Your Experience is Not Everyone’s Experience

So the editorial that sent me sky-high at 7:00 am this morning is here.

Th entire thing was infuriating, particularly this passage:

“However, when the pro-choice community frames abortion as a difficult decision, it implies that women need help deciding, which opens the door to paternalistic and demeaning “informed consent” laws. It also stigmatizes abortion and the women who need it.

Often, abortion isn’t a difficult decision. In my case, it sure wasn’t.

When I was 18, my boyfriend, whom I was with for more than a year, frequently pressured me into having sex. At the time, I lacked the maturity and experience to exert more control over the situation. For more than 10 weeks, I progressed from obliviousness about my pregnancy to denial to wishful thinking: Maybe if I ignore that I missed two periods, that pesky little fact will go away.

Once I faced reality, though, having an abortion was an obvious decision, not a difficult one. The question wasn’t “Should I or shouldn’t I?” but “How quickly can I get this over with?”

This was in the mid-1980s, when abortion was about women having control not just over their bodies but over their destinies. An unwanted pregnancy would have derailed my future, making it difficult for me to finish college and have the independent, productive life that I’d envisioned.”

Let me tell you my experience.

I was in my late twenties and, having botched my life up, I was working secretarial temp jobs. (Which means I had no medical insurance and was living hand to mouth.) I got pregnant. I caught it within the first six weeks since I was not so stupid I ignored a missed menstruation. I was also throwing up. A lot. (I did not have morning sickness. I had morning, lunch, tea time, dinner and evening sickness.) My boyfriend at the time said he did not want it, but would “help out” if I decided to keep it.

Of course my first reaction was fear. I had never particularly wanted a child and it would change my entire life. The attempt I was making to get it back on track would be severely curtailed.

My second reaction was Wow, I have a little person growing inside me. How weird.

So I looked at my situation. I did not have a steady job that gave me health insurance or maternity leave. (The U.S. has by far and away the highest medical costs in the world, yet our healthcare isn’t even that great). Just having birth in a hospital averages $38,000 dollars now, and then it was still more than I made in a year even if I got constant temp work. And then there was prenatal care, and post natal care, and pediatricians and clothing, food, where was I going to find the money? I had to go back to work to at least keep a roof over our heads, but when I priced out childcare I found it cost at least as much as or more than as the rent of my crappy little studio, which I was already struggling to keep up with. I would have to become a welfare mother just to keep it until she/he was old enough to go to school. And then what would my employment prospects be when my resume read “retail, clerking, temp jobs for two years then nothing for five years?”

My parents told me straight up, “We are not helping raise that man’s child.” Why? Because my BF was a flake of the highest order that had repeatedly made me cry. He couldn’t even be counted on to keep a date, let alone be counted on to assist with a child. ( He was sexy and cool and impressive and in the end, he turned out he was a pathological liar, or damn near it. But because I was in LURVE, I ignored all the red flags around me that everyone else saw.)

I would not receive any assistance from that quarter, nor did I have a right to ask it. They already raised four kids. What right had I to ask them to help raise one they had no responsibility in making? Especially when my parents were themselves struggling.

Then there were my own personal issues. I had not been diagnosed bi-polar II yet, but I knew I was not emotionally stable. I looked at my depression and withdrawals, my outbursts of hysteria and rage. I also knew that being on birth control pills (which mimic the hormonal effect of pregnancy) turned me into a screaming bitch. (Effective birth control, but not much fun for anyone.) I also knew that Mom had gone through severe postpartum depression. I was not Mom material, and would very likely put this child through hell, and having grown up a household for which the term “dysfunctional” was woefully inadequate, I did not want to inflict on it what had been inflicted on me.

Adoption? Again, where was I going to get the money just to have the kid? And knowing my emotional issues, I didn’t know if I could go through something like that.

Yet here was this tiny person. A little unique “her” (I was convinced it was a “her”) that if I decided to terminate, I would never get to know. And I knew I might never have this chance again, never be pregnant again.

I did not find it an easy decision at all. It was my every waking thought as I struggled just to focus enough to get though my day over a week. I debated and cried and second guessed and agonized until I could not, in good conscience, push the envelope of time and development any further.

I had an abortion.

Do I still occasionally wonder who that person was? Yes.

Do I still think I made the best decision for both of us? Yes.

It is a decision I would not put my worst enemy through, but I am glad I could make it.

This op-ed piece paints women who get abortions as feckless children who walk into a clinic for an abortion every time they forgot to take their birth cnotrol pills or make their partner wear a condom. Or in the conservative view, had sex. But while that may have been the case for the writer, I can attest that it was not the case for most of the women who have faced this choice.

Instead of strengthening the public view of women, she disminishes us by protraying women as incapable to handling serious, potentially life-altering decisions with reason and maturity on our own.

This piece makes the conservative, pro-life argument for them, which I wonder if it was the writer’s purpose all along.

As for my boyfriend-at-the-time? He did not offer to help pay for the abortion or even accompany me when I did it.

The red flags suddenly became visible and I headed for the hills as my days of desiring “bad boys” were over.


11 thoughts on “Your Experience is Not Everyone’s Experience

  1. Luckily it’s a decision I’ve never been faced with (and I say “luckily” because, not matter how hyper careful a person is, shit happens.) I imagine I would find the choice very difficult. But the thing is, everyone thinks they can imagine how they would feel and react in a situation. That doesn’t mean they know a damn thing about what it’s actually like to be faced with that problem. That’s why it’s important to hear from someone who’s been through it.

    I completely agree with you, Kip, about the writer’s attitude. She seems to think that adulthood confers some magical ability to make hard decisions without any difficulty. To me, adulthood means you are capable of making decisions despite the difficulty.

