When I was 28 years old — 36 years ago — I got pregnant. I was furious with myself that, at almost 30, I had been careless enough to make this stupid mistake. I had contraception; I knew better. When I told my boyfriend, I did not seek his advice or financial support in my unwavering decision to have an abortion. I knew beyond doubt that, if I had a child now, I would resent it for the rest of my life. And that was no way to raise a child.
Even back then, I was very clear that this was my decision alone. My boyfriend was supportive anyway. It’s significant to note that he later became my husband, we have two healthy and happy children, and we were married for 30 years.
Lucky for me, abortion was legal in 1980. Friends of mine in high school had not been so lucky. I recall girls getting pregnant and dropping out of school, never to been seen again. I recall taking up collections so that girls could make the trip to New York for a legal abortion, or to Chicago for an illegal one. Girls being left off on street corners to be picked up by strangers. Girls lying on kitchen tables. Terrified, mortified girls.
My abortion was conducted in a doctor’s office in a professional building, back when doctors and hospitals were not marginalized and threatened for performing a legal procedure. The first appointment was to insert a seaweed rod into my cervix, and leave it there for 24 hours, for dilation. I was scared. It was painful. I remember the doctor saying, “Stop crying. If you think this hurts, wait until tomorrow.” It hurt all night long. The next day, I was given a valium and the nurse held my hand. Afterward, I rested in room with many other patients, all of them teenagers. I never spoke to the doctor at all.
Abortion isn’t for everybody. Which is why it’s not mandatory. To make mandatory the requirement to travel for hours, , to be cursed and bullied, to listen to a heartbeat, to be probed, to listen to inaccurate information, to have a funeral for fuck sake, is a perversion of constitutional law and an infringement of my ability to make decisions about my own damn self.
Having an abortion was the best decision I could have made under the circumstances. In the passing years, I have never regretted my abortion. I had children when I was ready, and I have never regretted a moment of being a parent.