I’m going to tell a truth about myself. It’s not something I’m ashamed of—but it is something that I never told my kids about. It’s something I never announced in public even though I’ve had thousands of opportunities to speak publicly since it happened.
And even as I polish my keyboard with the tips of my fingers, I’m reluctant to tell this story, because the Genie (I prefer to spell it Jeannie) will be out of the bottle and it’s likely to make no—NO—difference in the world that will benefit anyone. But I’ve got to try and make a difference anyway.
See, in light of recent realities here in my messed up country, I’m feeling more and more like a coward for not telling this story. I’m more and more of an “I got mine” type if I don’t come clean and express—furtively; definitively—why the right I had should not be taken for granted or taken away from other women.
The problem with those who would tell women what to do, is that they think women don’t pay an enormous price for doing what they feel they must. Take for example the women who come forward to say they were abused—and yes, men too—and how they are pissing people off though still making a difference. So maybe all that pissing people off and making a difference has encouraged me to be frank and open regardless of the violation of privacy that I am now bringing upon myself.
One last statement before my full disclosure here. Folks think I have a lot of guts. They think I don’t give up easily and that I stand for that in which I believe. I hope all those things are true. But even with all that agreed upon strength—the fact remains that I’ve never spoken publicly, in the first person, about this issue.
At the time—my decision was clear and unwavering. My actions were methodic and plodding. Afterwards, I put my privacy first. I decided it would be best if I never told a soul.
But now, that decision seems selfish.
Other women are suffering. Their rights are in danger. Their reputations are at stake. And my silence seems too much like “Phew, I got mine” and not enough like, “HOLY HANNAH, thank you to my sisters (and feminist brothers) for making my choice possible.”
Actually, it wasn’t just my sister and my best friend who kept my secret. It was also the man who paid for the abortion. The man with whom I had gotten pregnant.
Seventeen years ago, I terminated a unplanned pregnancy. I don’t regret it. It was the right thing to do and I’m glad that I had qualified healthcare professionals at my local family planning clinic to help me. I’m grateful that the staff and equipment used to perform the procedure were top notch and available to me when I needed them.
I was a single mom. I had no health insurance. I had been on the pill, but 99 percent accurate means that if you understand math the 1 percent will screw someone up eventually.
The guy I was involved with had the $400 cash that the procedure required and he was in complete agreement that a child in our future would only mean misery for that baby. He struggled with anger issues—a struggle he regularly lost—and he didn’t believe he could be anything but tortuous to the child. I agreed. He’d been pretty tortuous to me.
I stayed in a relationship with this man far longer than I should have because I felt custodial toward him after this decision was made. Imagine how much longer my connection to that abuser would have continued if I had made a different choice.
Part of my reluctance to bring this private part of my life into the light stems from my reluctance to listen to irrelevant questions about babies and fetuses.
Nearly everything about my decision was about me.
My body. My blood. My organs. My heart. My birth canal. My earning potential. My ability to provide. My children. My job. My courage. My fear.
My fear of an angry man who I knew would emotionally and physically abuse his child.
All the decisions were about me. Except one.
The one where I knew that the collection of cells inside my body—not viable and non-sentient—might grow and develop into a person that I could not protect.
Anti-choice activists think that pregnant women who terminate a pregnancy are incapable of hindsight. And here again, on another level, anti-choice activists are wrong.
I look back all the time. I look back and wish I had never gotten involved with the charming manipulator who turned cruel over time. I look back and wish that my birth control had been effective. I look back and wish that—during my vice presidential campaign in 2004 and my gubernatorial campaign in 2006—that I had had the intestinal fortitude to make reproductive rights an even bigger issue by discussing my own experience.
But I never look back and regret my decision to terminate that pregnancy.