TWO weeks ago, a bomb went off outside a Wisconsin abortion center. In recent years, several states have passed or tried to pass laws requiring women seeking legal, constitutionally protected procedures to first undergo medical examinations. A young woman has been called a slut after testifying in favor of insurance coverage for contraceptive care. These are but a few of the stories about attacks on a woman’s right to choose.
It wasn’t always like this.
This is a story of how it used to be:
It’s 1978, five years after Roe v. Wade. I’m 38, I have four sons — the oldest is 17, the youngest is turning 12. I’m at school, getting a B.A., and I’m loving it.
I’m about two and a half months pregnant.
I don’t want this child.
I have a family, a large family. I love my children with a passion, but I don’t want any more. I know this with absolute certainty. I’ve got other things to do, and I don’t have it in me to be a good enough mother to a fifth child. I delight in newborn babies with their delicate weightlessness, the curl of their small fingers around my thumb, but the best thing about them now is that they belong to other people. I don’t want to bear them, feed them, bring them up, be responsible for them.
I don’t want this child.
So I’m on my way to Planned Parenthood to have a legal abortion. My husband drives me there — this is a serious matter for both of us, but we absolutely agree it’s my decision to make. We have been conscientiously using contraception and it’s failed us this time.
I’m pregnant but I’m not trapped.
All I had to do was call the clinic and make an appointment. I don’t have to be ashamed or terrified, because brave women before me fought to make abortion legal, have gone public with their stories of shame and terror and made sure that no woman ever again has to die from a back-alley abortion or bear an unwanted child.
We park and walk up to the entrance. No running the gantlet between pickets shouting at me that I’m a murderer, no fear that someone will throw a bomb. The receptionist takes my name and says, “You just have to talk with a counselor first.” I don’t mind, I figure it’s part of the procedure. I tell the counselor I already have four children and I don’t want any more. I’m on a different track now. She nods understandingly and says they’ll be ready for me soon. No judgment, no showing me pictures of fetuses, no trying to make me feel guilty. She just wants to be sure I’m sure.
And of course, I am.
It’s really not so bad; in fact it’s not as invasive as going for monthly checkups when you’re pregnant. They’re kind, they tuck me up under a blanket and say my husband can pick me up soon and take me home. I’m fine.
Our insurance company reimbursed us for most of the costs of the abortion. Because I was lucky enough to be able to, I sent that check for several hundred dollars as a donation to Planned Parenthood. I was grateful to the organization. I wanted Planned Parenthood to be able to continue to offer access to a range of health care services to all women. Having the abortion released me from the burden of the added mothering I could no longer undertake and allowed me to do the best mothering I could.
Two years later, I’m driving upstate by myself. I look down and think that if I hadn’t had the abortion, there would be a baby seat next to me with a small child in it, resting comfortably, knowing it would always be safe because I was in charge. It might be a girl — I would have liked to have a daughter in the family mix.
Read more here.