Lots of other adoptees pose for photos with all kinds of anti-abortion signs:
“Adopted, Not Aborted.”
“Conceived from Rape. I Love My Life.”
“I was almost aborted. Thanks Mom!”
“I’m adopted. My Mom Chose Life.”
“I’m so happy my mother let me live!”
But not me. I was adopted but I should have been aborted. Don’t get me wrong, being alive’s got its perks, but my mother should have had the choice to choose her life rather than begin mine.
I was born when abortion was illegal. Millions of women’s lives were changed, some ruined, by being forced to bear and raise children. Thousands were forced to undergo painful and unsafe abortions. How many women were wounded, and how many died? My biological mother had heard the horror stories and she was terrified that she might end up one of them. So instead, she was one of the thousands who were forced to carry babies they couldn’t keep for 9 months.
“Not every baby needs to be born, but every woman who is born deserves dominion over her own body and the right to determine her own destiny.”
My birth mother was Doris, a 37-year-old secretary living in Washington, D.C. Her boss’s sexual assault was only the second time she’d had intercourse. When Doris’s doctor told her she was going to have a baby, he implied he knew where she could go to not have one. How did he say it, I wonder? What was the look on his face? Was he as embarrassed as poor Doris? Or was he kind and sensitive to her shame and fear?
When she told her boss/my father she was pregnant (the only person on Earth she ever told), he handed her a check for $300. Despite her boss’s and her doctor’s implied solution, Doris was too scared to take her life in her hands. She’d heard the horror stories about backdoor abortions. She used the check to buy a Greyhound bus ticket to Miami Beach to wait out the pregnancy. It would be warm there, no winter winds and no one to recognize her growing belly.
My mother arranged my adoption with the help of her ob-gyn. Still, the day I was born, as lawyers stood over her hospital bed for hours, waiting for her to sign the adoption papers. Doris remembered it was raining that morning. Apparently the signature wasn’t so easy. No doubt the men around her urged her to sign, using arguments about a better life for the baby, tales of a life of shame for her.
Doris should not have had to go through all this. It’s not easy being raped, and it’s not easy having to carry a baby to term, and then it’s not easy to give that baby up. Not having an abortion changed the entire course of her life. She left her home in Washington, D.C. and went back to the Midwest town she’d left decades before. She never married, and she never returned to D.C.
While my mother became pregnant the second time she had sex, her daughter got pregnant the first time. But unlike my mother, I was able to have a safe abortion. The decision was difficult and painful. To be honest, it broke my heart. It was really hard to let go of the one blood relative I had. I felt so much sorrow, grief and guilt. But I realized having a baby would doom me and the child to a rocky life of instability, poverty and hardship. I was only 21. I still slept with a stuffed animal. The same youthful cluelessness that led to pregnancy would likely be followed by many others. Let this poor soul take the next car, I thought.
Experience taught me having an abortion can be hard. But I also know that carrying a baby to term and having to give her or him up would have been much, much harder. I doubt I’d ever really recover from the loss, sorrow, and self-recrimination for the irresponsibility.
Look, being alive has its perks, and I’m grateful. I’m grateful to live the life of a woman who can make decisions and choices about how that life should go. What good is my life if I can’t guide and shape that life I’ve been given? What good is a life without one’s own oversight and choices, and the agency lead the life one’s own heart and mind thinks best?
The war on women gave me my life by taking away my mother’s. And now it’s dead-set on taking away the lives of millions of women. I’m okay with saying my mother should have been able to have a safe abortion I’m okay with saying I should haven’t been born. So I fight and will always fight for women’s reproductive rights. Not every baby needs to be born, but every woman who is born deserves dominion over her own body and the right to determine her own destiny.
This is an abridged version of an article that first appeared on BUST.com.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons/Nancy Wong