It was a snowy night in 1972 when I received the call from my best friend. She telephoned me often in those days. We were just two mid-western women in our early 20’s who had been best friends since we were in junior high school.
Her voice was shaky as she announced softly into the telephone that she was pregnant and wanted me to go with her to the clinic to have an abortion. It was clear that this was a choice she had to make, and she knew I’d understand because I’d been there before her. The only real difference was that the clinic was a few miles from her home, and when I needed a clinic back in 1971 I had to drive 500 miles to find one.
That was a long time ago, but I never forget either of those moments in my life. They represent so much more then choosing to terminate a pregnancy.
In 1986 I remembered those moments when my friend Jean wanted me to go to Washington DC to show support for a woman’s right to choose to be pregnant. There had been a lot going on around these issues during that time because there was a challenge to the law that was being addressed by the US Supreme Court. Jean arranged for another friend of ours, and myself to go onto the local radio station to talk about Roe vs. Wade and our personal experiences.
That was the first time I talked about my experiences in public. Sure, I had found the courage to tell Jean…she was my dear friend. My ex-husband knew, my mother guessed, and my husband knew, and, of course, my best friend. That was it. In those days it just wasn’t something women talked about if it was their personal experience.
But it was clear that some of us needed to come out into the open so that those around us could see that abortion was not something that happened to someone they didn’t know. Our abortions didn’t take place in a back alley, and the choice was not made lightly.
Even today women will whisper to me when they tell me they’ve had an abortion. Whether the conversation is in a restaurant over a meal, or in the car driving to the movies, the statement, “I don’t normally talk about this, but…” comes just prior to sharing their stories about the pain of making the choice to terminate a pregnancy.
It’s a shame that many of us are afraid to talk about what’s important. I made up my mind quite early in life that I wouldn’t go quietly, and I haven’t. This has been demonstrated repeatedly by speaking up, speaking out and attending get-togethers or public gatherings about issues that are important in my life.
The one thing I will confess though is that sometimes when I meet a young person who is in their mid-30’s I think to myself that if I had not had an abortion my child would be that age. I don’t regret making the choices I made in those days – they were right for me, and for the child I already had birthed.
It might be easy enough to look the other way, now that becoming pregnant isn’t an option since I am past that point in life. I don’t need to remind myself that there are millions of women behind me who will be faced with the same challenges of poverty, abuse and lack of options, AND they need to have the freedom to have options.
I plan to keep on speaking up, and speaking out. I hope you will join me.