It has been seven years since I had my abortion. Although through the years I have af firmed my self-identity as a feminist and political activist, I still feel compelled to remain anonymous as I describe my abortion and its subsequent impact on me. Countless clandestine conversations with other women confïrm that I am not alone in my insecurity. Although abortion is one of the hottest political issues in this country today, its personalization is taboo. The guilt imposed by society upon women who choose to end pregnancies is intense. The people who make up the mainstream, the majority of whom are pro-choice, seem to believe that contraceptive technology is advanced enough so that unintended pregnancies must result from irresponsibility, lack of control. When I became pregnant I was 21 finishing my B.A., and preparing to leave the country for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer. A positive test, after weeks of denial and anxiety, confirmed that I would have to deal with an unwanted pregnancy. Intellectually, I had decided long before that if I were to become pregnant I would have an abortion. Subconsciously however, I bought the social message that I alone was responsible for my pregnancy. I feit deceived by the trust I had put in my diaphf agm, which I had been using at the time. (Statistics show that 12% of women become pregnant in their first year of using a diaphragm.) I feit angry and confused. It saddened me to know that my capacity to bear children had been called into play before I was ready, or able, to respond. The guilt imposed by society, in addition to my own genuine sadness, shook my emotional equilibrium. The implications of a situation in which I had legal rights, but not society's approval, overwhelmed me. I was terrified of what people would think of me if they knew, so I didn't tell anyone. There are no woids which adequately describe theemotional andphysicalturmoil whichl, as ayoung, inexperienced woman, endured in deciding to end a pregnancy . As anger and resentment slowly replaced guilt, Ijbegan to hate that lump of cells which clung to the wall of my uterus. I thought of it as a cancerous tumor, trying to drain me of life. By 1982, the anti-choice picket lines were well established in front of the local Planned Parenthood clinic. An escort led my partner and me from the parking lot through the front door. The pickeïers shouted, "Baby Killer!" They beseeched me to continue the pregnancy. I was struck by their fanaticism, as well as by the cruelty of their words. My integrity, as a human being capable of making responsible decisions, was assaulted. At least there were no Operation Rescue troops to prevent us from entering the building, as no w happens with alarming frequency. Once inside, the wait was long and nerve wracking. Finally, during the thorough and empathetic counseling session provided by Planned Parenthood volunteers, I was told about the procedure. It would take about f ive minutes and I would experience a feeling similar to heavy menstrual cramps as the doctor dilated my cervix. I don't remember much else except a profound sense of relief that it would all be over soon. The actual abortion was excruciatingly painful. The clinic assis(see ABORTION, page 9) TESTIMONIAL (from page 1) tant held my hand and told me to breathe deeply. I hyperventilated and passed out. Someone waved smelling salLs under my nose. It felt as if my en tire uterus was being sucked out through the hose of the aspirator. Those surreal minutes seemed like hours. My recovery was uneventful. I was walking within an hour, and feit more or less normal within a couple of days. After reading accounts of the physical damage caused by poorly done abortions, the compelling importance of safe, legal, accessible al temati ves to pregnancy became clear. For instance, Fund for the Feminist Majority statistics show that illegal abortion is the number one killer of women between the ages of 1 5 and 39 in Latín America today. In spite of the cmotional and physical pain associated with my abortion, I never regretted having had it. As soon as it was over, I knew that I had made the most logica!, responsible decisión that I was capable of at that time. My only regret is the years of silence that prevented me from connecting with other women who have ended pregnancies. One of every two women in the U.S. will have an abortion in her lifetime. An incredible amount of political will could be generated by such a large number of women. Our inability to identífy each other disempowers us. We are silenced by irrational shame, as I was for so many years. The Supreme Court decided on July 3 to uphold laws which assume that life begins at conception. Further, states may require costly tests (which haven't yet been developed) to determine viability of 20-week-old fetuses. Finally, states may prohibit the use of public funds and facilities for the performance of abortions. One can't help but recognize the far-reaching impact of this ruling. and the implications for poor women firs t, and all women eventually. Michigan eliminated medicaid funded abortions last November. What will go next - abortions currently covered by insurance benefits of state employees? It is now more important than ever to speak out about the importance of safe, legal abortion. A July 24 Media GeneralAssociated Press survey showed that 59% of the people in this country approve of the 1973 Supreme Court decisión establishing the constitutional right to abortion, 36% are opposed and 5% are unsure. The survey also showed that U.S. citizens favor abortion in their states by a 2-to-l margin. It is our responsibility to destigmatize abortion, either by publicly or privately speak ing out ourselves, or by supporting other women who choose to acknowledge their experiences. We need to be able to speak out about how abortion has affected our lives, and to explain how we would have suffered if we had not been able to make such a fundamental reproductive choice.
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