Talking about Abortion, Part VIII: They Lived It
We said another entry was coming this week, and here it is. Before we get to it, here's a rundown of the previous
entries in this series:
And now, the stories of readers for whom abortion was not just an abstraction or a point of political debate, but a
real crisis that they had to navigate. For various reasons that should not be too hard to infer, we've decided to run
initials only, without cities:
- A.N.: I got pregnant in grad school, with an implanted IUD. I had gotten the IUD because
I did not wish to be pregnant. I undoubtedly could have coped with pregnancy and a baby, but I saw an abortion as
pretty much the same as getting the IUD—preventing me from having a baby. I don't think of a fertilized egg or a
fetus as being a "baby." Also, I was planning on eventually having 2 children. I wanted each of my future children to
know they were very much wanted. I didn't want one of the two children whom I would eventually have to eventually
discover they had been born because my birth control method failed. It was not at all a traumatic experience, and in
fact I met another pregnant-using-an-IUD woman in the waiting room, and we got to be friends. She was not traumatized
- A.C.: Last week, my 94-year-old mother finally told me that she had an abortion in the
mid-1950s. (I had known about it because she had told my sister 10 years back.) She described it as "the happiest day
of my life." She was in a miserable relationship with a much older man who was having simultaneous a relationship with
another woman. She did not want the child. She later described the first year of my life (I was her first child) as
"the happiest year of my life." My mother is not prone to the word "happy," feeling like her life was mostly very
unhappy. One of the reasons for that was her miserable relationship with her own mother; almost everyone who knew her
described as a mean, unkind, bullying human being. One of the main reasons Gran was so mean, according to her and
almost everyone else in the family, was that her own mother died in childbirth, in 1901, after multiple pregnancies. one
after the other, that weakened her. The little 3-year-old was raised by a stepmother who didn't care about her and was
cruel to all the children in the family. I'm not sure how historically accurate this is, but from listening to some
talks by the historian Jill Lapore on her book on Margaret Sanger, I believe that right wing zealots had succeeded in
their late 19th century campaign to severely limit birth control and shame women for using it, whereas it had been
common in cultures around the world (using natural methods) since before recorded history. My point is that the shadow
cast by forcing women into childbirth is long, and bitter, and the little parlor games that today's right wing engages
in trying to control women's sexuality for their own enjoyment wreak horrible results.
- J.B.C.: My story starts with my wife. Well, the young inner-city girl from a
poor single-parent household who would be my wife, eventually. When she was in her mid-teens, before we met, she got
pregnant with her abusive boyfriend's baby. She had an abortion, and he took the opportunity to break up with her. Now
free of his domination, she went out to see a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, an activity he
had forbidden. There, she met me. We courted for three years, and have now been married for 33 as of this coming July.
In those years we produced two wonderful children, now grown productive adults, well-loved, well-adjusted, and
successful in life. Had that young girl of 36 years ago brought the pregnancy to term, she would have raised the child
in poverty and abuse. Would the pro-life readers have our two adult children undone in favor of one child of a teen
mother and abusive teen father, reliant upon government assistance and the help of "religious" charities that had
already refused to help? Will they swing the axe?
After you've set your answers in stone, would it change your mind to know that our firstborn is a trans woman and our
second is non-binary?
- A.R.: Mine was an unwanted pregnancy. My then-boyfriend and I were careless and, at 36, I
found myself pregnant. At the time, I was unemployed, broke and dating a musician. Neither of us was in a position to
have or raise a child. For me, the decision was clear—I was not going to bring a child into this world that I
could not support and who would not have two loving parents who were committed to one another. I made the moral,
responsible and, frankly, conservative choice to have an abortion, with my boyfriend's full support.
Luckily, a clinic was not far from my apartment. I didn't have to run any gauntlet of protesters or deal with a waiting
period or unnecessary invasive procedures or sit through some propaganda. It was very early in the pregnancy when I went
to the clinic—so early that they had trouble locating the yolk sac, which was all that was detectable at that
point. I took a pill in the clinic and then went home to take the second pill. I can attest that the process was
extremely painful and unpleasant, but I was proud of myself for accepting responsibility for my actions and doing the
right thing. Again, for me, this was the moral, correct choice and I refuse to cede the moral high ground to anyone,
particularly those who believe the government should be making these choices for me.
