Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Abortion is about my life

I hate that I missed Blog For Choice Day! Things have been crazy around the house, as my oldest child has had a really bad head cold. Thankfully not the flu (whew!), but bad enough to keep me on my toes.

Anyway I've been meaning to jot this down for a while. I mentioned when I contacted CPC Watch that I also wanted to share my illegal abortion story, and I think I'm ready to do that now.

Shortly before the Roe v. Wade anniversary, Lauren sent out a link to a video featuring Dr. George Tiller, the abortion provider from Kansas who was killed this past year in his church.

The part that got me was towards the end when he said, "Abortion is not about babies and it's not about families. Abortion is about women's hopes, dreams, potentials and the rest of their lives. Abortion is a matter of survival for women."

This, to me, is the crux of choice. To be pro-choice is to believe fully in the rights of all women to control their own lives. Feminism, you could call it. I just call it being a compassionate human being. Whether you're a man, a woman, a Christian, a Democrat, or a Republican, you really cannot claim to believe in the idea of women's freedom without supporting her right to abortion. This was the most difficult thing for me to come to grips with when I was an anti-abortion crusader. I always believed that women could do anything as well as men, and when faced with the question of abortion rights, I responded with one of the many scripted answers that the anti-choicers use: "What about the rights of unborn women?"

What about them? This "woman" doesn't exist yet, at least not on the level of fully developed, breathing human beings. I remember very well the night I forced my own miscarriage. I was in such despair at the hospital. Being a woman who fully believed abortion was murder, and yet to commit it in my own life out of my need to not have another child, I was a wreck.

The nurse, however, was angelic. I was sobbing in recovery. They'd gotten the bleeding under control, and I was to stay overnight to make sure everything else was okay (it wasn't, but that's another story). After inducing a miscarriage, I had to undergo a D&C to make sure there was no "products of conception" left over. This is not easy in Kentucky, as we have some very restrictive laws on where this procedure can be performed. I've heard of women who need a D&C following a miscarriage having to go to the EMW Surgical Center, the only abortion clinic in Kentucky, just to make sure the "products of conception" don't cause infection. But since they suspected a perforated uterus (which they found), and the hospital happened to have a licensed D&C provider on staff, I got the procedure. "Would you like to see what we extracted from the procedure?" the nurse asked. "Sometimes it helps."

Now I was just under 11 weeks along at the time. The pictures and videos I'd seen and shown at the CPC brought horrible images to my mind. An 11 week fetus? The poor thing had fingers, eyes, a mouth and jaw hinge, oh no I told the nurse I couldn't handle it. My husband said he wanted to see, and I told him that was fine.

When he came back he was in tears. He, too, had seen all the anti-abortion materials I used at the CPC. When he knelt at my bed and took my hand. "Rosa," he said, "you really should have a look."

I was shown the fetus, and I was shocked. I couldn't believe I'd been so afraid to be rid of something no larger than a lima bean! It did indeed help, and in fact was the breaking point for me to decide to end my relationship with the CPC and all the anti-choicers I'd worked with.

Now I do have to add I still believe very much that I ended a life that day. While I saw no jaw hinge or fingernails, I did see a shape. The shape of a forming human being, a potential life. Not human life, not a full-fledged human being, but a forming one nonetheless. If I had to do it over again I'd still have ended the pregnancy, but with a legal abortion, because it just wasn't that little potential's time. And that's just the way things are. And it should always be a woman's choice. Because the decision is not just about potential life, it's about your life.



Crisis Pregnancy Center Watch said...

Oh Rosa! I'm so glad you shared this, thank you so much. Your story is heart-breaking, but I'm so glad you lived through it. Again, it's wonderful to have your experiences retold here, we really do appreciate it.

Amie Newman said...


Thank you so much for sharing! I am inspired by your courage. I wish more women could/would share. When we do, we become more powerful. Truth is an amazing thing! As a long time reproductive rights advocate, a mother of two children, and a woman who has had a miscarriage at almost 12 weeks, I can empathize. It is not about forcing women to do one thing or the other. It's acknowledging that our bodies are our own, that our lives are our own. That life happens, choices are made, birth and death and life are all intermingled and as much as CPCs would like for this to be black and white, it's simply not for many women. As you write,

"Now I do have to add I still believe very much that I ended a life that day. While I saw no jaw hinge or fingernails, I did see a shape. The shape of a forming human being, a potential life. Not human life, not a full-fledged human being, but a forming one nonetheless."

I think this is something that a lot of anti-choice advocates chose to gloss over. THey believe that if women "knew the truth" they wouldn't have an abortion. As if most women of childbearing age haven't already either: been pregnant, given birth, had a miscarriage or had an abortion. Why do anti-choice advocates think we don't understand our own experiences? For some women, they see their abortion as ending a life. For others, they have only a sense of relief.

I just want to say, finally, that I acknowledge your experience, I've learned from your story and I hope to continue working to ensure all women have access to legal abortion, around the world. Thanks,