Among its many faults, Texas has never been a strong proponent of compressive sex education, especially in the 1980s when I was in high school. My mother had a difficult getting pregnant. In the magical thinking manner only a 17-year-old girl can have, I convinced myself that I would therefore have trouble getting pregnant. I had no idea how or where to get birth control and was too petrified to ask since I was told to wait until marriage. So I clung to my magical thinking and had regular sex with my boyfriend. No surprise…I ended up pregnant.
I had no money for a pregnancy test, so I went to a so-called “pregnancy crisis center”. The experience was horrifying. Two elderly women asked me to urinate in a cup. They then placed me in a room alone and put a VCR tape on. The tape was filled with graphic images of abortions and fetuses. When they walked back in, they handed me a plastic fetus and told me I was pregnant. They told me the plastic fetus looked like what was growing inside of me and they questioned me about my plans. I panicked and told them I was planning to marry my boyfriend anyway and that we’d just move up the wedding. I just wanted them to stop harassing me.
This event occurred during the spring of my senior year in high school. I knew I would have no way to support a child if I didn’t go to college in the fall and get an education. Abortion was the option my boyfriend and I chose. Having little money between us, I opened up the yellow pages and began calling abortion providers, searching for the least expensive one. In hindsight, seeking the Wal-Mart of abortion providers was probably not a wise decision.
The day of the procedure is a blur except for the procedure itself. I couldn’t afford anesthetic, so I was awake. I remember the pressure, but most of all I remember the hideous noise of the machine. Nothing is pleasant and about having an abortion. No one throws a party congratulating you. The situation is agonizing emotionally and difficult physically.
Do I regret it? No.
I finished college in three years and gave birth to a healthy baby boy. I became a teacher. I could not have accomplished either if I’d stayed pregnant at 17. Twenty years later, I volunteered for a women’s group who drove women to and from the clinics if they had no one to go with them. I heard stories of fear, heartbreak, and pain. One young lady said her father has told her he would kick her out if she got pregnant. She had nowhere to go and did not make enough money to live on her own. She had to attend the procedure with me, a perfect stranger.
Texas’ lawmakers are obsessed with draconian laws to control the bodies of women. During this session, over twenty pieces of legislation were introduced to try to stop women from making their own difficult reproductive choices. Twenty, including one that would put women in jail who seek an abortion. I wonder how many women they’ve actually spoken to who have gone through the choice, who have agonized over being between the proverbial rock and a hard place.
If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility. – Longfellow
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. – Winston Churchill