Not unimportant. Critical.
Too many politicians would allow abortions only to save the life of the mother - no exceptions for rape, incest, or severe fetal abnormality. If a woman gets pregnant as a result of a rape, or a 12 year old is pregnant by her father (also rape whether violent or not), they believe that the government should force the rape victim, even a 12 year old, to live with that pregnancy for nine months and give birth to their rapist's baby. If a fetus is so deformed that it cannot survive outside the womb, they believe that the government should force the woman to carry it until it dies inside her, or to give birth and then watch it struggle and die in her arms.
This is a horrifying and cruel demand for government control of our very bodies, our hearts, our souls.
But women also need to be able to determine the course of their own lives in less extreme, but still difficult situations.
I graduated from high school with a full college scholarship. It paid for everything. Not just tuition and books, but room and board as well. It was a life-saver for me. My mother died when I was seven and when Fall came I was finally able to escape from my abusive and violent father. I had tried before. I ran away from home three times my senior year of high school, but I kept being returned to him. Children had no rights in those days. They were simply possessions of their parents. I guess I just wasn't brave enough to run off to a distant big city and try to survive any way I could. Too many street kids in cities like New York or Chicago were kids like me, desperate to escape. I had heard the stories, that many survived by prostitution and stealing. Scared that I'd end up like those kids, I knocked on doors of teachers or friend's parents late at night, in tears and hysterical. They took me back.
I got pregnant when I was 19. No idea how that happened. I was taking birth control pills and don't think I had missed any. But it happened.
I had no idea what to do. I had no home to go to. The only money I had was the $63 a month I got from Social Security survivors benefits because my mother had died. I would have lost my scholarship and been expelled from school. For being an immoral slut. Several girls I knew who had gotten pregnant had abortions arranged by their parents, but I effectively had no parents.
Finally I told a friend. He told me that he knew how to get me an abortion (an illegal one, of course) if that was what I wanted. He'd done that for his sister, who had attempted suicide when she found out she was pregnant. He was literally trying to save her life, sure that she'd try again and might well succeed the second time.
The relief I felt when he told me that he could help me flowed through my whole body. I can't describe it. I told him I'd think about it. I desperately didn't want to be pregnant, but I also knew how dangerous illegal abortions were. I could die.
A few days later, I miscarried.
About a year later, my friend told me his sister had attempted suicide again. It turned out that the infection that happened as a result of her back alley abortion had left her infertile. She couldn't accept never being able to have children. My friend and his sister had grown up in a very strict Baptist family and she believed that she was being punished for having sex, for getting pregnant. She figured that since she was going to burn in Hell for all eternity, she might as well get on with it. Why wait? Eternity is a long time.
I look at my daughter, the light of my life, and I think, if I hadn't miscarried, if I'd accepted my friend's offer of help, I too might never have been able to have children.
I don't want young women today to experience the panic and desperation that I did and I sure as hell don't want them to go through what my friend's sister went through.
We can't go back.
Abortion is complicated. But the basic principle is simple. There are as many reasons, as many personal stories like mine behind every decision to terminate a pregnancy as there are women who need an abortion.
The decision should not be the government's.
From Planned Parenthood:
Our primary goal is prevention — reducing the number of unintended pregnancies, especially the alarmingly high number of teenage pregnancies, in the United States. At the same time, to protect their health and the health of their families, women facing an unintended pregnancy must have access to safe, legal abortion services without interference from the government. Decisions about childbearing should be made by a woman in consultation with her family and doctor — not by politicians.
[posted on 2/5/12]