I grew up in a home with a violent, alcoholic father who began to molest me when I was three and frequently, violently raped my mother within my hearing. Over the years, I was raped by a male babysitter and endured various degrees of sexual assault from a variety of other men because I never learned to protect myself. In some ways I was lucky. I didn’t become an addict or a street kid. But I didn’t know how to value myself and I didn’t know how to read men.
After I ended a relationship of a few months duration when I was twenty-four, I found that I was pregnant. I had only used birth control sporadically since I became sexually active at eighteen because I had multiple side effects from the Pill and diaphragms and I wasn’t good at insisting that my partners use condoms. I don’t think that it would surprise any women in my age group when I say that none ever volunteered. Also, I just didn’t have sex very often and I hadn’t gotten pregnant in six years. I remember wondering if I was barren.
I went home and told my mother that I was pregnant. The man that I had been seeing was of a different race and my traditionally racist mother asked me if the baby would be white. When I said no, her response was, “You’d better get rid of it then” in an ice-cold voice. Neither of us ever said another word about it. I considered my options. The father was a broke musician who was always borrowing money from me. I lived on my own and had school loans and a car loan to pay. I worked in a job where I would have been fired once I told them I was pregnant. I couldn’t bear the thought of giving a child up for adoption anyway because, in my world, children were not loved and protected by anyone. So, I found the abortion clinic in my city, made the appointment and went, alone, for the procedure. I did go to my mother’s house when it was over. The anti-abortion forces were running television spots calling women who had abortions murderers at that time (1978) and even though I did not perceive myself that way intellectually, those ads got to me.
Six years later, I had been living for five years with a violent alcoholic who had cheated on me repeatedly, sent me to the hospital once and choked me unconscious once. When I came to, he was holding a gun to my temple, threatening to kill me. As often happens in such relationships, it took me another six months to throw him out of my house and make it stick for more than a week or so. He began to stalk me. We worked for the same organization and he began to show up everywhere my routine led me at work. We had invested in a house that we were rehabbing together and he refused to return the money that I had invested so I continued to see him almost every day. After about three months, we had a very emotional, on my part, conversation that was angry and sad and ended with him pushing me to have sex. I just remember wondering, “What the hell am I doing?”
I was so depressed that I was struggling to keep it together at work and crying instead of sleeping when I was at home. I was eleven weeks along when I realized that I was pregnant. I was thirty years old and I wanted to be a mother but I had many of the same concerns that I had had six years before. But I had another one. If I chose to complete the pregnancy, I would be tied to this vicious, manipulative man for at least eighteen years and, maybe, for the rest of my life. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t do it to myself or to a child. So, I had another abortion.
Two weeks later, I checked myself into a very good psychiatric hospital and I stayed for five months. While there, I began to heal from the multiple traumas that I had suffered throughout my life, make better choices and I learned about God’s grace. I’ve never married and I chose not to have children on my own. I have had good therapists and, Thank God, decent insurance, but the degree of trauma that I experienced has left its mark.
Choosing to abort was not easy for me but I know that I made the right decision both times. When I read about people who think that I should have carried those fetuses to term no matter what the circumstances, I become more determined to do whatever I can to ensure that every girl and every woman facing an unplanned pregnancy is treated as a person of immense value. Our lives matter.