My Body, My Abortion

choiceIf 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

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4 Responses to My Body, My Abortion

  1. A serious question. At what point between conception and, say, 1 minute before birth, does the foetus become a being whose rights must be taken into account? Or to put it another way, if there are no negative factors, if the prognosis is for a healthy baby to be born to a healthy mother, what is the maximum age abortion should be legal? Can you give a rational, scientific justification for your answer?

    I’m not trying to convert you. I am not going to argue with you. I’m simply interested in your thinking.On a slightly different note I was amused by Paul Ryan’s professed admiration for Ayn Rand. Here is what Ayn Rand had to say on abortion. “An embryo has no rights. Rights do not pertain to a potential, only to an actual being. A child cannot acquire any rights until it is born. The living take precedence over the not-yet-living (or the unborn). Abortion is a moral right—which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved; morally, nothing other than her wish in the matter is to be considered. Who can conceivably have the right to dictate to her what disposition she is to make of the functions of her own body?”

    It appears that Ayn Rand thought it was OK to have an abortion right up to the point of birth. Do you agree with Ayn Rand? Full disclosure:I think “Ayn Randians” are as batty as Marxists for reasons that have nothing to do with her views on abortion.

  2. Avatar photo A Rational Woman says:

    Your question is certainly thought-provoking. I didn’t realize I could have an opinion so close to one that was held by Ayn Rand. But I do agree that women should have the right to decide how to make use of their own bodies. As to how far that right should go, I suppose it’s a matter of social convention to a certain extent.

    Right now, I’d like to say that if a fetus were viable and could live on its own, without very high risk of being grievously handicapped and needing lifelong expensive care to live at all, it should not be destroyed. It seems extraordinarily selfish to do away with a nearly-born baby when so many couples are desperate for such babies.

    Therefore, until we’re able to offer potential mothers of unwanted babies the option of taking those fetuses out and putting them on equally safe life-support systems, it should be up to the mother whether she continues an unwanted pregnancy, right up to the point of low-risk viability. I haven’t studied that viability date specifically, but I would think babies can’t make it on their own much before the last month or perhaps two of pregnancy.

  3. Double-Helical says:

    Dear Rational Woman,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. It is entirely up to the woman, and no one else.

    I have a hypothesis that may explain why we even have an issue with third-trimester abortions. My hypothesis supposes that there is too much pressure on women, especially very young women who haven’t matured or gained much life-experience. These women, I imagine, are torn back and forth between the “keep it” and “abort it” friends and acquaintances. It’s possible that this inability to decide quickly soon turns into having to make a decision about a third-trimeseter abortion. I suppose that if there were no social stigmas at all concerning abortion, there would never be a need to have any late-stage abortions. So, if this is plausible, the anti-abortion crowd, especially the religious zealots, have only themselves to blame when they whine about aborting “viable babies.”

    On another note, I have read somewhere (Hitchens?) that over half of all fertilized embryos spontaneously abort, i.e., miscarry. I believe that the same article asserted that, oftentimes, this event goes unnoticed. The appended quip in this article was that this must make “god” the most prolific abortionist ever.

  4. Pingback: 9 Insights into the (Misnamed) Pro-Life Movement | BloggingBrights

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