I listened to Frances Kissling's story with great interest and was inspired to share my story and thoughts about abortion. To state my position, I am 100% pro-choice, and have worked in various ways to support agencies that provide all components of reproductive services and have also spoken out politically, but not too much in the last 10 years due to the heated nature of the discussion, which I find intimidating.
Demographically I am 58 years old, white, and was born into an upper middle class family. My mother was an alcoholic, and I am a drug addict. I began using heavily at 16, and did all the stuff people did...dropped out, ran away from home, was a hippie, etc. I struggled to find recovery off and on most of my adult life until finally getting clean in Narcotics Anonymous in 1996. This information is relevant to my reproductive history because as a using addict I was incapable of practicing birth control. I became pregnant many times. I have 2 adult children. I also had uncounted miscarriages and 7 abortions: illegal, legal and self-induced. I was hospitalized in 1979 and nearly bled to death from aborting myself with a crochet hook. The first time I did it, I didn't die, so I tried it a second time less successfully. Illegal abortions at 16 & 17 included submission to rape by the "doctor". Legal abortions were kinder and gentler, though still not exactly a picnic they were preferable to the alternatives. All this sounds pretty awful, and it was at the time, but I can now frankly talk about these experiences objectivley. I have had a lot of support and help along the way. The "treatment" for my addiction is to surrender to a life lived on simple spiritual principles, and I have no guilt or shame about my abortions and I do not grieve for those lost babies. If there is a power that drives the universe, they are totally taken care of, and I am satisfied that I made the right decision. I am at peace.
I have watched in dismay as the "religious right" and the Republican Party have attacked a woman's right to choose over and over. I fear the overturn of Roe vs. Wade and a return to a time that many do not remember, when abortion was unavailable. Women who could afford it left the country of found the means, and those who did not have money resorted to dangerous means to end their pregnancies. A woman who is desperate will do whatever it takes, and I know this from my own experience.
Returning to the subject of women addicts and unwanted pregnancies, there is a hidden epidemic of women who have multiple children, often with multiple fathers, that they are not able to care for. I sponsor a woman in prison who has 5 children. She has never been able to support or care for any of them consistently or for any length of time. Some live with family members, and 2 were "adopted out". I love my young friend, and believe that she feels love for those children. I know she feels a lot of grief, sorrow, and loss about the children she gave birth to, but in a practical way this accomplishes nothing. Other people are taking care of them, and a lot of their support comes from public programs. Am I saying that they "should" have been aborted? Of course not. They are here now and need to be provided for. What we really need is a better way to conduct all of our discussion about reproductive rights and responsibilites. The atmoshpere has become so heated that it is hard to even broach the subject of women's reproductive rights without opening up all sorts of bitter, divisive language and emotion.
Thank you for giving me a place to share my story. No one else has ever given me a forum in which to tell it. I also enjoyed reading the stories shared by others.
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