- S.C.: Anti-abortion reader K.K. has written that in contrast to death penalty cases, in
instances of abortion "the biggest difference is that the child in the womb never has their day in court... The child
never gets the chance to speak in their defense." Fair enough argument. But this cuts both ways— a fetus never
gets the chance to say "no" to being born either. For all the millions (billions?) of small children who have starved to
death in human history, how many do you think would have chosen to be born?
This is also a very personal question for me. From an outside perspective it probably appears that my life has been
good, and in many ways it has been. But emotionally I feel like I have been in a battle since the day I was born. Maybe
it was because I was born trans, maybe for other reasons. I don't know. I grew up in a family with good parents and my
siblings all seem OK, I am the only one messed up. I have spent much of my adult life dealing with depression and for
the last decade I have felt worn out, even when confronted with minor obstacles. I have often debated whether I would
have been better off if I had never been born. On my down times I am certain that my life would have been better if my
mother had aborted me or if I just wasn't born. The rest of the time I'm not sure.
So K.K., don't go lecturing me about a fetus not having a choice. I wasn't given a choice either. And I doubt I am the
only person on this planet who feels the way I do.
- O.R.: I was recently reminded what it means to be pro-choice. Our 17 year old daughter,
with learning differences, ADD, some psychiatric issues (depression and anxiety), and complicated by long-COVID, became
pregnant. She limped through high school and will graduate this year.
Her mother and I are left-of-center professionals (nurse/public health professional, and physician/bioethicist),
environmentalists, anti-racists and pro-choice. We believed (and still do) that termination of the pregnancy would be in
her best interest. We are not sure she has the capacity to parent, and financially it may be tough for her and the
father. Being a young mom will certainly make achieving other goals much more challenging. College will be postponed, as
may vocational training.
Her core values made abortion not an option. She is adopted, and cannot bring herself to accept that option for her
fetus (it is almost a person in our belief, as it will soon be viable outside the womb) either.
We are struggling to figure out how we will all manage. Although we are pro-choice, and support the availability of all
women's reproductive health care, the decision is hers, even though it will impact us greatly (at 60+ we are not wanting
to be grandparents, or more likely assistant parents). Pro-choice does not mean pro-abortion. Or anti-abortion. What it
means is allowing a woman to chose what is the right decision for herself. Even if one disagrees. That is respect for
- M.L.: My wife had always wanted a big family. While dating, we almost broke up because she
wanted more kids than I did. After much discussion, we decided two kids would work. We had our first child before our
first anniversary, our second came two years later.
Not long after our second was born, we started noticing different behaviors in our oldest child. He would hurt himself
purposefully. If the baby was crying, he would try to hit her. We had to constantly keep them apart until the baby was
big enough to protect herself. After this we knew more children would be a terrible idea as our oldest would just get
bigger and stronger and potential new babies would be in more danger.
Fast forward about 4 years and things were going well enough for us. Our oldest was diagnosed with autism, which brings
many challenges and is exhausting, but we love him dearly. On several occasions, he climbed a fence and ran a couple
blocks before we knew he was gone. Other times we have seen him escape our fortified yard and have to drop everything
(including watching the younger kid) and run after him or we'd never catch him.
One night after a rare night alone together, we noticed our both control method had failed. I started to panic but my
wife assured me that we should be fine.
Then a couple weeks pass and I'm asking my wife daily if things are moving along as they should and eventually we
realized she was four days late. We started having some tough conversations. She had always wanted at least five kids, I
had three of my best friends struggling with infertility and here I was talking about ending a pregnancy. I felt like I
didn't have the right. Then we started thinking logically instead of with our heart.
Our autistic child hits and kicks us over things that seem so mundane. If he kicked a pregnant belly, the fetus would
likely die or be damaged. Our autistic child even now, but moreso then, had to be carried often. A pregnant woman would
have been unlikely to be able to carry a screaming and kicking seven year old. If we did carry the child to term, that
would mean even less sleep than autism allowed us which wasn't much, plus the crying baby would wake our oldest and he
would probably try to hurt them.
For these reasons and more, we decided abortion was the only option that made sense for us. Luckily, two days later
nature took its course and it wasn't needed anymore, but we had made up our minds and were ready to go through with it.
Thanks to all of you for sharing your experiences; it's much appreciated. (Z)
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