One out of every three women in America will have an abortion some time in her life. I am one of these women.
In 1995, I was thrilled to be pregnant. I adored my two daughters. I very much wanted to add a third baby to my family. I was devastated when an early sonogram revealed my fetus had no heartbeat. I was told I would miscarry.
A miscarriage is the body’s way of terminating a nonviable pregnancy. When you think of all the things that can go wrong between conception and delivery, it should come as no surprise that they happen quite frequently. As traumatic and sad as they can be, they usually prevent greater tragedy.
By then I’d had two miscarriages. I thought I knew what I was in for — I was so wrong.
Even after a month, the bleeding, interspersed with agonizing cramps, had not stopped. I was exhausted and probably anemic. I’d just wanted it to be over. Then I’d feel overwhelmed with guilt for resenting a being who would never get a chance to live.
At the 40-day point, I was running a serious fever, cycling between hot flashes and chills so intense that my bones felt like they had turned to ice. That was when I had to make a choice: toughing it out until stillbirth, risking my fertility and life, or undergoing a procedure that would let me stick around to raise my daughters and have a healthy son in two years.
The right-to-life people do not mention that some aborted fetuses are already dead. There are many things they don’t mention. They make it sound like the abortion issue is a black-and-white, good-versus-evil narrative. All unborn babies have a right to life. Pregnancy is a gift from God with a mandate not to terminate it. Not surprisingly, there is a stigma against women like me who don’t follow this mandate. Women can go for decades afraid to reveal this secret, even to intimate friends.
1 in 3 is a campaign to remove the stigma and shame surrounding abortion by sharing stories and encouraging others to do the same. This puts human faces on a controversy that too often is reduced to abstraction and judgement. In the spirit of their advocacy, I will share stories from their book, which is a small sample of the intensely personal narratives posted on their website, 1in3campaign.org.
One woman, a working mother of a toddler, faced a situation a lot like mine. “The pregnancy that I terminated was very much wanted and planned. But at 16 weeks, an ultrasound showed that there was not enough amniotic fluid. I spent the next couple of weeks on bedrest, but to no avail. By 19 weeks there was basically no amniotic fluid. No amniotic fluid means no lung development. Even if I carried that fetus to term, there’s no way she could have ever breathed on her own.”
Stephanie is a married minister with three stepchildren. “Both pregnancies were the result of rape. In both instances I was in such denial about what had happened and about the potential for pregnancy that I did not seek medical attention until it was almost too late to make a decision about what was going to be happening to my body and to my life. I chose abortion over suicide. Twice.”
Elaine became pregnant at 15. She had no idea how to take care of herself, nevermind a baby.
One single mother of a kindergartener was barely able to feed herself and her child, and she was at the mercy of a family member who provided housing to her. She could not afford another child. But she had no idea how to carry the fetus to term and tell her already born child she was giving away her sister or brother.
I am deeply grateful to 1 in 3 for the conversations they have started. My abortion probably saved my life. I want other women to have access to this safe medical procedure and not have to turn in desperation to back alley butchers.
One in three women will have an abortion. Could one of us be someone you love?
Jules (Julia) Hathaway of Veazie is a writer, community activist and proud mother of three. She is taking up the interests she put on the back burner for parenting and serving on a school committee.