The plan was to have him hit me in my lower abdomen with his fist so that I would miscarry.
Abortion wasn’t legal when I first got pregnant at the age of 15. I would hate for any young girl to go through what I did. It was about 1957 and I was madly in love and positive that I was going to grow up to marry my steady boyfriend, who was 16 at the time this happened. We’d been having sex since I was 13 and our method of birth control was for him to pull out, which as it turned out, didn’t work very well. My father was a pediatrician who was well respected in the community and my mother was socially active and a pillar of the Methodist church: to let either of them know I was pregnant was simply unthinkable. Since abortion was illegal, we took care of it ourselves. The plan was to have him hit me in my lower abdomen with his fist so that I would miscarry. The problem with this is that if I was aware he was going to do it I’d involuntarily tense my stomach muscles, so he had to do it by surprising me when I least expected it. Eventually, I started a very heavy menstrual flow. I probably wasn’t more than eight or ten weeks along. I never saw anything that looked like a baby, although I looked for one. All I could find was great globs of blood.
The irony was that in the couple of years we’d been together my boyfriend had converted me to Catholicism, but my parents wouldn’t let me join the Catholic Church. Since I couldn’t go to confession and be absolved of the “murder” I had committed, I had to live with that guilt for several years. Still, I was glad we had been successful because being a murderer wasn’t as bad as being a social pariah would have been at that time. I had never heard the word “abortion.” I didn’t even know there was such a thing. Back then you got sent away to live with a relative and you came back either with a baby or without one and that was it.
Later on, in 1977, when I was 35 and had been married for several years, I had been nursing my first and only child for 11 months and became pregnant again even though I was using a diaphragm. My husband and I had not planned to have another child. We were astounded. Neither of us felt we could handle another baby at that time. He was 45 and I was looking forward to going back to work. We just didn’t see how we could do it emotionally, financially, or physically. We didn’t feel it would be fair to our daughter. I realized even if I could do this I would resent the child. I wanted to continue with my career and I was 35 years old. I had started to learn by then that our energy is not infinite; and I’d started to have some physical problems. My husband and I were in agreement, he was fully supportive, and we went to the clinic together. We were both very thankful to have that choice. Neither of us has ever regretted that decision. Having that support system made all the difference.
My third and final abortion occurred around 1984. During that time I was divorced, living with my nine-year-old daughter on around $800 a month in child support and alimony, and doing some freelance writing while looking for a regular job after being laid off. For a couple of years I had been going with a young man who was living with me. He was a returning serviceman who had seen the US Embassy in Beirut blown up, and he was working at a local restaurant as a cook and dishwasher. He had some of the same issues many returning veterans did at that time, among them heavy drinking. On the night I told him I was pregnant, he had come home late from work and he had already been drinking. He went ballistic. He broke an antique screen, hurled a chair across the room, tossed a stereo turntable out the door, and knocked the head off of a ceramic dog. When I tried to stop him he came at me and dislocated my shoulder before finally leaving. He came back a week or so later with roses, an apology, and no recollection of what he had done. I told him I planned to have an abortion and he said, “Well, that’s up to you.” I told him I’d appreciate it if he could see fit to pay for half of the medical fee. He didn’t say whether he would or wouldn’t help, but left after telling me he’d started to see a woman with whom I was acquainted.
On the day of my appointment at the clinic it was snowing and the roads were so icy I was afraid to drive, but I lived close enough to the clinic to walk and decided to do so, planning to take a cab home afterwards. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so alone as I did walking those few blocks in the snow to the clinic, but I didn’t cry until after the procedure. A woman who worked there spread some peanut butter on a cracker for me and said when she saw my tears, “It’s natural to feel a bit sad after.”
“Oh, it’s not that, but I think this peanut butter cracker is the best thing I ever tasted.” I had suddenly realized that her small kindness was the first thing anyone had done for me in months.
He never helped pay for the abortion or the cab ride home. I would see him and my acquaintance together occasionally and often wondered if he ever got violent with her. A couple of years after I had put it all behind me, I was reading the Sunday paper and saw that the Right-to-Lifers had taken out a full page ad listing the names of those who opposed abortion, and there amidst all of the other names were those of his parents.
So those are the stories of my three abortions, all different. What they have in common is that (after passing through my Catholic phase) I have never regretted a one. I was thankful for the choice of a practically painless termination and a clean, safe, and kind place for the last two, and I hope every woman will always have that choice. I hope to help demystify the subject of abortion and help others who have had this experience know they aren’t the only ones who are out there.
Kay, East Tennessee