A good friend in Texas who used to live here in New England is fighting a lonely battle in her town for the right of women to retain control over their bodies. Texas is the front line of the war against women, a war I thought we’d won years ago with Roe V. Wade and the end of (formal, official) discrimination against women in the workplace.
She and I remember the bad old days. We were there together. The days of backroom abortions performed with chlorine bleach, coat hangers and turkey basters. When sepsis or perforation of your uterus was not an unusual price to pay to end a pregnancy. Where young women, unable to obtain an abortion, threw themselves off bridges rather than bear an unwanted child. Or tried to abort themselves, with lethal results.
Despite self-righteous conservative braying, backlash and brainwashing, having an abortion was not and is not a sign one is irresponsible or anti-life.
Women have (and always have had) abortions for all kinds of reasons including fear for their health, welfare of existing children, and of course, economics, AKA survival.
While birth control isn’t 100% reliable, the men trying to stop women’s access to abortion are also determined to prevent us from getting effective birth control. If there is any logic to this, I fail to see it.
What’s the real point?
It has nothing to do with life or the right to be born. It’s about power. About putting women in their place so men can regain the control they have lost. Back to the kitchen for us, barefoot and pregnant. If men had babies, you can be sure this would not be happening.
I had an abortion that wasn’t an abortion, thus retaining plausible deniability.
My husband was in the hospital. He had cancer. It was so early in the pregnancy — less than 4 weeks — tests were negative, so technically, I couldn’t have an abortion. But I knew.
It was the worst time to discover myself pregnant. I didn’t know if my husband would live. (He didn’t live long.) We were financially maxed out. I had gotten into a highly competitive master’s program — more than 2000 applications for a couple of dozen spots — and I would not be able to accept. I looked at my life and thought: “I don’t need more education. I need a job.” No matter how I tried to fit the pieces together, a baby was not in the picture.
I had a “menstrual extraction” which was what you got when the test read negative but you knew otherwise. It was done in a doctor’s office. Without anesthesia. That’s a lot of pain, during which you dare not move lest a blade slip and do some serious, permanent damage.
So many women my age went through similar or worse experiences. Were we happy about it? No, but we did what we felt was best, not just for us but for everyone affected.
Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum. What happens to one woman happens to her entire circle — family and friends. We were adult women. We had the right and the obligation to decide what happens to our bodies and our lives.
I maintain my long-standing position on this matter. Unless you are a woman, your opinion is worthless. I do not care what they preach in your church. Until you walk in my shoes, live in my body, you know nothing.
Why am I weighing in on this? The it-wasn’t-really-an-abortion was more 40 years ago. No one knew it happened until now. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m sorry it happened, but I believed I was doing the right thing. I still believe it.
How ironic that women are again facing the specter of those terrifying, desperate days. The nightmare of the back room and the coat hanger is looming. The gains in personal freedom women won are at risk. If we don’t speak out and stand together, we will lose it. Maybe not tomorrow, but eventually. The opposition is relentless.
I am past child-bearing age. It’s about all women. Whether or not we have the right to decide for ourselves what is done to us. If ever there was a right to life involved, how about our right to have a decent life, to bear the number of children they want and not be managed by men whose stake in the issue is tangential? How about that?
No one wants an abortion. But sometimes, you need one.