You Never Fully Recover
Enclosed please find a "guided
narrative" describing my experience with abortion. I apologize for the
length of this document, but the subject is so important to me and I wanted
to be as helpful as possible to you that I attempted to include every detail
and recollection I have. I think it was Voltaire who wrote, "It is when I
struggle to be brief that I become obscure." I didn't want to take that
chance with this case study.
I hope you are able to gather the evidence necessary to convince politicians
and others that abortion is a horrible and horrifying practice.
Thanks for giving me and others like me the opportunity to write this
narrative. I found it a helpful project, and by participating in your study,
I believe I achieved a few significant insights that eluded me before.
At the time of my abortion, I was a part-time graduate student living with
my boyfriend, a full-time graduate student. When I became pregnant, my
boyfriend insisted he could not handle the responsibility of a child, for he
anticipated it would be another three years of full-time study before he
earned his Ph.D. He was not willing to postpone his graduate study or attend
school on a part-time basis. Neither was he agreeable to getting a job to
help support a child.
I was overwhelmed at the prospect of being pregnant, and, like the majority
of single women faced with this predicament, I felt scared, lonely,
depressed and anxious. A child, I reasoned, would be an enormous
inconvenience for me at this time of my life, for I was self-supporting and
really needed to complete my graduate degree in order to advance my career
and earn a more substantial wage. I knew of no single woman with
professional/career aspirations who had children, and so I had no role
models available and could not even imagine that alternatives to abortion
existed for me. I confided in women friends at the time -- they were the
support systems available to me. Each friend encouraged me to abort my
child; not one recommended carrying the child to term and keeping her or
placing her for adoption.
I should note here that I was not fully convinced I wanted to abort, and, in
fact, had ambivalent feelings about the pregnancy in general. I fluctuated
between moments of wanting to terminate the pregnancy and moments of wanting
to keep my baby. I now understand this ambivalence is normal in the first
trimester of any pregnancy, and it seems to be pro-abortionists exploit this
Having an abortion was among the worst and most traumatic experiences of my
life. I understand the American Psychological Association's Task Force on
Reproductive Rights & Freedom argues that women who evidence emotional or
psychological disturbances following an abortion are those women who show
signs of emotional instability in general or are women who devote themselves
to religions that prohibit abortion. When I had my abortion, I was not
practicing any religion whatsoever (and had not been for six years).
Further, I have never had a history of emotional or psychological
instability, and, in fact, was classified by two certified counselors as
epitomizing emotional health, strength and stamina.
I believe that contrary to what the American Psychological Association
advocates, emotionally healthy women who abort their children are likely to
suffer tremendously. In a letter I wrote to the Chairs of the Task Force on
Reproductive Freedom, I said few normal women favor playing Medea.
But to address your question: abortion is painful, physically painful. I was
told by the counselors at Planned Parenthood and by the counselors and staff
at the abortion clinic that "the procedure" was painless and that, at most,
I could expect minor cramping comparable to menstrual pains. That was the
first of a series of lies I heard. When the fetus is being aborted from the
mother's womb, the uterus is contracting just as it contracts during labor
and delivery. Has anyone ever said labor and birth were painless? No (except
for the breeziest of Lamaze instructors). When the uterus contracts during
labor in preparation for the baby's birth, the mother feels excruciating
pain. Now doesn't it make sense that when the uterus contracts during an
abortion pain is experienced? Uterus contracts; pain results. It doesn't
matter if the baby is being discharged voluntarily (as in birth) or being
sucked out violently (as in abortion) -- the biological mechanics are the
I remember when I was on the operating table (yes, that's what I call it,
because despite the bland term "procedure" used to identify abortion, an
abortion is a surgical operation), the nurse assisting the abortionist
looked at me and said, "Oh, are you feeling some pain or discomfort?" (She
was a perceptive gal). When I told her that indeed I was, she said, "Then
it's a good thing you terminated this pregnancy. If you're feeling this kind
of pain, something was probably wrong with the fetus." She was as ethical as
she was perceptive.
An abortion may be a relatively safe operation, and it may be true that one
can expect few complications to ensue after terminating a pregnancy. In my
case, however, I was bed-ridden for four days after the abortion. Let me
explain here that I am
not a person who enjoys
being sick or who becomes incapacitated after stubbing a toe. In fact, I
have a fairly high tolerance for pain. My activities (outside family and
work responsibilities) include weight-lifting and mountain climbing. Forgive
me if this sounds like a boast, but one has to be physically strong and
hearty to voluntarily lift 235 lbs. or climb a high peak in the Adirondacks.