    • Exactly Agustick. Any child can make a decision that requires little consideration, or to aproach a problem that requires a great deal of consideration with none. It’s takes grown up to take on life altering decsions with no “right” answer.

  2. I can see both arguments. I think some decisions can be incredibly easy to make as a young girl. Coping with the emotional quagmire of a guilty, fully grown, adult mind however? Well that’s a whole different ball game.

    • That is true, but this editorial was published in a country where one of the two major parties has been taken over by the far right who has tried to eliminate abortion. We have had debates on the floor on Congress just to keep access to medically necessary abortions and those for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. (That’s where all those “legitmate rape”/”Pregnancy caused by rape is a blessing from god” comments came out of.) Several states controlled by the Republican party have either restricted access to abortions by attacking low-cost women’s health clinics by any shifty means necessary…

      ..or attempted to. Even if the clinics provide other services like pelvic exams, treatment for VDs, breast cancer screenings and birth control.

      Because they have problem with wwomen having access to birth control.

      Never in their minds is it even considered that married couples use contraception in order to not have more chidlren then they can care for. The Republican attitude seems to be that women, even in marriage, should only have sex for procreative purposes.

      Of course, this creates a wee bit of a problem for conservative old white men’s mistresses.

      And that’s beside the states debating “personhood laws” that would class a zygote or fetus as a human being, thereby making abortion a homicide.

      So saying that “most” women confrotning this topic have an “easy decision,” making it look like women who favor the ability to choose treat terminating a pregnancy casually, does not help. If you look at the comments below the article (which start with mine), the majority are from the “pro-life” crowd, thanking her for revealing “the truth.”

      So I understand that some find it an easy decision, but I don’t think that was the true purpose of the editorial. Either she stumbled in expressing herself catastrophically, or it was her intent to serve the pro-life agenda by presenting a whopping strawman.

    • The suggestion has been made that they change their name to “Pro-Birth” because that is all they ostensibly care about. Though what they really are is “anti-women having sex life of their own that they might enjoy.”

      We have almost 400,000 kids in our extremely overburdened foster cares systems in the U.S.. They sure as heck don’t give a crap about them either. To these people the social safety net is “ZOMFG SOCIALIZMS!!!!” The Red Scare seems to have never gone away for these people. Of course, the reality of the USSR is so distant now, they have no fucking clue what socialism or communism actually are. They seem to define it as “taking MY tax dollar to help the unworthy.”

      • The hilarious thing is the number of people puling a complete Ayn Rand, railing against the social safety net, while collecting benefits for it. I know guy who has been living on disability for over a decade, yet still claims to be a libertarian, thinks social assistance programs are tantamount to “communism,” completely without shame.

        The problem, I have probably chewed your ear off about this before, it’s the Calvanist ideas at the deepest, darkest part of the foundation of America’s being. As a culture, we believe that if someone is rich, they have been blessed by God because they are a good person. When someone is poor, they are being cursed by good because they are a bad person. That’s why there is so little compassion in the conservative evangelical right in the U.S.: They believe, at their core, that poor people deserve their fate, even if that means dying in a gutter somewhere.

  3. I think I have read most of it. I am shocked that certain political parties seem to be handcuffing women at every turn. Without birth control I imagine it will almost definitely restrict women from the work place. I guess bare foot, pregnant and in the kitchen is still seen as an ideal place for a woman.
    However, I can see the woman’s point.
    You gotta understand I was raised Catholic, my mother was anti birth control…to this day she still thinks women’s health is put at risk with it. I went to a De La Salle school, at fifteen we were all sat down and shown images of buckets of blood and horrific carnage. Please understand I don’t say this to upset people but we were children with impressionable minds. One girl at school was physically attacked when it was discovered she had an abortion.
    At twenty I discovered I was pregnant, after a one night stand. I had used a condom, it had failed.
    To me it was simple, terminate the pregnancy. I didn’t even consider it was a new life. I’m sorry that appears cold-hearted but my brain refused to credit it. My mum wouldn’t talk to me, my whole family was pissed and yet I went through with it.
    Then, and only then, did it impact what I had actually done. I went a bit mental afterwards with the guilt. I still think I made the right decision, only I went through the process arse about face. I feel sick admitting this online, if my mother knew I was doing it she would be so ashamed!
    After you showed such courage, I couldn’t do anything but. As unpleasant as it is, this is my truth.
    I am also incredibly lucky that the NHS provides free birth control, terminations and counselling.

    • I can see what you are saying and I understand now. You made a instinctual decision, what I hope you still feel was the right decision, trusting your gut to see clearly while I agonized in my head. You just processed it differently than I. My issue with the article is the claim that *most* abortions are easy decision and that we should take the idea that women struggle with this out of the debate. I think that diminishes the integrity of the pro-choice side.

      I can’t imagine going through what you did and dealing with your family’s judgement on top of it. That is such B.S.. So much for “loving the sinner…”. I’m glad you had a choice and felt you had a choice rather than falling into the dogma of your upbringing. Adding everything up, I think in the end you probably had a harder time of it than I did.

      Please don’t feel sick. (Or if you must, have some ginger tea…or just some gin.) I think most women who have abortions feel like this minute minority of spies scuttling around the edges, terrified of being found out and judged. But I read that one in three women will have an abortion during their lifetimes. It’s like miscarriage. When a woman goes through one, it never seems to come up that one in four woman will have one of those during their lifetimes. (At least it does not come up in hospitals here in the U.S.) Our society stills tell us there is something shameful about not having a baby, even when our own bodies say “Nope!” This royally sucks because that leaves millions of women feeling isolated at the time when they need support. We each had to have an abortion. You’re a good person. You just made the best decision you could in a bad circumstance. It’s just one of those things.

      P.S. I’m not brave, I’m just obnoxious. 😀

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