roe, wade and me
It's not that I'm proud. I guess I am neutral. And I am not psychologically wrecked. My heart doesn't ache when I see an infant. I don't mark the dates as they pass, longing for the children I could have had. More than anything, I am grateful, so very grateful, that I became pregnant one month after the Supreme Court's decision that would, at last, legally allow me the right to choose what would happen with my own body.
Women have always had abortions, always, since ancient times. Whether Roe v. Wade ultimately stands or falls will change nothing except the quality of our lives as people who live with the potential of pregnancy. It will change the quality of women's lives and if we lose Roe, women will begin dying again because women will not stop terminating pregnancies.
I was essentially a child when I became pregnant, yet I had long been aware of abortion and the various means to accomplish that absent the clinics which came later. Friends from junior high had, variously, consumed poisonous substances, taken blows to the belly, jumped from a roof (with resultant broken leg and intact fetus), gone to Mexico, been flown to England for the dread late stage saline termination. There were rumors that the marginal physician downtown, a butcher by all accounts, would accommodate women in need for sexual favors.
In a short period of time, my junior high years, in one small town known for its high educational level, prosperity, and relative sophistication, one girl died as the result of her efforts to stop the life growing within her. The coathanger abortion is almost mythological, and yet Juanita punctured her own uterus late one Saturday night, bleeding to death in her bedroom. There were probably others, but I knew Juanita, a peripheral figure in my junior high set of friends.
I was lucky. Roe v. Wade was newly minted and there was a clinic 100 miles away and I had a parent who agreed that a pregnancy was unacceptable. The fact of being pregnant imbued me with a clarity about my life that had been missing to that point. I came back determined to rid myself of an abusive boyfriend, determined to finish school and convinced that the only way I'd ever have the kind of life I wanted would be to get the hell out of that Oklahoma town.
I am coming out of the closet with my abortions on this 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade because I think it is important to do so. Almost all of the women I know have terminated a pregnancy, yet almost no one talks about it except in hushed tones, one on one, and perhaps it should remain so. Yet I cannot help but think that we are at risk of losing this critical affirmation of privacy and the right to self determination because we are silent. We are silent out of shame or out of sadness, or we are silent because we are not ashamed and we're not sad and we're only grateful and that's really not acceptable in this country, this land where we exalt the potential life of a mass of cells and diminish the value of the woman who owns them.
It would be more acceptable if I could say that I am anguished about the decisions I made in those crazy years in my teens, that I wake up thinking of those potential children, that I feel something missing in my soul. I am not and I do not. I never wanted children and have always wished I could pass on to some other woman my breathtaking fertility. I do still have passing moments of anger for the doctor who, after considering my request for a tubal ligation, patted me on the knee and said "you're far too young, you'll find a fine man one day and then you'll want children." Had he honored my request, I would be writing this confession about a single pregnancy.
We will reduce the need for abortion when we make inexpensive, quality birth control available to all women of childbearing age. When we provide thorough, quality sex education to every student in every school, the need for pregnancy termination will diminish. I'm not holding my breath for those changes, despite the spectacular failure of abstinence only prevention programs. It is a farce and it infuriates me that politicians play games with something so intimate and personal as this. It is my uterus and any life within depends on me. It is my choice and mine only. I hope to God we never go back.
Okay, now that's off my chest, back into hibernation with my papa. Hugs.