As a matter of fact, I was back at my job three weeks after giving birth to
my second child this past summer -- and I worked right up to the start of
labor. I mention these tidbits only to demonstrate that when I become
doubled over with pain and cannot walk the infliction has to be severe. Four
days following my abortion I was confined to
my bed simply because I could not walk or stand upright.
I also bled heavily and ran a fever. I
was told by the counselors at the abortion clinic that I would experience no
pain whatsoever after the operation, and that I could assume normal duties
within twenty-four hours after the abortion. I was also told that it was
unlikely I would have an elevated temperature, but that if I did, I was to
contact the clinic immediately because a fever indicated an infection.
Here's an interesting part of my tale:
per the instructions I received, I contacted the clinic after two days of
running a fever and informed the receptionist that I had an elevated temperature
and severe cramping. The doctor returned my call and was extremely irate with
me. He told me it was impossible that I had a fever and pain, I was making all
this stuff up and he wouldn't prescribe an antibiotic or pain killers for me. He
told me I was full of "nonsense." I was badly shaken by his rebuke, as depressed
and ashamed as I was angry. On the third day, I continued to bleed heavily, run
a fever and experience pain, but I refused to call the clinic again.
Fortunately, my boyfriend, who was becoming increasingly worried about my
condition, contacted the doctor and furiously told him that I was to have an
antibiotic prescribed immediately. The doctor was most kind and receptive to my
male friend, and had the drug ordered within ten minutes after the telephone
I think a final comment to make about the abortion experience concerns the
clinic atmosphere itself. I was amazed at how many women were having abortions
that day. At least fifty women packed the waiting room. But what was most
distressing was that we were herded like cattle in groups of six or seven, each
of us nervous and scared, timid and anxious. "Counseling" was offered to ensure
that each of us had made the right decision about her pregnancy. This counseling
consisted of a young woman about 19 years old asking each woman in the group if
she was sure she wanted to terminate her pregnancy. Needless to say, each one of
us stared stupidly at the others and said, "Yeah." Then we were asked if the
significant others in our lives supported the fact of the abortion. Again, most
of us mumbled an affirmative response. But I remember one or two women who
expressed ambivalent feelings about having an abortion. The counselor didn't
address their feelings -- not as a bona fide counselor would. She simply
said, "Listen, you're doing the right thing," and then told them they might have
some problems dealing with the experience afterwards. That was it! Next group.
The recovery room was another equally impersonal experience. I will never forget
as long as I live the young girl -- she was about 18 years old -- in the bed
next to me. She had her abortion immediately after I had mine, and when she was
wheeled into recovery, she looked at me and said, "I will regret this experience
for the rest of my life. I wish I hadn't just done what I did." I felt so
helpless when she
said that, because I couldn't offer her a single word of comfort that I
would believe myself.
I was in the recovery room for a long time (because I was bleeding heavily, had
a fever, and nearly passed out). After I had been there for quite a while, a
nurse or somebody came in and said in a cackling bellow, "Is there a Laura in
here?" I responded, and she said, "There's some guy going crazy in the waiting
room. He wants to know if you're all right." This woman's insensitivity amazed
me. I could certainly appreciate the fact that my boyfriend was concerned about
me, especially when I was in recovery longer than most patients. I thought it
only fair that the clinic's staff take some responsibility for notifying the
friends and families of the patients' health status. Instead, this woman seemed
to indicate that my boyfriend was being unreasonable.
Abortion is a painful, humiliating, dehumanizing and awful operation to
tolerate. Having been there once, I get chills thinking about any woman going
through the experience.
The answer to this question of how my abortion affected me and others is simple
and brief: adversely. Following my abortion (both immediately after and
in later years), I was plagued with guilt, rage, devastation, shame, melancholy
feelings common to those who grieve a loss. There was no doubt in my mind that
my child was killed and that I played a part in her destruction. The mourning
process I have engaged in is typical to that of any parent who witnessed the
death of a child, though at times the grief has been complicated. I haven't yet
resolved the grief, and I don't believe I will ever come to terms with it. My
baby is dead. An eloquent way of describing the effects of my abortion may be
found in G. Brooks' poem, "The Mother."
