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Women DIE from Abortions

Women DIE from Abortions

I’ve never talked about this issue even though I’ve thought about it a lot over the past 40 years.  I’ve always felt that I had to know how I felt about abortion and whose “side” I’m on, given that it’s been such a raging topic in my adult life.  A number of scenes from the past flash through my mind.

The first is of me as a 16-year-old in the summer of 1971.  I had had sex with my boyfriend, and although a simplistic form of birth control was used, my period was late and I was scared.  I was never one of these adolescents who felt invincible.  If something could go wrong, it would probably happen to me!  As a week late became eight days late and then nine days late, I was overcome with a bone-chilling panic.  What was I possibly going to do?  I was entering my junior year of high school, my home was unstable, and my boyfriend and I were not in a committed relationship at that point.  Abortion was illegal in 46 of 50 states at that time.  I vaguely knew that it was legal in New York, but how was a 16-year-old going to slip away to New York from the Midwest and discreetly take care of such a matter?  I had no idea how to go about that magic act!

I was in a bad predicament, I feared, and crying in bed one night, my back literally against the wall, I punched myself in the stomach.  Just go away! I silently screamed.  Then another emotion washed over me.  If I was indeed pregnant, this was a life that he and I had created.  I loved him very much.  Could I harm what we had created?  I didn’t think I could.  In fact, I wrote him a letter the next day, telling him of my situation and that I felt we had two choices: we could raise our baby together the best we could or I would have the baby alone and give it up for adoption.  The letter went into an envelope but was not mailed.

The following day, I woke up to blood on my pajama pants.  I had never been so happy to see menstrual blood in all my life!  I was relieved to the point of crying again.  I tore up the letter I had written to my boyfriend and resumed life as a definitely-not-pregnant 16-year-old.

I never, however, forgot the rollercoaster of emotions I was on for about a week as I wondered what I was going to do if I were in a very-adult situation as a very-adolescent girl.

A woman of any age can feel that sense of panic and desperation when finding out she is pregnant.  Women are not always in a position to carry a pregnancy and care for an infant, nor are women always in control of the circumstances of the conception.  Because of these facts of life,  women have been having abortions ever since they figured out the signs and symptoms of pregnancy.  Sometimes they’ve had help from those who know how to go about these things.  Sometimes the termination of the pregnancy was safely and successfully accomplished under “illegal” circumstances.  At other times, women have suffered internal injuries, infection, severe blood loss, and even death at the hands of the unskilled and incompetent.  Sometimes it has been at her own hand in the privacy of her own home.  (If you want the unpleasant details of such an event, either read the novel or watch the movie Revolutionary Road.)  A close adult female relative of mine told me a story I really didn’t want to hear about taking the drug ergotrate when she was pregnant with her second child in an effort to abort the pregnancy.  It didn’t work.  Many procedures and remedies have been employed over hundreds of years to terminate pregnancies, and before Roe vs. Wade during the “civilized” era of our country, these attempts have often resulted in the woman’s illness, injury, and/or death.

If a woman decides that she is not in a position, either emotionally, physically or circumstantially, to carry a pregnancy to term, making abortion illegal once more will not prevent women from having abortions.  It never has.  What it will prevent is safe, skilled procedures that do not put her health at further risk.  What it will further prevent is open dialogue about the situations that put women in this situation to begin with.  We’ll be back to sticking our heads in the sand and not talking about it.  That has never gotten us anywhere.  Ever.

Women need to make their own decisions about the outcome of a pregnancy.  It really is a very personal decision, and it is the rare woman who takes these decisions lightly.  We don’t need more laws telling women what they can and can’t do in these situations.  We need more resources and support for women, from the time they’re young girls.

What should a woman do if she finds herself pregnant under unsupportive and stressful circumstances?  Each woman who becomes pregnant has the right to answer that question for herself.  If called upon, I’ll answer it for me, with a sigh of relief that I don’t — and shouldn’t — answer it for anyone else.


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