Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Save your marriage - have an abortion

In honor of my husband’s birthday

Strangely enough my abortion brought us closer together. In the weeks before and after we spent more time together, sometimes just sitting in silence, sometimes just barely touching. It was still better than being alone.

Still I mean my title for this post tongue in cheek of course. While sometimes pregnancy seems a way to save a failing relationship, abortion could push you right over the edge.

I am grateful that my husband and I were in complete accord as to the decision to terminate the pregnancy. I am relieved that he was able to at attempt to put himself in my position and imagine what it felt like rather than being so wrapped up in his own emotions. I am happy that he is the kind of guy who tries to tell me what he feels.

I can see however that if you did not have the above abortion could come between a couple.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Telling - Ripple Effect

I find out today, after many recent conversations about my abortion, that someone I have known almost since childhood, has had two abortions. She was the second call that I made after I found out about my pregnancy. I try to focus on the telling as a process - women tell when they can. Still, the conversation is quite literally stunning. I have shared everything in my life for almost three decades with this person and up until today I would have thought the same true for her.

The call was a visceral reminder that 1 in 3 means that we all know more women than we think who have had abortions.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

three weeks and counting

no regrets

still bleeding on and off

did not go back for my follow up appointment today

still telling

A nun, a priest and two guys walk ....

up and down in front of an abortion clinic. I only wish I had a funny punch line.

In five days people without uteri and those people who have dedicated their lives to celibacy will descend on the clinic where I had my abortion to commemorate Lent by protesting at an abortion clinic (why just give up sweets when you can harass women on what may be the most difficult day their life?). Odd, you would think these people would be familiar with the Biblical injunctions to “judge not lest ye be judged" or “let ye who is without sin cast the first stone” but apparently not so much. They feel compelled to pray in public despite Jesus’ description of hypocrites who love to pray ... on the street corners to be seen by men.

When not praying, these protesters hand out misinformation leaflets stressing the alleged medical complications of abortion (the CDC estimates that less than 20 women die annually in the United States as a result of abortion), as well as the spurious link between abortion and breast cancer. Mixed in with the erroneous medical data are offers to help women sue their abortion providers for medical malpractice and Bible verses.

Many abortion clinics have escorts, women and men who shield women from such protesters. “Bubble zone” laws vary greatly from state to state and on private versus public property, but in some cases the protesters can get shockingly close to patients as they enter the building. For liability reasons, the clinics rarely organize the escorts themselves. Your local NOW chapter may organize it, as is the case where I live.

If you live in a state with an inadequate zone, shoot off an email to your Congressperson urging them to support stronger clinic access laws.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Telling - Let's Hear it for the Boys

I found this essay interesting, albeit a bit strange. Now abortion is all about the men too?

The telling – An historical overview

In 1971, hundreds of prominent French women signed le manifeste des 343, a public declaration authored by famed feminist philosopher Simone de Beuavior, that announced the women had acquired abortions in violation of the French law.

In 1972, 53 women in the United States emulated their French sisters in Ms. Magazine’s initial issue. In 2006, Ms Magazine revived the I had an Abortion campaign. You can still sign the petition.

A very cool international website now allows women to add their photos and stories to publicly proclaim that they too had abortions.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Telling - My Online Mommy Friends

As I recounted earlier, I have been part of an online group of women who met during our first pregnancies. Strangely enough they were the some of the people I most wanted to confide in because they had shared every moment of my journey thus far as a mother. They knew, better than anyone other than my husband, how done I was with having children, and how much I struggle with the demands of motherhood.

I sent the email. In a matter of minutes I receive the first response. In the midst of replying, gmail pops up that I have an incoming email from another recipient. This cycle continues for about 30 minutes as I carry on simultaneous conversations with two of the four women I emailed. I receive emails from the other two later that night.

“I've been thinking about you this whole time, sending you my prayers (for what they are worth;-) ) and positive thoughts. “ [strangely I am not offended because I know her sentiment is from genuine concern for me].

“It's easy for me to say "I'm pro life for me!" when I'm only 34 and still want at least one more. The truth is I should never say never.” ([ am surprised, pleasantly, by this remark].

“I just burst into tears thinking about you going through that and not being able to talk about it.”

“I would never judge you. I helped my best friend through an abortion.”

“You did what is best for you and your family.”

