Sunday, May 08, 2005

Abortion Story

In a previous blog posting 'On Being Pro-Life and Pro-Choice', I described the conclusions I came to after my own abortion. Since writing that piece I realize an important part is missing - the powerful experience I had at the time of the abortion itself that led me to those conclusions. So here it is.

I was 29, with a lovely four year old daughter from a previous marriage, and living with my boyfriend under very unstable conditions. I was not glad to be pregnant. My boyfriend was not interested in being a father and threatened to leave. I instinctively knew that bringing a child into this situation would be too difficult for me to bear, especially since the responsibility would almost certainly all fall on me.

I can understand how some young women might allow a pregnancy to happen in the hopes that it might stimulate a change of heart in their boyfriends. But to me that is a fantasy, and raising a real child takes more courage and stamina and love than anyone can imagine.

Being a practical person, I resolved to handle the situation myself. I contacted my local Planned Parenthood office and made arrangements to go to New York for an abortion. I would have gone to the moon if I had to. I am not one to waffle over life-and-death issues. I had a child to raise, a career to restart, a home to build, a life to get back on track. And although this relationship continued for a few more years, for me it started to die right then. If you can't trust someone in such a basic way, nature takes over. You harden your heart and move on.

We drove to New York and found the clinic. My boyfriend stayed in the waiting room throughout the procedure. I have often thought that this was a missed opportunity for the clinic since no one spoke to him. Men need to know how serious this emotional breach of faith is. They need to have good advice about how to support the woman, the relationship, and how to prevent future pregnancies. For men who don't want children at all, this would be a good time for a vasectomy. I see no reason why the woman's body should bear all the burden of birth control.

Meanwhile, in another room I lay on a table. The doctor inserted an instrument into my body. There was a whirring sound, some pain and cramping. But just then, the most amazing experience happened that I have been unable to forget, over thirty years later.

I felt the distinct sensation of the spirit of the baby pass right over me. It felt like it was saying Hello and Goodbye at the same time. It felt like compassion, no harm, just this beautiful sensation of a being I would never get to know. I felt a spasm of grief for this one I would never know, a precious missed opportunity, and yet the overwhelming feeling was compassion shared between us. Two souls touching - and moving on in different directions.

I collected myself and went on with my life. A good life, and I have no regrets. We all have to make choices every day, and each choice no matter how small is a branching in the road of life, leading us to still more choices. I think that's why we're here- for the best choices we can make, for the best love we can offer, the best truth we can live.

This is how I know that a pregnancy is a life, no matter how small or undeveloped that physical being is. It is a soul, offering to be with us. We may not be ready to receive it. Sometimes we must say no. Yet life itself is so abundant, it offers itself continually, in countless new ways. And whenever I can say Yes to life, I do it, and mean it with my whole heart.

gg murray 5/7/05