Having an abortion altered my relationships with a number of people. The damage
it did to my relationship with my boyfriend was irreparable. I began to hate him
with a seething passion and rage, and I found myself unable to support his
educational efforts (I couldn't help but imagine his Ph.D. dissertation
had blood on it, and I couldn't justify the human sacrifice that made his degree
possible). Needless to say, despite efforts to keep the relationship thriving,
the love was lost after the abortion, and the friendship ended eighteen months
later. To my observation, the abortion itself had virtually no effect on him; he
was merely affected by my intense reaction.
Further. I lost respect for the female friends who encouraged me to abort
and who never mentioned other possibilities to me. I am not holding them
responsible, mind you, but I couldn't see them as friends any longer. I think
what really hurt, too, was that many of these friends did not like my boyfriend
before I got pregnant (and they had good, solid reasons for their dislike).
After I became pregnant and he supported my having an abortion, they liked him.
In their opinions, he would have been an insensitive, self-centered,
male-chauvinist if he insisted I carry the child to term. Ironic, eh?
Finally, the allegiance I publicly gave to the feminist movement eroded after
the abortion, and I came to view the Right to Choose movement very differently.
Feminist advocates for abortion became, to my eyes, like those who clamored to
the Romans that Jesus must die.
I have done a great deal to cope with the trauma of abortion. In the month after
having the abortion, I went to a cemetery one afternoon and sat alone for easily
one hour reflecting on the loss of my child.. In some respects, I was staging a
funeral for her. What was eerie about that afternoon (and what convinced me
later that God stood by me in my grief) was this: when I got up to leave the
cemetery, I glanced quickly at the ground and noticed that the whole while I was
in the cemetery, I had been sitting next to a grave marker which read "BABY."
In May, 1983, the approximate time of what would have been my baby's first
birthday, I went to a Mother's Day Mass at the university's Newman Center. This
was a significant gesture because, as previously mentioned, I was not practicing
any religion at the time.
I wrote a great deal about my loss, reflecting on it and giving expression to my
grief in journals that I kept. I would typically do this in the fall
(anniversary of her death) and in the spring (when she was scheduled to be
born). Occasionally, I would try to discuss my grief with friends, but they were
typically unreceptive. I fought with my boyfriend a lot, trying to force him
into feeling the shame, guilt and sadness that I felt.
After my boyfriend and I broke up, I wanted "no" emotional attachments with men,
and I attribute this in large part to my abortion. I selected companions with
whom there could be no possibility of emotional involvement, and I engaged in a
variety of self-destructive behaviors for about three years
I did fall in love again, approximately three years after my abortion.
Interestingly enough, I became pregnant again while unmarried, and interestingly
enough, this second conception occurred in July, just as my first did. The
situation was so identical to my first pregnancy, I couldn't help but imagine it
as a second chance from God, a test of my free will. But if I view it as a test,
I admit I almost failed it a second time. After learning I was pregnant, I went
to Planned Parenthood to seek abortion counseling. My new boyfriend and I
considered abortion to be the most plausible, convenient and practical solution
to this unplanned, unwanted pregnancy. He already had two children from a
previous marriage, and we agreed another child would be an enormous burden. I
asked him to locate for me the names and addresses of abortionists; when he
handed me sheets xeroxed from the yellow pages, I recall feeling tremendous
nausea and light-headedness. Breathing was difficult, and my vision became
blurred. I knew right then and there that I could never abort again, and I was
fortunate to have a loving, responsible and cooperative boyfriend this time
around who supported my decision. I think this experience -- a second pregnancy
whose conditions so closely mirrored those of the first -- helped me cope with
the trauma of my abortion, because it was a second chance to "do things right,"
to make amends.
The father of my second child and I married around the same day that four years
earlier I aborted my baby. My husband and I later returned to the Catholic
Church, and there I found enormous support and assistance in coping with my
grief. I have attended a number of Masses on the 22nd of each month --a day set
aside as a time to make reparation for the sin of abortion. Further, I confessed
this sin to a priest and sought God's forgiveness. I have remembered my dead
baby in special - remembrances on Feast Days like All Soul's. I pray for my
deceased child regularly. Finally, I have followed the practices recommended in
"Healing Relationships with Miscarried, Aborted and Stillborn Babies."
All that I have done has helped me with my bereavement. But I now echo the words
of that young girl I met in the recovery room of the abortion clinic: my
abortion is something that I will regret for the rest of my life. The pain
remains, just as any normal parent who suffered the loss of a child never fully
recovers from that loss.
One major and significant change, however, is that I have become an adamant
spokesperson against abortion in my community. I am the Respect Life
representative from my church, and I have participated in certain anti-abortion