized a long time ago that my gift is that I can really be present to help people transition into death very effectively. I can offer some comfort to the dying and their families; providing companionship, unconditional compassion, empathy for their situation. I can be a conduit through which love and comfort can flow. But it takes a lot out of me. With kids, I don’t think I would have had the bandwidth to be a hospice volunteer and be working on going back into nursing and working full-time, because all of my resources would have been tied up in raising a child or children. I want to be able to give of myself. That’s a big part of my identity.
I made a decision at each point to choose abortion, and in those decisions I thought about what kind of life I could provide for a child. And it would never have been up to the standard that I would want. In that way I made a moral choice that I was not in the right situation to do that, given all of the moving pieces. I don’t think abortion has to be a moral decision, though. It simply is a viable option. A remedy. Throughout history women have been able to use remedies, from tinctures of blue cohosh to the methotrexate/ mifepristone chemical cocktail that you can take now. These are options. We don’t always choose to become pregnant. But I was able to choose not to continue my pregnancies, and that is my Right To Choose. It’s not a fair argument to say that I should have chosen instead to not have sex. Humans are animals, and animals are sexual beings. I am a sexual being, and in certain situations, sex is how we bond. There are certainly consequences to that, but also choices to make. I don’t have any guilt or regret about my abortions. I know some women struggle emotionally with having had abortion. But for me, throughout my education, I’ve never looked at a zygote, blastocyst or embryo as a being; more a potential being. I believe an embryo to be more parasitic at that point –not sufficiently developed for life outside the uterus– the embryonic nervous system is not evolved enough to feel discomfort or pain within the first trimester. An embryo is not a person. When I was pregnant, I thought about both sides –to continue the pregnancy, or to terminate it – and each time it was a very clear decision.
I want readers to understand that I am a smart and thoughtful person. I’m not a victim of circumstances. At the time it was important to me that I paid for those services. Even when I was hard up I didn’t seek funding from a charitable organization of some kind to pay for my abortions. I made choices and I took responsibility.
For anyone to impose judgement on me is to not acknowledge their own responsibility in their own choices. I might think someone who has six or ten or twelve children as creating a burden on society, but it is a personal choice and I too make a personal choice. And, I love children. I have helped to raise children who I dearly love. I am the godmother for three children and the main auntie to innumerable others. I made a choice not to have children suffer, and that was the most responsible decision I could make at each point. I am struck with this sense that people will read my story and judge me or look at me as someone who is uneducated or not smart enough to make good decisions. But I did make good decisions. I made the best decisions for myself.