Interestingly, the things that I feared most, the question of how pregnant I was, is never asked. In fact, the only queries are about my wellbeing. I do not mention this blog, or any of the specifics. I am quite fond of these women, but for the two Catholics, I know we are skirting the boundaries of their comfort zone, and for all of us, this territory is incognito, so we leave it at that.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The telling – my college friend

She is wise, as she always was. She points out that you can grieve without regretting. As soon as I read the words I realize how apt a description that is of my process. She warns me that the memories will sneak up on me when I least expect them. She commends me noting that “it takes more courage than anyone says.”

I am hugely relieved that she is still who she was when I knew her daily, that her words are what I need to hear, but mostly I am relieved that someone knows, truly knows, what I feel.

The telling – YMMV

The professor in me wants to emphasize that I chose very carefully the individuals I have told about my abortion. While I want to encourage all women to think about the cost of keeping silent, I want to also stress that I am well aware that not all people will respond positively. The cost of telling will be different depending on the life circumstances of some women. Telling may not be important to other women at all. More than any other part of this blog that I have written so far, I want to emphasize how subjective this part is. I know many, many pro choice people, and I need to tell.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The telling, a random compilation

I find about one more friend who has had an abortion

I am offered all the support and love I could ever need

At least two people clearly are not sure how to respond

No one offers even the slightest of criticism

Most people thank me for sharing with them

One person tells me she already figured it out

The one man I have told tells me he went through an abortion with a girlfriend

Friday, February 13, 2009

in a John Hurt way

At the risk of making everything in life seem like it is about my abortion (blogging does feed a certain sort of narcissism, but then I also think other women might wonder what they could possibly feel when confronted with various situations after an abortion :)

Yesterday I ran into my friend and her new baby. Without even thinking, I asked to hold him and snuggled in for some new baby smell. He is lovely, and it was fun to see him.

Today I met my former colleague, the one I mentioned in an earlier post, who faced the ethical conundrum of what to do with the embryos he and his wife had remaining after conceiving two delightful boys. I got my answer as soon as I saw his wife. She is expecting twins in about four months. I sat there chatting with her, about the due date, about what life would be life with four children under school aged, about the possibility of my friend being deployed (he is a Marine).

In neither instance, did I think, I could be having a baby, too. I did not feel remorse or shame for my different circumstance. I felt nothing but the happiness I always feel when sharing my friends' joy.

p.s. kudos if you got the Coupling reference in my title.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Telling, Part 2

Because I felt like a hypocrite and a liar and just plain strange about not telling you the whole truth.

Because I was afraid you might judge me I evaded you, but I know I will never feel right until I tell.

So I am.

Two weeks ago today I had an abortion.

Emboldened by my experience yesterday, I decide to tell my online friends who had noticed that something was wrong in the weeks from when I first learned of my pregnancy through my abortion.

Two of thse women are Catholic and pro choice for others, but not themselves. One friend experienced an unplanned pregnancy, which she continued, while the other woman has a long history of infertility. I am more frightened telling them, more afraid of their reaction. I am not yet sure if I will tell them about this blog.

My heart pounded as I hit send.

Now I wait.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The telling, as it unfolds

I have a strong belief that things happen at the right time. During the midst of my abortion, I connected with an old college friend

Today I emailed her


I thought about you throughout the whole experience (you were the first person I ever really discussed the topic with who had actually experienced it)


because it seems like even after years of absence from each other’s lives you are still the same person who is deeply imbedded in the memories of my formative feminist, heady women’s studies days


I know that to truly get over this experience I have to stop feeling like it is something shameful that I need to hide

I am telling you

Two weeks ago today I went to have an abortion.

Sluts Need Love Too

The title for this post is stolen (with permission) from my pro choice discussion board. It was far too good to pass up. I LOVE these women. Pondering the realities of my beliefs with women who have also undergone abortions is much better than arguing with people who have no idea what they are talking about because they have never experienced an unwanted pregnancy.

The topic derived from a question about whether women who just plain old get pregnant from having unprotected sex and end up aborting made it harder to defend the pro-choice position as opposed to say the “worthy” women who either through no fault of their own (rape/incest) or in grave medical peril (their own or that of the fetus) end up electing abortion. [side note, whole attitude reminds me of the distinction between the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor].

