Three days later, I showed up for work at the newspaper as though nothing had happened. In some stroke of truly black comedy, we had an editorial-board discussion that very night about whether or not to run a pro-life insert that would bring in a ton of money, but go against our editorial stance. I felt sick. We opted against running the insert, and I can’t remember if I even offered an opinion during the conversation. That’s the last thing I recall in the days immediately following.
Now here I am, almost exactly six years later. My abortion made me practice safer sex, and it introduced me to the pro-choice movement. It put a strain on my relationship, which broke apart eventually. It made me feel scared, and relieved. And it puts me in a group with the 40 percent of American women who have also had abortions by the time they’re 45 years old.
That’s a lot of women. But we’re rarely the ones you hear about.
When pundits and politicians debate abortion, they often bring up the most unfortunate cases: rape or incest victims, or women with medical problems. The fact that these women risk losing the right to govern their own bodies is outrageous. So we end up fighting for those worst-case scenarios, which somehow makes what we might call the “normal” cases seem more cavalier. As if some cases are less essential, and therefore less justifiable, than others. Let's be clear — it's the circumstances that vary, not the validity of our decisions, nor our need for access to safe, legal abortions.
Years later, my experience still causes me to feel guilty that I lived in a state where no one, other than those who were directly involved, questioned my decision. It makes me somehow embarrassed to admit that all I had to do was cross a street, while others have to bridge state lines, family boundaries (I still haven’t told my parents), and financial constraints (my boyfriend put the procedure on his credit card; I paid him back for half as soon as I had the money). Essentially, I’m sorry that I was more privileged than other women who are in similar circumstances.
This is my story, and mine alone, and the one I’ll carry with me forever. But the fact is, most women’s stories are more like mine than they are like the extreme scenarios that are bandied about when politicians — and even regular people — talk about abortion. So where does that leave women like me? Should we feel ashamed? Does anyone think about us, the people who have actually gone through with an abortion, and come to terms with it, and accepted that it was the right decision, for whatever reason, at that time?