In a world that valued women’s lives and bodies, I wouldn’t have either. My birthmother wanted to have a safe abortion and she didn’t have that choice. She should have.
My biological mother‘s name was Doris, a 37-year-old secretary living in Washington, D.C. She had been working there for nearly 2 decades, and took pride in her government career. She was raped by her boss. 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? Was he kind and sensitive to her shame and fear?)
Doris told her boss/her rapist/my father that she was pregnant. She was so ashamed that her whole life long, he was the only person she ever told. He handed her a check for $300. It’s clear that Doris’ boss and her doctor had the same “solution” in mind. But neither her doctor or her boss took into account how dangerous and deadly illegal abortions were. Doris had heard the horror stories about back alley abortions and she was too scared to take her life in her hands. Instead of facing the bloody terror of a an illegal abortion, Doris used the check to buy a Greyhound bus ticket to Miami Beach. When she began to show, she headed south to hide her shame and wait out the pregnancy. It would be warm there, no winter winds, no one to stare and whisper about her growing belly. Doris spent 9 months harboring a baby she didn’t ask for, enduring pain, shame and the ultimate heartbreak that comes from giving away a baby. I can’t even imagine that kind of grief that comes from mourning a new life.
“These people intent on telling women what do to do with their bodies and their lives always strike me more as pro-birth than pro-life.”
When I was born, abortion was illegal and back then millions of women’s lives were changed, some ruined, by being forced to bear and raise children. Also, when I was born, abortion was illegal but it wasn’t nonexistent. Thousands were forced to undergo painful and unsafe abortions. Countless women were wounded, countless died.
“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.”
Doris should not have had to go through all this. It’s an assault to be raped, and it’s also a violation of a woman’s body and a woman’s life to be forced to have to carry a baby to term. Not having the right to a safe, legal abortion changed the entire course of Doris’ life. She left her career and her home in D.C. and went back to the Midwest town she’d left decades before. She never married and never returned to Washington.
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 very 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. Hell, 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.
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?
Now we’re living in a world where increasingly women’s choices aren’t respected, where they’re told to relinquish dominion over their bodies, lives, and futures. Anti-choice activists might say I should value my life instead. I do value my life — as a woman who values her rights, her ability to have agency over her own body, life and destiny. If you take all that away from a woman, aren’t you in a sense taking away her life. You’re certainly not valuing that life. Nor do they behave in ways that convince me they care about the lives and futures of the zygotes for whom they so zealously advocate. These people intent on telling women what do to do with their bodies and their lives always strike me more as pro-birth than pro-life.
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 deeply believe she should have had the choice to choose her life rather than begin mine. 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 variation of this article first appeared on BUST.com.
Photo by Wikimedia Commons/Nancy Wong