Over the course of our hilarious multi-day online conversations I realized that when I eventually come out of the abortion closet, I am not going to explain why I had an abortion. Any response seems like an effort to justify or rationalize my decision, which is thankfully still both legally and personally mine to make.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hey TLC How about abortion stories?

Perhaps when I next travel to the West Coast, I can do a TV series pitch.

Since having my abortion, it has become the experience through which pretty much everything reproductive is refracted

Yesterday, while frolicking in an indoor kiddie play place, I chanced to overhear a conversation between a dad with two kids, and a woman who I initially took to be a grandmother. Somehow the two had struck up a conversation and eventually revealed that both families had been created via IVF. I immediately thought how wonderful that the stigma of infertility had been lessened so much that virtual strangers would discuss their intimate reproductive histories in public.

Tonight, I happened upon yet another TV show focusing on a "mega family." These folks, my age BTW, have 12 kids ranging from 19 to 1. Despite recent media focuses on the "new" big families, such people represent a very small fraction of the population of the United States (depending on how you define large family of course, but 4% of women have five or more children by the age of 44, the cutoff used by demographers when calculating fertility rates).

The truly remarkable demographic shift of our time is the number of women who never bear children (about 20% of women have no children by the age of 44). In an era of increased reproductive technologies, it seems reasonable to conclude that a large number of these women have chosen to remain "childfree" "childless" or whatever label they choose to apply to themselves. Through birth control and yes, abortion, these women have curtailed their fertility.

So TLC, Discovery Health, Lifetime, where are the show about those reproductive choices?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The road to hell

I grew up in a religious house. We attended a mainstream Methodist church weekly. My parents strove to instill in my sister and me a strong sense of morality. While I eventually rejected their religious teachings, it would be silly to deny that the sense of moral obligation remained with me. You do not do something 52 times a week for 18 years without absorbing at least some of it. Yet, aphorisms like “the road to hell is paved with good intention” are more likely to spring to my mind than the apt Bible verse

Both my sister and my therapist, students of Buddhism, talked to me about intentionality in relationship to my abortion. While the strongly individualistic protestant influence of my childhood makes me focus on the consequences of my choices, Buddhism and much Asian philosophy emphasizes on the motivation behind decisions.

In one of those odd confluences of life, my son selected the Veggie Tales Jonah movie this week at the library. As I skimmed the back of the case, for anything scary, or frankly too overtly Christian, I laughed at the description of the story, in which Jonah apparently learns “that everyone get a second chance.” No vengenful O.T. God here, plunging Jonah into the belly of a whale in a fit of pique because Jonah disobeyed, just a cleaned up version of the story for the kiddies. However, my four year old was not fooled. He took from the movie not the idea of redemption, but only the scary story of a person stuck in a whale, that he announced he is never watching again.

I wish Buddhist made kids videos. In the meantime I am trying to let go of some of my Protestant inspired feelings of guilt, not that I had an abortion, but that I got pregnant in the first place, and focus on my intentions.

Friday, February 6, 2009

because having a uterus of ones own does count for something

Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Pancreas and my right to an abortion - two things I never linked in the past.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg (henceforth RBG), with her white lace color, so Elizabethen in that sea of old men, like the Virgin Queen herself, had surgery for pancreatic cancer. Ever the tough old broad that she appears, RBG vows to be back on the bench when the court reconvenes in three weeks. I really hope so.

The dissent she authored in Gonzales v. Carhart cut straight to not only the heart the stunningly paternalistic majority decision, but the weak legal reasoning on which Roe V Wade so precariously rests. Her stirring defense of women's reproductive rights as more than "some vague or generalized notion of privacy" but of "a woman's autonomy to decide for herself her life's course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature," was an articulate explanation by someone who, you know, actually has a uterus, and conceivably (get the pun?) could have had an abortion.

Sadly RBG's prediction years ago that she would be joined soon by sister justices proved overly optimistic. Apparently while women comprise the majority of the population of the United States, they need only a little more than 10% representation on the highest court in the land.

Thursday, February 5, 2009


It is hard to believe that it has been just a week since my abortion. I saw my therapist, which while tearful, proved helpful.

Still I cannot resist posting that one of my fav blogs is contemplating the messy realities of women’s bodies and asking whether it is all TMI. Not surprisingly, as I blog my abortion, my answer is no. Truth to power as the Quakers used to say, or maybe you prefer the more contemporary, Our Bodies, Ourselves.

