I have been pregnant five times. I had a son, then a daughter, and my third pregnancy ended in abortion at a Planned Parenthood clinic, at a gestation of about six weeks.
I had an abortion because we were poor and I was depressed and I didn’t know who the father was. I had been having an affair. My kids were 2 and 3, and the debilitating morning sickness, which I experienced early in each of my pregnancies, made it difficult to work or care for two toddlers. I got pregnant again soon after, but miscarried. A few years later I had another abortion because the man I was seeing was emotionally abusive. I had no control in that relationship, so I sabotaged my birth control to get some back. The whole situation was a complete abscess. In spite of my awareness of our miserable present and inevitably doomed future, I didn’t really want to have an abortion. I wanted the man to love me or at least be forced to publicly acknowledge our relationship existed. But he didn’t want to have a baby with me, and I knew that having that baby would have been a terrible thing for my children. And for me.
This is how it really is, abortion: You do things you regret or don’t understand and then you make other choices because life keeps going forward. Or you do something out of love and then, through biology or accident, it goes inexplicably wrong, and you do what you can to cope. Or you do whatever you do, however you do it, for whatever reason, because that’s your experience.
Tierce says that we’ve got to stop dividing abortion morally into “justified” or “unjustified.” The desire to abort, she contends, justifies itself.
The reader who sent this story to me writes:
I think abortion should be legal –I’d probably be considered “pro choice” however I would strictly limit it after the first trimester. But this woman’s attitude makes me understand why people who want to ban abortions may be sincere and concerned about where we are going as a culture.
There was NOTHING, no acknowledgement–that abortion is a sin and a tragedy. I don’t believe it’s equivalent to say, infanticide, but even the most hard-boiled abortion rights supporters can be persuaded that the closer a fetus gets to viability, the greater the harm/sin in abortion.
The refusal to see the loss in even an early abortion is, I am sorry to say, a validation of the pro life argument. I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable supporting the criminalization of first trimester abortions, because it seems to me that the harm in doing that is greater than the harm in not doing it, but I am sure uncomfortable with the callous detachment that this author exhibits toward her two (!) abortions.
Curious if any other readers who support access to abortion ever think “Gosh, maybe the Catholic pro-lifers were right about the overall effect on our humanity.”
UPDATE: The reader Venice writes:
When I was in college, I was a very strict liberal, and that of course included being pro-choice. But the abortion debate never sat perfectly right to me. Once I went out to dinner with a group of friends, and the wined flowed particularly generously. We were all lefties there, and we spent some time congratulating each other on this fact. Then someone suddenly put one of our comrades on the spot: wasn’t he actually pro-life?
We all turned to look at this strange case. He was a stereotypical hippie, extremely liberal in every way…except apparently for this. He nodded his admission, without elaborating. He was questioned a little, but no one was being mean-spirited so much as genuinely confused. Turns out he was a strict Catholic, though he didn’t exactly observe all the other sexual teachings of the Church.
This was an awkward moment, but my friend handled it with grace and I remember thinking how much more I admired him than the other people at the table. Holding an unpopular opinion is very difficult, even though we all like to pretend that we do it all the time.
Later that night, the thought crossed my mind for the first time: what if he was also *right*? what if fetuses are actually people, actually babies? If that’s true, isn’t this the greatest evil imaginable? But I pushed the thought out of my mind. It couldn’t be true. No one would stand for it. It’s too awful.
I never followed up with him, to ask him more. I never sought out any information that would help me come to a conclusion. I just went on ranting about Bush and the Iraq war. But I never forgot that night either.
I’ve changed my mind since that night (another story) but I never mention this to people I know in real life. I run in a very liberal circle, and that would mean exile. I tell myself I will work up the courage eventually, but don’t bet on it.
I bet there are others like me too. The horror of abortion is just too much. You don’t want to admit it, especially if you have been a part of it. Once you admit what it is, even if just to yourself, there is no putting the genie back in the bottle.