Trigger warning for discussion about rape
In the New York Times a few days ago, Susan Heath talked about, in her words, “having an abortion when nobody called me a slut”. She remembers what it was like for her to have an abortion in 1978, before the anti-choice movement really took off and became the ugly monster it is today.
It’s fairly simple:
We park and walk up to the entrance. No running the gantlet between pickets shouting at me that I’m a murderer, no fear that someone will throw a bomb. The receptionist takes my name and says, “You just have to talk with a counselor first.” I don’t mind, I figure it’s part of the procedure. I tell the counselor I already have four children and I don’t want any more. I’m on a different track now. She nods understandingly and says they’ll be ready for me soon. No judgment, no showing me pictures of fetuses, no trying to make me feel guilty. She just wants to be sure I’m sure.
And of course, I am.
Her story inspired me to talk today about another woman who had an abortion which occurred around the same time period, the late 1970s, under different circumstances from what Susan Heath experienced, in a different part of the states, but who didn’t have her service denied.
This woman’s a close friend of mine. She told me tidbits of her story, never really the whole thing, and I can’t blame her for that.
Her story is tragic: When she was about my age, she was hitch-hiking*, walking along the highway from one Montana town to another, when a man in a car pulled up beside her, and yelled at her to get in the car. He was holding a gun, so she had no choice but to get in and obey him. The man raped her, and then dropped her off on another part of the highway, speeding off. The nearest town at that point was Kalispell, so she made her way over there, and managed to make it to the doctor’s office to tell her story. She got to the sheriff’s office, and told what she knew: The man’s description, the description of the car.
I never found out whether or not they found him, arrested him, convicted him, but she told me once about testifying in Kalispell’s courthouse, so it must have gotten somewhere. But that wasn’t the end of it for her. She found out she was pregnant. She had so much to look forward to in her life, loved working at the farm with her friends, dreamed of travel. She didn’t want to be burdened with motherhood, especially not motherhood to a child who would have been conceived in a moment of such violence and hatred. She had an abortion, and nobody, not one person, ever questioned her about it. It was her choice, it was her right. Everybody supported her, and gave her the tools and money she needed to secure the abortion. No picketing, no second-guessing her choice, no telling her to make lemons out of lemonade or consider it a blessing.
She led a rich, happy, fulfilled life after that, managed to work through her trauma, and went on to start her own family. She was grateful that she had the chance to decide to start a family on her terms, with a supportive partner, and have children who were conceived in a relationship of love and respect, not trauma and violence.
So you see, regardless of the circumstances of one’s needing an abortion, whether it’s because you are already a parent and don’t want to have another child, or because you know you are not ready to be a parent and do not want to have a constant reminder of the pain you experienced, or because you just don’t want to be pregnant at the moment, for whatever reason, this is the way abortion should be: Accessible, non-judgemental, and in the hands of the person receiving the abortion. End of story.
* If I ever get a single comment telling me that she deserved this for engaging in “reckless behaviour” or whatever bullshit you want to come up with, it will meet the icy power of my delete and ban buttons so fast, your fingers will freeze.