Anyway you put it, information is good, more information is better and there is no such thing as TMI. Women’s bodies have too long been shrouded in myths. Women need to speak their reality.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Anti Abortion? Adopt an embryo!

I feel sorry for the “other side.” This recent media sensation of the octuplet birth to the woman with six existing kids must be quite a strain. According to her mother, the woman suffers from “plugged tubes” and thus underwent IVF. Because she had remaining embryos that she did not want destroyed, she had them implanted. She apparently rejected selective abortion, and now has fourteen children to support on her own. She is unmarried and according to her mother, her ex-husband was not the biological father of her first six children, who were conceived with a sperm donor.

The scholar in me recognizes that a family of fourteen was really not remarkable until women had the ability and the right to control their fertility (thank you Margaret Sanger). In fact, it was the very common nature of pregnancies every two years or so that turned Sanger from an obscene outlaw to a heroine of the middle class in a relative short period of time.

Ironically the ethical dilemmas posed by this extreme case are manifold for people who oppose other women’s right to make choices at the other end of the spectrum. She is unmarried and will seem to require state aid, a big no no for conservatives. She used IVF, a reproductive technology that some people on the “other side” reject as “playing God.” Still she clearly believes in the value of “life” even that eighth one no one knew was there. Quality of life might be debatable, but even liberals have rejected outright the notion that she should have been forced to abort some embryos. Indeed the suggestion that her physicians should have done the psycho-social screening that would have been required should she have wanted to serve as an adoptive or foster parent, perhaps healthier alternatives for someone “obsessed with children,” seems unversally rejected as outside their purview (interesting to consider in light of mandatory counseling laws prior to aboriton in some states).

Perhaps the greatest ethical dilemma posed by her case is the issue of unimplanted embryos. Because the process of IVF is somewhat unreliable, multiple eggs are often fertilized so that the best embryos can be used for implantation. Most reputable physicians will implant a maximum of two, so in instances when IVF is highly successful, “good” embryos are frozen for later use.

As I have said before, going through this abortion at forty means I know someone who has been in pretty much every reproductive ethical position there is. I had a colleague turned friend, who shared with me that he and his wife conceived via IVF with a donor egg. They had two lovely sons; however, they had remaining embryos and were torn as to what to do with them. Their difficult decision was ironically similar to one that I faced. The embryos were conceived with donations from the same “parents” and seemed like siblings to their two chidlren. To destroy the embryos is in effect the equivalent of an abortion to him, which contravenes his religious beliefs. Yet offering the embryos for transfer to another couple often mistermed “embryo adoption” is difficult for him to fathom, for the same reasons I could not see carrying my fetus to term and then placing it up for adoption. Again, I say, while my decision was hard, there are far more difficult dilemmas out there.

Double fail safe, or double bag it

So in the process of working my way through the abortion clinic, the staff not unreasonably queried my future birth control plans. At the time, I decided for the sake of symmetry, that my husband should get a vasectomy within the two week enforced abstinence period following the abortion [side not, in hilariously straightforward language, the post-op instructions state “do not put anything in your vagina for two weeks, including tampons, a diaphragm, douching, or sexual intercourse” as though a penis is yet another implement of feminine hygiene].

My husband dutifully made the appointment for the big V, although no openings were available within the two week window. However, since I have taken a vow of celibacy, the point seemed moot. Still I realized that I had several packs of unopened birth control pills from my last attempt to use them. Post abortion, a little nausea seemed a small price to pay for a double failsafe, as the engineers say, just in case, you know, his super swimmers miraculously managed to make it across the flannel sheets to me in the next few weeks. After that recent octuplet birth birth, I am not taking any chances.

my first bad idea

pilates one week after abortion OUCH

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

the more things change, the more they stay the same

As a result of blogging about my abortion and posting on some pro-choice and abortion support online bulletin boards, I have been corresponding with a few women. It has been an interesting contrast to this blog, which has a sort of “message in a bottle” feeling to it. The interaction particularly with other women who have had abortions has been incredibly valuable for me. The pro-choice discussion board is fascinating. We debate, often based on our own experiences, the contours of our pro-choice beliefs.

Having an abortion has changed everything and changed nothing for me. While I have always been pro choice and never supported restrictions such as parental/spousal notification, mandatory counseling, enforced waiting periods etc, having an abortion has made me reconsider each of these issues anew.

