There is NO WAY that I should be here talking to you today. In high school and college I was so sure of myself. I graduated in 1973 while the sexual revolution was raging. Every chance I got I debated in favor of abortion and repeated the pro-choice mantras--- no more unwanted, handicapped, or abused children, nobody should impose their morality on me, the state has an interest in protecting women’s health, legal abortion will be safe, no more coat hanger abortions, and a woman should have the right to her own body in case her birth control fails.
I was 15 when I went on the pill. At 23 I was pregnant by someone I’d met on a weeklong cruise. I was in the classroom lab - I gave myself a pregnancy test. A classmate saw me and she said she knew the number to call. The abortion clinic was 250 miles away and I told everyone I was going to a party.
At the clinic I remember they said I didn’t need any counseling because I was so sure of myself. I remember paying them $320 in advance. There was a woman in the waiting room crying to a friend, her friend reassuring her that since she was getting a divorce she had to get this abortion. I remember paying them $320 in advance and being in line with rooms of lots of other women, and meeting the abortionist for a brief instant beforehand. And I remember hearing some women weeping as I came off the anesthesia and asking, “What’s wrong with them?” But I couldn’t let it bother me. And so I reacted with callous disregard.
Finally I met my husband and experienced the joy of monogamy for the first time. After we had children my mind kept returning to my first pregnancy. I wasn’t prepared for this reaction. They had said that it would be all over. I became transfixed on the abortion and began to read everything I could get my hands on about it. The slogans weren’t cutting it anymore. Common sense led me to the truth that there was a fertilized egg alive and growing in my womb the same way my other children had been.
One day I called the abortion clinic and asked for my medical records. I found the pathology report to be disturbing---“fetal parts identified.” I called the family planning clinic that dispensed the pill to me and shared my regret and devastation and all they would tell me was to go to a psychiatrist. I felt betrayed because I didn’t think I was mentally ill. In my heart I knew that it is a normal reaction for a mother to grieve the loss of a child. And so I withdrew in exile to hide my shame and isolated myself in privacy with my secret. I hated myself and finally I decided that I had to talk to someone.
The first person I told was a priest through Project Rachel. He cried with me and listened to me and wasn’t judgmental at all. He offered me support. He told me of the power of love and forgiveness of God and assured me that joy was possible for me. I will tell you that abortion has lifelong consequences. Healing is a process and I still have a while to go. I still do not have the courage to admit this to my adult children. But it is liberating to tell my story. I only hope that it will prevent another from this painful experience.