No one laughed.
Soon after I turned 19 years old, while about midway through a course in
trade school in California, I began to suspect I was pregnant. I had no doctor,
clergyman, or other person with whom I could discuss the problem or where I
could get a free or low-cost pregnancy test. My parents were paying my school
tuition, apartment and utility costs and gave me a small weekly allowance to
live on and I did not want them to know I might be pregnant.
My boyfriend, whom I'd only recently begun seeing, wanted absolutely nothing
to do with my pregnancy. He was not angry, just completely uninterested. He was
24 years old and worked in a factory. Neither he nor I had ever been married,
and we were not considering getting married.
A few other people I knew suggested going to a clinic where all medical care
was free and it was open in the evenings in case people did not want to leave
work or school to go there. Also, no appointment was required. It took only
A couple of friends gave me a ride to the clinic and checked back for me
several times through the long hours of waiting after signing my name and
purpose for being there on a very long sign-up sheet.
The clinic was very crowded and "pregnancy-test" was listed after many of
the dozens of names ahead of mine. Many dozens of young people, mostly women,
milled in and around the clinic. I remember one young couple huddled together
looking very distraught through the many hours as the evening grew very late.
Pregnancy tests for that young woman and me were done on ends of the same
glass slide as the three of us watched. My pregnancy test turned positive right
away and the young couple were still waiting for results on their test when a
doctor took me aside. He said that the test is positive and you can either have
an abortion or (very disgustedly) maybe do something else.
The problem pregnancy counselor told me she was too busy to talk to me but
said I could return another evening. It was almost midnight and I wished I had
taken a ride home with a woman who offered it earlier. It was too late to ask
the friends who'd given me a ride to the clinic to come back.
I called my older-half brother, who often worked late. He gave me a ride home
and asked why I had been at the clinic. I told him that I was pregnant.
Immediately, he said sympathetically, "The only thing to do is get rid of it.
And we'll sue the guy." He was emphatic about telling Mom and Dad right away.
When I got home I went to my boyfriend's apartment but got no answer. Later,
he said he never heard me knock because he always sleeps so soundly.
I called my parents the next evening and talked to my Dad. When I told him I
was pregnant, he asked, "How long have you been promiscuous?, and, Why didn't
you wait to have sex until we were not supporting you?"
Shortly after that I went to stay at my half-brother's house, where he lived
with his girlfriend. A woman next-door visited a lot and both of them kept
telling me to have an abortion.
I was very ill form nausea and the neighbor asked her own doctor if he could
give me some medicine but he told her he could not do that without seeing me but
I could not go. My half-brother's girlfriend took me to the birth control
institute to talk to a problem pregnancy counselor.
She called a maternity home and let me talk to a woman who worked there. The
woman sounded very rude and very discouraging saying, "19 is really quite old to
come here and you can just lay around the whole nine months or maybe (similar to
the very disgusted doctor at the clinic) do some other things."
Nowadays, I know more of how easily the rude woman on the telephone may
actually have had nothing to do with the Maternity Home and could have been a
Birth Control Institute made an appointment for a vacuum-suction abortion.
The counselor said they were still working on getting abortions done in Orange
County, California so that was why people still had to go so far to Los
My parents sent money for me to fly from Orange County. The morning of
the abortion, I was very ill with nausea and upset and did not want to go the
hospital. My father said emphatically, "The sooner you get this abortion, the
sooner you'll get over the nausea". My parents took me to the hospital and
stayed until I was through and it was time to drive back home.
The first thing to do in the hospital was to pay the $165. My mother
paid the amount in cash. I was with a large group of women, mostly young and we
were moved gradually from one room to another. As we waited to go to the
abortion room our age written in large, dark marking pen on 3"x4" paper. The
paper was pinned to each of our hospital gowns. I was near a woman whose tag
said "18". Mine of course said "19". No one, either staff or clients, talked
much through those hours. No one laughed.
In the abortion room, lively music played. I did not know if it was a
radio station or a tape recording and I did not know the name of it. After I got
onto the abortion table, the doctor gave me an injection into my cervix of what
he said was anesthetic so that I would not feel my cervix being dilated. Right
after the injection, he dilated my cervix and began vacuuming out my uterus.
This took a few minutes and a nurse stood behind my head holding my hands on my
chest. She told me to stop biting my lip. I was vaguely aware of the suction
machine near the foot of the abortion table and the jar into which everything
from my uterus went.
Soon it was over and I was taken to the recovery room, where there
were a lot of other women. Some of them looked very ill and traumatized and
others looked as though almost nothing had happened.
Soon after my parents and I began the several hours long drive
home, my mother began complaining extremely bitterly about having come along on
this trip to Southern California and did not want to stop for a long time. I
finally said, "If you did not want to come, you did not have to." My father
turned around as though he was extremely shocked and said very sternly, "Don’t
you ever speak to your mother that way again."
For the next few days I was still extremely nauseous as when I was
pregnant. When I kept spending a lot of time in the bathroom about to vomit, my
mother told me she thought I was in there because of bleeding and said, "I
thought you'd be bleeding like a stuck pig." I had a bad reaction to the
antibiotics given by the hospital and when I told my parents the antibiotics
made me sick, they said "Alright now, what drugs have you taken…" while ignoring
what I said about the antibiotics. Later, they threw away the antibiotics.
When I told them the hospital said I was supposed to have a
follow-up medical exam at a doctor's office, my parents absolutely forbade me
getting an exam in the nearby metropolitan area.
A week to two after my abortion, I was extremely depressed and
called a Crisis Hotline telephone number but the woman who answered said she was
too exhausted form a previous call to talk to me and said to call back another
A month after my abortion, I was waiting at a checkout counter in
a store where a customer and the clerk were admiring a young baby. They asked me
if I did not admire the baby, too, but I could not answer. It was as though I
was numb and paralyzed.