I’m More than a Hashtag #abortionstory

Every year on April 18th, I remember it. It’s kind of a sick commemoration of a day in my life when everything changed. Even though it’s been 32 years since I had an abortion, I am still grappling with its consequences and what it truly means to consider yourself pro-choice.

I was unmarried, working full-time and engaged to my soon to be husband. We were living together and having quite a lot of sex, some unprotected and some not. In hindsight, we were playing pregnancy Russian roulette and we knew it, yet for some inexplicable reason, thought that pulling out and the occasional spermicides would be enough to protect me. Obviously it wasn’t, because in February of 1987, I became pregnant for the first time. We both knew we were not ready for children. We barely made enough money to pay the rent on our shitty apartment in a declining neighborhood. We were planning a wedding, buying a house and eventually having children. Just not then. So, we decided to have an abortion. This was a decision that my partner and I made together. There was no coercion.

I have an old picture that reminds me of that day. It was 1987 and I remember it being close to Easter. The picture is our ancient microwave with two Easter baskets atop. When we came home from the clinic that day, we were both emotionally exhausted. Not only did we have to face the ramifications of our decision, we were literally faced with the throngs of protesters outside the clinic, who physically attempted to stop us from entering. My partner fought them off for me and went inside the building to open a back door where I could slip in unnoticed. I may have been unnoticed, but I did notice them. I noticed the hideously graphic posters showing bloody fetuses. Sitting in the back room of the clinic, I began to cry, even though I knew that our fetus was a mere eight weeks’ gestation, I couldn’t stand thinking of the chants and shouted questions of, “Why are you killing your baby?” It was many years later that I realized that they really didn’t care about me or my fetus.

January 1989. Husband I had settled into our new home and we were ready to become parents. Our first child was born in September of that year. From the moment I knew I was pregnant, my husband talked to our baby in utero. Baby? Huh, well that’s different. I wondered why the language surrounding an unplanned pregnancy differed so much from the language surrounding a planned pregnancy. What once was a fetus was now a baby. A wanted baby. I began to feel deep pangs of sadness for the first child I did not bear. I wondered about its gender. The further along I was in my pregnancy and the more I learned about fetal development, the more regret I felt. I struggled to reconcile these feelings by speaking to religious leaders. Many confirmed my opinions but did not judge. Some recommended counseling specifically for women who had abortions. I became severely depressed after my son was born. I sought therapy and medication and fortunately, that helped. I had to be a mother to my son as well as a financial provider. I immersed myself in the church and fervently prayed for forgiveness for my unforgivable sin of abortion. I also compared my irresponsibility to those women who had been victims of rape and thought that my reasons to seek abortion were not as legitimate. I was tormented by my decision.

A few years later, I was asked by two friends on separate occasions to counsel them on the decision to abort. Both knew about my past and came to me seeking advice. I knew in my heart how I felt about my abortion, yet I could not, in good conscience, give advice solely based on my experience. I had to view each of their situations independently and tell them the good, the bad and the ugly. Both chose to go forward with their abortions. I felt that my experience would lend itself to volunteering at a pro-life clinic. The clinic’s mission was to present itself as a place to receive non-judgemental advice about an unplanned pregnancy. Sounds good, I thought. I discovered that the true mission of the clinic was to present propaganda designed to create guilt in the women. We offered free pregnancy tests and if the test was positive, a counselor would speak to the young woman about the developmental stage of her fetus and present a tiny, fully-formed baby as a representative of the unborn fetus. She was also given literature with testimonials of women who had abortions and could no longer get pregnant or who suffered suicidal ideations afterwards. The counselor would not give information about abortion facilities. The only tangible thing they could offer was to help her out after the baby was born. She could receive diapers and other necessities, but best of all and most importantly, she would not be killing her unborn child. These tactics horrified me, but what was worse is that when the mothers would show up at the clinic to beg for help, they wouldn’t get it. Often, they were shamed for asking too often and questioned about their finances or living situations. The caring facade of the pro-lifers began slipping away in my mind as I began to view them as predators, preying on vulnerable women in order to further their agendas. I had been one of them, once as the vulnerable woman and once as the perpetrator.

I started paying attention to the national abortion debate even though I was triggered by the conversation. It was too important. I felt angry about my experience at the clinic and blamed the protesters that day for making an already difficult experience much worse. I felt bad for the women who chose to go to the pro-life clinic only to receive information about one option. Pro-choice means that you set aside your own feelings and allow other women to make the best choice for them regardless of your own feelings. “Don’t like abortion? Don’t get one.” You see, it really is that simple.

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G. A. Cameron.

Editor, writer. Non fiction editor of Ray’s Road Review, published poet.