I have been unwillingly sucked into a Facebook conversation with the wife of an old and dear friend. She loudly condemns abortion, and calls everyone who has had one a “murderer.”
In that case, I guess I am a murderer in her eyes.
At age 16 I was drugged, dragged into a dark, damp basement, and brutally raped. Then the same rapist started “sharing” me with his friends. I finally escaped, onto the streets, where I traded my body for food, shelter, and sometimes a five dollar bill. I was in a state of dissociation that has followed me down the years–45 years, to be exact–as of this coming April 22.
This righteous lady crows that she was also raped, and managed to have her baby, with the help of my friend.
Lucky lady. I had no friends at the time, nor anywhere to turn. I was homeless, and knew that my baby would be taken from me by the state if I had her. I’m sure it was a “her.”
So I took the only path that I could see, and I had an abortion.
It was horrible. It turned out to be on the the last day of the third month. It traumatized everyone, including the doctor who did it. On my follow-up visit to the hospital, he accused me of “having sex irresponsibly and then getting rid of it.”
I could not reply to him. His judgmental attitude triggered feelings of my mother’s constant judgment and criticism, and it rendered me speechless. I took his verbal thrashing and went away feeling like a kicked dog, along with the terrible sadness of pregnancy loss. I had already felt the little flutter of life, I knew I had killed my baby, and I was being castigated for taking the only path open to me.
A few days postoperatively my breasts swelled up and started leaking fluid. I made a panicked call to the medical resident who had performed the abortion.
“You’re lactating,” he said coldly. “Buy a tight bra.”
“Lactating.” I had to look that one up. “Producing milk.” Oh no. More grief, fueled by the physical evidence of no baby. And I bled profusely, because of the lateness of the abortion. Money for pads there was none, so I relied on rags ripped from cloth things I found in the dumpsters, that I washed by hand without soap, because there was usually no soap in the public restrooms where I washed my hair in cold water, and rinsed out my underwear when they got too stiff to be comfortable.
“Tight bra?” I didn’t have money for a 25 cent hamburger, let alone any kind of bra. So I leaked and ached for a couple of weeks till it went away.
Oh God, those were horrible times. And yet, they were nothing compared to the abuse that drove me from the parental “home.”
Sure, I could have gone to one of the “homes for unwed mothers.” One or two of my classmates had suddenly disappeared, only to return several months later, depressed and bereft, stigmatized and avoided. Our mothers strictly forbade us to socialize with them. One of them whom I knew well suicided. I could not bring myself to go that route.
Yes, I had an abortion. I don’t regret it. I’m sad about it, always will be, and wonder what would have happened if I had had my baby. She would have been almost 45 now–what would she be doing? She would not have had much of an upbringing, if I had kept her the way this lady did. I had no resources myself.
Nowadays there are many options for girls who get pregnant: open adoptions, where the girl can participate in her child’s life, and in the adoptive parents’ lives, almost like another child in their family. There is foster care, which can help a girl grow up while her baby is in a safe place (usually!). There are many programs that support pregnant teens with educational and job skills while they complete their pregnancy, so that they can support themselves and their baby and not be dependent on their own families or the state for sustenance. And of course there are the many grandparents–more grandparents than birth parents are willing to help their grandchildren through an accidental pregnancy and with helping to raise the child, for multiple reasons.
So I ask, don’t judge me for the decision I made as a child. What I need is compassion. Even if you are vehemently against abortion for your own reasons, and would never have an abortion in your own life–please be kind to those who are in desperate straits, and choose abortion because that is the only avenue they can see at the time.