If it had been illegal in 1975 for Doctors in Birmingham Alabama to perform abortions my life would have turned out drastically different. Looking back at my teenage self I would say even at the age of 17 I was adept at playing out possible scenarios in my mind and seeing where they might lead. I didn’t take the reality of abortion lightly and I needed to use all of my intuitive and feeling skills to do what was best for all of the lives and potential lives involved.
I was physically sicker than my mother described being pregnant with me or my brothers. My gut was churning with fear and dread constantly reminding me that I had to decide as quickly as possible what to do with my life that had suddenly stopped moving forward. I had to pause and weigh all my options as carefully, as I was capable of, feeling throughout the process that all choices that would make it possible to move forward again were equally terrifying.
It came down to the usual three choices you can make when you’re faced with an unwanted pregnancy. I could go through with the pregnancy and raise the child myself, give the child up for adoption, or have an abortion. At the end of my review of these possible futures I was sure of two things, one, there was no way I was ready or even capable of being a mother, and two, there was no way I would ever give a baby up for adoption. There were many valid reasons that involved timing and circumstances that made me so sure about these two things even at the young age of seventeen.
For many years as an adult in therapy I tried to make sense of why I had often as a child and teenager felt so depressed and miserable. I wondered why I ended up pregnant at seventeen and became so sure abortion was my best choice. In my search for the truth I recalled the many times that it was plain to see where the roots of my, not quite suicidal, teenage nihilism came from.
My very fervent fundamentalist Christian mother sometimes during or after a “whipping” and sometimes just out of the blue would say that she wished she had never had children. Not only did she say this with all of her fundamentalist conviction while she was raging and hitting us; she maintained that position even after her rage was sufficiently vented on us. She left no room for doubt that she meant what she said.
This came from a mother who not only chose carefully after four years of marriage to have me, her first born, but chose to birth two more children 3 1/2 years apart when she should have known better by then to bring my brothers into her narcissistic “what was I thinking having these thankless children” world. So if we three, whose existences were so scrupulously planned, were eventually not wanted then what chance did an “illegitimate” grandchild have with that grandmother or that mother who even on a good day wished she didn’t exist?
Growing up in the 60s and 70s hitting and verbal abuse were accepted as effective ways to discipline children even outside the cult of fundamentalism. I knew as an introverted feeler and intuitive person I and most children on planet earth were being abused to some degree. I did not want to find out what the abusive repercussions would be for me being seventeen and pregnant. I was already living in a nightmare where in my experience any bad thing that could happen would happen. There was no way I was going to force a child into this nightmare of mine or the possibility of abuse in some unknown family’s nightmare that I could never know about. So I chose to have an abortion that my family would happily never know had taken place.
What would I have done if there was no Doctor in Birmingham or Alabama where I lived to give me a Choice? At seventeen I couldn’t have traveled very far to find a Doctor. I don’t think I would have had an illegal back room abortion. So I, like most girls who became pregnant before 1973, would have been forced to give birth to a child that I was not ready for or capable of caring for.
If I had been forced to birth this child the worst part for both of us would have been that I probably would have become a terrible mother. I possibly would have even become an abusive mother because of the rage I unconsciously carried from being abused myself.
In my darkest days of being left alone to recover from a beating or hiding from a parental tirade I promised myself if I ever had kids that from the beginning they would be loved and wanted. I promised I would not knowingly hurt or abandon them for any reason. When I was 17 I was not capable of fulfilling these promises to my future self and child. The child would have had a much worse existence than I did and that was not then and still would not be an acceptable outcome for anyone concerned.
So I am very grateful that I had a choice 43 years ago. It had only been two years before my abortion that The Supreme Court affirmed and made into law my right to boundaries that were more real and protective than my parents would ever have allowed me to assert had they known my circumstances. The court affirmed that I had the right to privacy to make medical decisions with a trained licensed physician concerning MY BODY and reproductive health.
So now 43 years in the future, why are fundamentalist “Christians” making laws that infringe on my privacy rights and freedom of religion? Why do their personal religious BELIEFS that say a soul inhabits a zygote on the day of conception get to override and nullify my spiritual BELIEFS that are just as valid to me as theirs are to them. There is nothing in the Bible or elsewhere that says, much less proves, a soul inhabits a zygote from conception. There is no way to PROVE a soul exists at all. Even if a soul does exist there is no way to know when it might inhabit a body or be considered a life. You can’t make laws from one religions perspective without infringing on another person’s or group’s religious or secular beliefs. By making abortion laws based on fundamentalist Christian religious BELIEFS you are forcing the country to practice the religion of fundamentalist Christianity.
What if members of a hypothetical anti-fundamentalist Christian religion decided the best way to change the world and make the world conform to their religious beliefs was to get involved in politics. What if they succeeded in electing enough Representatives and gained the power to make laws using their personal religious beliefs? What if these beliefs included, it is cruel and inhumane to bring a child into the world that is diagnosed in utero with chromosomal defects, or severe brain disease, or organ systems damage? What if you were forced by law to abort such a pregnancy against your will? How would a woman who is personally against abortion for any reason feel? If a woman wants to have this baby it’s HER CHOICE it’s HER BODY, right? I don’t believe fundamentalists would think it is right for this hypothetical religion or any real religion to impose their particular BELIEFS on them.
There are also many people in this country with secular beliefs. Atheists and agnostics have a right to practice their freedom from religion that should not be infringed upon as well. They with most Americans hold steadfastly to the legal principle that says there IS a separation between church and state in this country! “Christians” love and believe in this separation when it comes to their churches not having to pay taxes and their schools and institutions not being subjected to the same restrictions that secular institutions like public schools are subjected to. Yet, they are more than happy to trample all over the separation when it comes to imposing their religious beliefs on others. No American citizen should be subjected to the arbitrary belief systems of a minority of pious and hypocritical fundamentalists.
I BELIEVE that in 1975 no life or soul was lost on the day I had an abortion. I BELIEVE that the souls of my adult children that I chose to birth in 1984 and 1988 are the same souls that could have been born earlier in my life if I had chosen to have them earlier. I don’t regret the choice I made to wait until the time and circumstances were right for them and for me.
My children in turn have the right to BELIEVE or NOT BELIEVE what I feel is true and can live their lives however their own conscience directs them. It is and has always been THEIR CHOICE what to believe spirituality. They were raised at early ages with parental guidance to have choices to believe what they want and to decide what is right for them in every facet of life. So they developed personal boundaries and never had to choose to give up children for adoption or have abortions. I know this is true because they have known since they were teenagers what I have been through and that I would support any choice they would make in their personal life and would not judge them.
Why was I eventually able to raise my children in even better circumstances and more consciously than my parents? Because back in 1975 I had a CHOICE and was able to stay in school, graduate high school as salutatorian, work for two years, go to nursing school, meet my husband, graduate and become an RN, work for 3 years as a child/adolescent psychiatric nurse, get married, consciously conceive, birth, and raise two children as a stay at home mother.
Lots of rough stuff happened in between all of this good stuff that thankfully caused me to seek therapy to heal my wounded inner child. All of these ups and downs experienced over my young adult years helped me grow up and mature enough to be able to keep the promise I made to myself as a child and to my future children. Both of my children have known from the beginning they were and will always be loved and supported by their parents who consciously chose to give birth to them in the right circumstances at the right time for us all.