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 have an unwanted baby, or tried to abort themselves, often with lethal results.
Women have abortions for all kinds of reasons, rarely because they hate babies. Reasons include fear for their own health, the welfare of existing children and a desire to survive. Birth control still isn't 100% reliable. Meanwhile, the same men who are trying to stop women's access to abortion are determined to prevent women from getting effective birth control. If there is any logic to that, I can't figure out what it is.
What's their real point? I don't think it has anything to do with life. It's about power and about putting women back in their place so men can take back the control they've lost. Back to the kitchen for us, barefoot and pregnant.
If men had babies, this would not be happening.
I had an abortion.
There. I've said it. My husband was in the hospital with cancer. It was so early in the pregnancy -- no more than 4 weeks -- the available tests were unable to read it accurately. The test said I wasn't pregnant, so technically it wasn't an abortion. Regardless, I knew.
It was the worst possible time to discover myself pregnant. I didn't know if my husband would survive. (In fact, he didn't live long.) We were financially stressed to the max. I had just gotten into a master's program, a highly competitive program, more than 2000 applications for a couple of dozen spots. But I looked at my life and thought: "I don't need more education. I need a job." And 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 it was lying. Plausible deniability. 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 much worse experiences. Were we happy about it? No, but we weighed our options, talked it over with friends, family, counselors, ministers ... and then did what we felt was best, not just for us but for everyone affected. Life doesn't happen in a vacuum. What happens to mom happens to the whole family. 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: if you are not in personal possession of a vagina and/or a uterus, your opinion is unwelcome. I do not care what you believe. Until you walk in my shoes and live in my body, you know nothing. Why am I weighing in on this? The it-wasn't-really-an-abortion occurred more 40 years ago and no one but my closest friends 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 then and I believe it now.
How ironic that women are again facing the spectre of those horrible, terrifying, desperate days. The nightmare of the back room and the coat hanger is looming, a dark shadow I cannot ignore. The most significant gains in personal freedom women have won are at risk. If we don't speak up, speak out, and stand together, we will lose it. All of it.
I am long past child-bearing age. But this isn't about me, my friends or my life. It's about all women. About whether or not we have the right to decide for ourselves what will happen to us. If ever there was a right to life involved, how about the right of women to have a good life, bear the number of children they want, to not be managed by men whose stake in the issue is tangential at best? How about that?
No one wants an abortion. But sometimes, you need one.