There are more personal stories, essays, and poems that could ever be printed in a magazine. Here are several more powerful voices:
Legacy of abortion shaped the lives of many mothers
By Laura-Lynne Powell
(This story is about how an apnea masks the assult.)
The discussion that usually swirls among the women in my book club took a drastic turn recently when we considered reading Ann Fessler's book, "The Girls Who Went Away," about the hard choices available to women in the days before abortion was legalized.
While we agreed there would be less shame now, we knew earlier generations of women had suffered terrible consequences from out-of-wedlock pregnancies. "Do any of you remember before abortion was legal?" asked one book club member, a first-grade teacher in her early 50s. "I knew girls who had coat-hanger abortions. It was awful.
We each shook our heads in sympathy and disgust. Just imagining what happens during a coat-hanger abortion made my skin crawl.
"How many of us have had abortions," the teacher asked suddenly. She threw her hand in the air daring the rest of us to be honest.
Silence descended as we each considered the risk of telling the truth. Members of our book club are not life-long friends. We are neighbors, friends of friends and mothers whose children attend the same schools. Many of us are from other parts of the country, New England in my case, and were aware that attitudes toward abortion might depend upon whether you were raised in Provo, Utah, or Los Angeles. None of us had any idea how the others would react to her bold question.
One woman, a court reporter in her 40s, raised her hand, then another, a church-going daycare provider whose three children had graduated from Catholic high schools. Emboldened, I raised my hand.
Only two women, one a fourth-grade teacher and the other a mother of four, sat with their hands in their laps. The mother of four sat still, her face unreadable as she surveyed the four raised hands around her.
It was a surprising show of hands because it wasn't as if we had never wanted to become mothers. Five of the six of us in the room have children now. "Wow," muttered the court reporter. "Think of the scared girls we once were." "Wow," I agreed. But I was thinking of all the babies who were never born. "We didn't have a choice," she said, reading my mind. "I was in an abusive relationship. I couldn't have a baby with that man."
"We had a choice," I said. "We could have placed our babies for adoption." My friends knew I'd say that. I had adopted my two sons, both of whom were born to pregnant teenagers. Infertility followed my abortion and adoption was the only way I could become a mother when I was ready to become one.
I often think about the choice I made as a teenager. I have no regrets. I am the mother I am to the boys I adore because of all the decisions I've made in my life, including abortion. Still, my sons are my own because other pregnant girls didn't make the same choice I did.
I can't shake a nagging ambivalence about that.
I had my excuses, though. Adoption was shrouded in secrecy and shame when I became pregnant at 18. Abortion offered what seemed the only solution to a problem so big it seemed capable of devouring me.
It was abortion or end up like Janice, a student at my Connecticut high school who carried her baby to term and placed it for adoption under the stare of snickering classmates. Even now, some 30 years later, if someone doesn't remember her name they call her "the girl who had the baby."
Those of us who had abortions are remembered as cheerleaders and honor students. We were among the first wave of girls who came of age after abortion became widely available in the 1970s. This past week marked the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States. Because of that, my friends and I – and millions of girls and women who followed us – were offered a safe alternative to shaming our parents, dropping out of school, marrying too young or suffering the trauma of adoption. We sought abortions greedily.
Fewer women are having abortions these days. A much-discussed study released recently by the Guttmacher Institute showed a drastic 25 percent decrease in the number of abortions performed in the United States over the past decade. That may be because teens are better educated about sex or women have better access to birth control than we had. Or perhaps society has a more humane attitude toward single parenthood and adoption. I really don't know why.
What I do know is that many of us who gratefully sought abortions in that first wave are mothers now. And our feelings toward abortion have become more complicated over time. For some, abortion is still viewed as our liberator, the event that allowed us to live the rest of our lives.
For others, it's our burden. We can't look at the children we have now without thinking of the babies who were never born.
At the book club meeting, my friend who is the mother of four, shifted in her seat.
"I never told anyone," she whispered and lifted her hand.
"You, too?" I asked.
She nodded, a tear slipping down her cheek.
Every woman in the room except one had ended a pregnancy. And each remembered it in her own way. Some were defiant in their gratitude while others were haunted by regret. Yet every one of us recognized abortion's legacy in our lives and in the lives of many other women of our generation. As our discussion continued, every one of us acknowledged that we had been shaped by it. Abortion made us the women we are today.
Our Truths is a judgment-free zone!