Judith | East Tennessee
You hear these stories about back alley abortions and people getting infections and dying, and I consider myself one of the lucky ones for surviving an illegal abortion.
So, I had this boyfriend.
It was a tumultuous time in my life! My father died when I was 15. My sister, who was a year-and-a-half older than me, got secretly married to keep her boyfriend out of the draft in the Vietnam War. No one knew. And my mom, who had lost two husbands, had some difficulties in her own life.
With all that in mind, it’s a good thing I had a boyfriend who was definitely an anchor for me. We did not actually have intercourse probably for a year. It was like Clinton sex, I guess.
This was probably at least a year into our relationship and it was just that one crazy, funky time that he didn’t have a condom. I was too young and innocent to have gone to an OB/GYN to get on any kind of birth control – the pill or an IUD or anything. I should have been on birth control. But I didn’t do that until after.
My mom died in ’03, and she was 89. Think about that, she was old school. She was like, ‘don’t you let those boys take advantage of you!’ She was not someone I could go to with this sort of problem.
I was always aware of when I got my period and I was always aware of when I was ovulating. And of course the day after, I knew I was ovulating and I freaked. And within a week when I was late for my period, I knew I was pregnant.
It was never a choice for me to go through a pregnancy and give it up for adoption. I just couldn’t even imagine that. I’ve always been very maternally oriented. I always wanted to be a mother. So, I couldn’t imagine having a baby and giving it away. It was not an option for me. Although, I applaud people who do that because there are some wonderful families who can’t have their own children.
I called a friend and said, “I don’t know what to do, I’m pregnant.” I was freaking out. She told me not to worry, and that she’d find someone to take care of it. This was probably 1967. So she gave me the name of some quack doctor. I mean, he was supposedly a doctor. I was lucky to have friends who supported me. My girlfriends were my support system. I’m not even sure who made the connection, but there was never any judgment on their side.
To go visit this doctor, I had to go from the Bronx in New York City, through a tunnel into Newark, New Jersey, and sit in this waiting room with all these people that I knew were doing the same thing. It was the creepiest thing ever.
He examined me, I was very early, and he was like ‘you’re not ready, you’re not ready.’ This doctor never really told me much about the process. He was giving me shots, and I would get out of there and it was like I have no idea what I’m getting. I can’t believe I was that stupid, I’m not that stupid anymore trust me.
At one point, he walked out of the room and I checked the bottle to see what he was giving me. I believe it was Vitamin B-12, it could’ve been B-6, I don’t know. But I had no idea – where the abortion was going to take place or when it was going to happen.
It was getting late into my pregnancy. I think this was past my third month when he finally said, “Okay, where do you live?” And I was just lucky that my mom would go to Florida for periods of time and leave me alone.
So he came to my house, the 12th floor of an apartment building in New York City and I laid on my kitchen table and I got an abortion.
I had no idea if this guy was for real or not. You hear these stories about back alley abortions and people getting infections and dying, and I consider myself one of the lucky ones for surviving an illegal abortion.
I often marvel at how different my life would’ve turned out and I’m amazed at how many people end up having an abortion. The fact that 1 in 3 women have had an abortion is pretty powerful. They’re just lucky if they can do it legally. I didn’t have that. But that’s just the way it is.
I’ve never looked back; I’ve never had regrets.
I did have a wonderful, supportive boyfriend who would’ve married me, but it was just the farthest thing from my mind. I knew I was not ready, it was not what I wanted, and I felt like after that length of time with him I knew I was not in love with this person.
Anyway, I ended up going to California with a boyfriend when I was 19. Even though everyone longs to go to New York City and it is a wonderful place, it was what I call a concrete jungle at the time. It was difficult to live there, there was a lot of crime, and things had not been cleaned up yet. I’d been held up at knife point twice in New York City. So, I hitchhiked to California with a boyfriend with just a backpack and a sleeping bag.
And ultimately, we split up and I’ve been happily married for 40 years. Now I have two daughters who have given me six beautiful grandchildren. My life would’ve turned out so differently if I hadn’t had an abortion; it’s not even funny.
Living in a Republican state and a conservative Christian community, there are not a whole lot of people who know my story, unless I know that politically they are on the same wavelength as me. It’s not something I would just share.
One time, I was at lunch with a bunch of people for someone’s birthday and it came up. I mentioned that I had an abortion, and one of the ladies just got up and left. She couldn’t handle it. That was really weird. I’m like, this is the 21st century—grow up.
So, I don’t go blabbing it to just anyone, but I’m sure all my closest friends have heard part of the story and know some of it.
My mother went to her grave never knowing. I never told her. But I’ve never looked back, and I’ve had no repercussions, nightmares, or bad feelings.
I want to tell my story because Roe v. Wade is probably one of the most important protections women have, and there’s a fear of it being it being reversed—a fear we’re going to lose women’s rights to make that choice.
Pro-choice doesn’t mean pro-abortion. It’s not pleasant, but it’s necessary for women to be allowed to make that choice.
And the fact that some of these idiotic politicians want to prevent women who are in distress or whose lives might be affected — it’s the scariest thing.
I always told my daughters to come to me if the time comes that they feel like they want to be sexually active. Of course, if they were 15 I’d tell them ‘hell no.’ Fortunately, we haven’t had any mishaps. They’ve had all planned pregnancies, and maybe that’s because they know my story.
I feel like I’ve been blessed and lucky in life to have made the choice I made.
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