I was a Senior in high school in “love” with an abusive toxic relationship. We had been having sex for over half a year, with no protection and no contraception.
Too afraid to grow up into real adult responsibility with my own body and my own health, I was scared to start on birth control pills. Until I wasn’t.
So after my eighteenth birthday, I went to Planned Parenthood and told them my situation. I had my very first PAP smear, took a pregnancy test and received a script for some tiny little hormone pills I would never get the chance to take. It was too late.
I was closing in on the first trimester before my decision was finally made. At 11 weeks, on Saturday, April 1, 1989, I terminated my pregnancy.
I regretted the decision almost immediately.
I cried. I got depressed. I felt stupid, ashamed and suddenly aware that there would always be this new break-point in life no matter what came next. I regretted my abortion. A lot.
I don’t ever regret it now.
Now, I’m a grown woman. A few years shy of fifty. Long removed and long between. Decades of life and experience that have happened since then. Roads I never would have traveled. Mistakes I never would have made. Successes I may not have seen had I decided another way.
But mostly: there is my son. A beautiful, amazing, heart stopping joy of everything — with a dimple that can turn a day around. Every movement I’ve made brought this six year old into my world and onto this globe when I was again faced with decision.
This time, I’d give it go.
Not once have I regretted that choice.
I used to think my first born child would always be second. I used to think I’d live with the grief and have to pass regretful lessons onto my children. I used to think I’d always be a woman trapped in the griefs of who I was then.
Because that’s what I had been taught. That’s what would make my motherhood full circle. Or so I thought.
I was so wrong.
I don’t dismiss the loss and confusion of being faced with consequences I took for granted as a stupid girl. I’m just more aware now of why all that occurred.
Most all the anxiety, uncertainty and regret I spent in those following years was less about agency and more about none at all. The stigma of abortion and the influence of religion engulfed my world. The darkness was inevitable.
Every message I received drilled it home. How wrong it was. How wrong I was. Every message blamed me then blamed someone else. The wrong choices, the wrong council, the wrong paths. Wrong to have had sex. Wrong to have decided that. Wrong that laws let me kill with no consequence.
There were only a few ways to make it right again. As right as I’d ever be able to make it, they said.
I was told to come to terms with the fact that I was a parent. I was told to see myself as a mother in mourning, whose child had died — by my own hands. I should grieve and weep and say I’m sorry. I should give a name to my baby. I should talk to an empty chair — to go ahead and share my tears, knowing my failure would always be there. Murder was a sin that could be forgiven, they said, and I should forgive myself.
I believed all of that.
Until I didn’t.
That’s how powerful the anti-choice movement is. From sex education to access to contraception to crisis pregnancy centers… and then after. With absolutely zero basis in the actual biblical text, dogmas and doctrines demonize women for their own reproductive decisions. Causing despair, regret and many times death.
Some of us are lucky enough to get away from the rhetoric and into the places where we don’t have to regret anymore. Many aren’t.
Watching my child play tonight as I write this all down… is apropos.
You see, I used to think the notion of back alley abortions was just hyperbole. Clearly we’ve come way too far since then and no one would actually do it…
But then, I remembered myself…
Trying to press my abdomen hard upon the ledge of a bathroom sink. Trying to push my fists into my gut in case something might cut loose (as if that would do anything). I remember staring into my closet one day as a frightened teenager in her room, believing she had disappointed everyone she ever knew — they say some tried it back then, I thought, before I threw the bent up hanger on the floor.
That was in 1989, the year Roe v Wade faced its first formidable challenge. The year states got permission to arbitrarily restrict access. The year we saw marches and protests and signs that read “baby killer”- held by children. Even with all the privilege and opportunity I held, I couldn’t combat the messages society was pouring into my view.
Soon, those debilitating stigmas will turn to more laws on the books. Soon, those signs won’t be propaganda but a very real end to autonomy and rights that we knew. We won’t get the chance to take choice for granted like I could.
Women will cry. Women will die. More than they already do.
And regrets might be something we live with, long after they’ll do any good.
Many states are introducing and passing unconstitutional bills with the sole intent to see challenges in the courts. Iowa’s Fetal Heartbeat Bill could make the journey all the way to the Supreme Court.
Contraception is also in jeopardy with challenges to Griswold v Connecticut likely.
Approximately 700 women die annually in the United States due to pregnancy/delivery complications.
Abortion in the United States is safe. There is no evidence that abortion causes long term consequences on a woman’s physical or mental health. The myth that abortion causes depression has been consistently refuted and found to have no basis in fact.
Regretting an abortion is exceedingly rare. The initial emotions surrounding the termination of a pregnancy include both positive and negative feelings, with negative emotions subsiding.
The majority of Americans oppose overturning Roe v Wade. Nearly 70% believe the ruling should stand. Among Republicans, who now control all three branches of government, more than half want the law overturned.
There is no justification found in the biblical texts to support the anti-choice movement. The notion that Christians should be opposed to the termination of pregnancy is a relatively new phenomenon.
Most women who obtained legal abortions in 1989 were less than 25 years of age, white, and unmarried and had not had any live-born children.
Disclaimer: I spent over ten years teaching purity and abstinence to children and young adults. That’s a different prose. Or maybe a book.
Elizabeth Grattan is a broadcast talent and writer who has covered current events, human interest and social justice for over twenty-five years. Her loves are laughter through tears, old ball caps, reasonably priced blended reds and her dream come true little man.
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