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Talking about Abortion, Part IX: P.S.' Story

As we noted over the weekend, we got too many instructive letters about abortion to cull them down to 6-8 and call it a day. So, we're going to run some responses this week, and probably some next week. As this is likely the central issue of the 2024 campaign, as most of the political news is about Republican wannabe presidents who are never actually going to be president, we think it's an appropriate use of space. Well, of pixels.

Among the hundreds of messages we got were two or three accounts that are best run on their own. We're going with one of those today. This is from reader P.S.; as we realized over the course of this series, it is best to withhold the cities from accounts like this one:

This morning, I read through the comments from people who have personally dealt with abortion and then read the heading of the Freudenfreude article "Teach Your Children Well." I was hesitant about sharing my abortion story but the juxtaposition of the two compelled me to write.

When I was 21, I became pregnant—not a guy I was dating, just a one-night stand with a friend. I was occasionally sexually active, but had never used birth control for the stupidest of reasons. I attended Catholic schools for most of K-12. I was the oldest child and my parents never spoke with me about sex—never. The school did—one of the nuns, a particularly stern and scary one, lectured us, in our junior-year religion class, about sex and birth control. Years later I found my notebook from the class. I'd listed multiple options for birth control with comments indicating they were all sinful. Obviously, I had learned that sexual intercourse outside of marriage was wrong; and to my naive, teen-aged brain, birth control simply made the sin premeditated. Maybe I figured I could repent later. Shorty after going to college, I stopped going to church, primarily because the attitude about sex seemed anachronistic with my life experiences.

Although I was 21 when the pregnancy occurred, I was still naive, very shy and insecure, and totally unprepared to have a child with a man who didn't want this. I hemmed and hawed for about two weeks about whether to continue the pregnancy or not. This was just a few years after Roe and abortion was legal in my state. (In addition to lectures about sex, all the students in my high school also were "encouraged" to write to our legislators, in class, opposing this.)

In the end, I had a first-trimester abortion. The deciding factor was not my inability to care for a child, but the fact that I couldn't face my parents and tell them I was pregnant. My dad attended marches for life in Washington. My mother was extremely socially conscious and would have been mortified by a pregnant, unwed daughter. In hindsight, I probably judged them wrongly—they were loving and caring grandparents to my sister's two children, including one who identifies as nonbinary—but that's what I thought at the time. I later married a man who did not want children and having already terminated one pregnancy, that seemed fair.

I'm nearly 70 now and have had a good life. Sometimes I wish things had turned out differently and I had had children, but mostly I regret being stupid enough to have gotten pregnant. It's hard for me not to think of an embryo as a potential human life, one that I consciously ended. But I do not believe I killed a baby. Even more, I regret the lack of discussion about the meaning of sexual intercourse or the reality that young adults, and sometimes children, will have sex and need to know how to be responsible—and that it's OK to take action to prevent a pregnancy.

But my own feelings or regrets are irrelevant. I strongly believe women should have the right to control their own bodies and that these decisions should be left to women, possibly their partners and families, and their healthcare providers—but not to the government or other "well-meaning" advocates for their own different opinions. And after reading about the incompetent and confusing legislation that has been passed in many states and the resulting tragedies for women, it's hard for me not to believe that for many, the real issue is one of control or the desire to return to a time where "women knew their place." I also recognize that this is a complex issue and many others disagree that abortion should be an option. In that case, advocate, educate, but you'll never win anyone to your side if you simply legislate. And regardless of your beliefs, if you are a parent—pro-life or pro-choice—please teach your children well.

Thanks, P.S., and well put. More on this subject tomorrow. (Z)

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