Everyone who would limit abortion rights should know what it is like to have an illegal abortion.

I live with a great deal of guilt but feel compelled to tell my story. I had three unintended pregnancies that ended in abortion. I used every type of birth control, from condoms to two different types of IUD, but did not know I was a woman who ovulated twice a month.

My first pregnancy was at 17, I was advised to tell my parents who would know what was best. My boyfriend and I came to my parents home and told them. My father told us to get married and my mother just walked away.

As a teen, I had no idea what was best for me. Abortion was illegal everywhere except in Washington , DC where there the laws had been overturned leaving no actual statute on the books. I heard by word of mouth that a Doctor Veutch performed D&C’s for $300.00. My boyfriend came up with the money. The night before the procedure, he told me he was in love with someone else but would get a friend to drive me to the doctor’s office.

What happened the next day was nightmarish. I was given no sedation nor anesthesia. The doctor pushed rods that increased in diameter to open my cervix to about an inch. They then used curettes, or scrapers, to clean out the contents of my uterus.

I screamed the entire time. It was as painful as childbirth but much more abrupt. He kept lecturing me the whole time about how what he was doing would ensure I would not get pregnant by accident again. He kept questioning me as to why I did not want to be a mother. It was like something out the Grand Inquisition. Eventually, he let his surgical assistant give me valium and my fear diminished to the point where I stopped screaming.

Afterwards I went home to recover alone. There was no follow up care. I could have become infected or died for all it mattered to Dr. Veutch. He had his money. It was ironic that my mother came to me that night to tell me she had found the money without my father’s knowledge to pay for the abortion or to help me have the baby, but it was too late.

The second abortion was five years later. My live-in fiancé was in law school. When I told him I was pregnant, he simply said I had to abort. I wanted the baby and wanted to get married sooner. When he told his father he was getting married, his father threatened to cut off his law school support. The fiancé who is now my husband of 40 years insisted that I get an abortion so as not to ruin his career.

To this day I regret that I did not stand up to him to do what I thought was best, and I resent that he made my decision for me. Young women listen: Believe in yourself and do what you know is best for you. The right to choose means no one can make you do something you know is not right for you.

The third abortion as a direct result of no longer caring about my own welfare. Six months after the second abortion, I was pregnant again after a one-night stand. I hated myself for being weak. I was angry all the time and just didn’t care what happened. I wanted to hurt my fiancé because I was in so much pain.

The right to choose is sacred. The duty to make good choices about your body is essential. Beware of others who know what is best- only you can decide what you can handle. I’m fortunate to have two wonderful sons who I love dearly. Their births and childhoods were a blessing. We have good friendships to this day. As for my fiancé, he went onto become a lawyer, we married and had our sons, but I never forgot how betrayed I felt. Six months ago I left him and do not regret for one second that I finally developed the strength to make my own decisions.