If I were ever going to regret my long-ago decision to have an illegal abortion, it would have been on the ride home afterward. A sudden snowstorm caused the car I was in to slide into a snow bank. I began to bleed heavily and spent the next two days at a hospital in the tiny town of Lordsburg, New Mexico, pretending to the kind nurses that I’d had a miscarriage.
I could have died. The bleeding was from an infection, a result of having had my abortion in Juarez, Mexico, in a frigidly cold and not-very-medical-looking room, after paying with cash borrowed from friends. The car for the long mid-winter drive from Los Angeles was borrowed, too.
Still, I’ve never regretted having that abortion, only that it was illegal. This was just before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion 40 years ago. No one should have to go to such lengths to avoid unwanted motherhood.
In my mind, what was removed from my body wasn’t a baby yet. It was a mistake, and a correctable one. I didn’t want to leave school, or tell my parents, or be tied to the father, whom I had been considering not seeing anymore. I’d been on birth control pills, using a fake married name to get them from a private doctor. Only a month or two before the pills failed, the doctor had mentioned that this type of sequential pill wasn’t turning out to be as reliable as expected, and did I want to switch. From today’s vantage point, I have no idea what laziness or adolescent illogic kept me from changing pills. But I left it up to the doctor and he let me stay on them, and they failed soon after.
Every time a man masturbates, he’s throwing away thousands of half-babies. Every time a woman menstruates, a potentially viable egg slips away unfertilized. And that’s fine. We have options. We’re civilized, and science explains why unwanted stuff happens and, sometimes, how to stop it from happening. We don’t hesitate to kill unwanted viruses and bacteria that attack our bodies.
The less-than-two-months-old bean-sized bundle of dividing cells I had scraped out of me in Mexico all those years ago? Yes, it had eyelids, it had knees, and it had a very primitive bit of brain. Could it go on to develop without me? To become human? Impossible. And so, misbegotten parasite that it was, its future was mine to decide, and I couldn’t see a future for it.
I don’t understand those who are working so hard today to take away women’s freedom to decide how their own bodies are used. Bearing a child that you’ve chosen to have, or willingly surrendered to having, changes a woman’s life in every way, some of those ways unforeseeably wondrous. But the idea that someone whose belief system is entirely different from mine should make laws that affect me in such an intimate way is anathema to me.
The name Lordsburg might mean something special to some individuals. It is, after all, a town named for a supernatural entity. For me, it will forever be a reminder of a misguided law that could have killed me.
We may always disagree about some of the specifics of right and wrong, but let’s keep good laws stating that your religion stops at the borders of my skin.
Copyright (2013) by Susan K. Perry