As a mother, seeing so many young women getting abortions alone was difficult. In fact the only time I cried in the clinic was when speaking to the counselor about how hard it was to process what I saw. Still, I myself at the age of forty, have not chosen to share my abortion with my parents. Who I am to presume that a younger woman has a better relationship with her parents? Sadly not all parents are good parents. I was heartened to see some young women with their mothers. I do hope that if my daughter ever needs an abortion she will decide to tell me, but I do not assume that every young woman has a kind supportive family at home. I have been working with college aged women for too long to harbor any such delusion. Given the realities of domestic violence, spousal notification is a total non-starter for me and never was an issue to which I gave any credence. The days of couveture are over!

As for mandatory counseling, while the counselor at my clinic was very nice, quite honestly I had already seen a psychologist and intend to continue seeing a psychologist. For some women, clergy counseling might prove more useful than psychological services. There are excellent anonymous hotlines that allow women other options particularly for women from cultural backgrounds where anonymity may facilitate a more open expression of emotion. Still other women may not need counseling at all. I think sometimes people say counseling when they mean someone to ask “are you sure you don’t want to continue this pregnancy or consider adoption.” If so, just have a nurse ask that or give the patient a form.

The experience of finding out I was pregnant to getting an abortion took twelve days. It was a positively surreal experience with most of the intense stuff happening in six days. I sometimes have the thought “I was pregnant. I am not pregnant anymore,” the same thought that went through my head after my miscarriage. I know myself well enough to understand that I am incorporating the experience into my psyche. Still it all happened so fast that the process is sort of mind blowing. Thankfully, I was firmly pro choice and had thought through all of the ramifications not only in the abstract, but in previous pregnancies. I do not feel like I decided too quickly. From a pragmatic point of view, with the limited number of abortion providers and the need to be at a certain gestation for a surgical abortion, a woman would not find out about her pregnancy and have an abortion the same day. I do wonder about medical abortions, which can take place the same day. I have to believe however that the benefits of enforced waiting periods, giving a woman time to think and process, are not outweighed by the potential hardships, such as more time off of work or school, or the extended travel due to lack of pharmacists or physicians who provide medical or surgical abortions in their areas.

Recently one of the women on the pro choice board asked what was so hard about my abortion if I was a pro choice. I knew the answer immediately, ending a potential life. I still find the argument for a traumatic syndrome associated de facto with abortion absurd. However, I can see that women who have to “work” their way around to choosing abortion (in violation of their religious teaching, philosophical or biological beliefs) or are pressured in to it, might suffer huge amounts of guilt, remorse, regret. I feel so sorry for those women and wonder how they ever reconcile the conflict between their choice and their beliefs. I know that I will live for the rest of my life with the knowledge that I chose to end a potential life. I am comfortable with my decision, but it was not a comfortable decision to have to make.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Life before Roe

Today I taught Margaret Sanger and the birth control movement for the fist time since my abortion. Normally I try to be very even handed in my approach but I am fairly certain that it is safe to say I got more than a little passionate about the subject. Coincidentally, another class happened to be covering the origins of the nineteenth century women’s rights movement and I managed to work in the “private” talks about “voluntary motherhood” that Elizabeth Cady Stanton used to give in the afternoons to women when she traveled to speak publicly about suffrage.

Want to school yourself on life before women had the right to control their fertility and their pregnancies?

There is a great book, Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race before Roe v. Wade written by journalist, Rickie Solinger.

A more historical approach can be found in Leslie J. Reagan’s carefully researched When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973

There are also some wonderfully courageous physicians who give presentations about the reality of life before Roe.

Finally HBO made an amazing documentary, If These Walls Could Talk, that dramatized three historical epochs. You can find youtube clips, but make sure to look for the first If These Walls Could Talk. The second is about lesbian life (another great topic :).

quick post from a crazy Monday morning

posted a poll since I'm curious about who is reading the blog

Things are going well. I feel almost 100% healthy again. I did half a cardio work out yesterday but stopped because I started feeling odd little twinges. No cramping or heavier bleeding happened so I think all is good. My biggest problem is remembering to take my antibiotics.

I have a HUGE crazy bruise from the IV. It occurred to me that some readers may be contemplating abortion and may or may not be planning to share the event with those around them, so keep that in mind. You will need to cover you arms.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

was your fetus the next president of the United States?

had to laugh when I saw this story in light of my last post.