There are some very personal reasons that I support a woman’s right to choose — based on her circumstances, her history, and all the factors that go into making such a difficult decision. A lot of it has to do with my own history. And also the difficulties I have seen in the lives of women and children that I have met throughout my legal practice.
Let me start with the personal. Technically — at least by the standard definition of abortion as an induced termination of a pregnancy — I have had one. It was a medical necessity, due to my life being at risk because of a complication, and one of the most agonizing times of our lives.
Let me explain: we had been through several years of fertility agony at that point — endless tests, poking and prodding, injections — you name it. Before Thanksgiving that year, I began to experience some nausea and other symptoms of pregnancy, but we had been fooled by that before with no resulting pregnancy, so I was trying not to get my hopes up as I bought yet another pregnancy test two-fer box.
We were overjoyed to get a positive result. Beyond joy, in fact, because it was the very first time in our several years of marriage I had gotten pregnant.
I called our doc, who worked me in for an emergency appointment, to do a series of blood and other tests, only to face the nightmare of a roller coaster of hormone fluctuations and more testing. By the time we were done with all the ultrasounds and the daily blood tests for over a month, I looked like a heroin addict with palsy — and we reached the inescapable conclusion that the pregnancy was a danger to my life, and would never become viable.
The termination of my first pregnancy occurred on Christmas Eve. It was wretched, miserable and devastating. And it nearly killed me emotionally.
My husband was amazing and tender, but nothing — and I mean nothing — could fill the void of having to end the only pregnancy I’d ever managed to have. I could feel the watered down methotrexate course through my system as the nurse injected the glowing, green liquid (also used for chemo treatments, as it kills rapidly multiplying cells). I spent the next three days, curled up in a ball with my dachshund, sobbing until I slept fitful dreams of the child we would never have. I can still feel it.
Why tell you something so personal? Especially when it is no one’s business but ours?
Because it is no one’s business but ours how we made the decision, what medical issues were at stake, and what choices we made together. Which is the point of choice. No one but the people involved in the individual circumstances can truly know why the decision is made — to terminate, to keep, to risk.
No matter the difficulty, it was the correct medical decision for us. By ending the pregnancy to save my life, and after more fertility hell and miscarriages, I got pregnant with our daughter.
I was in the high risk category. We almost lost her at two and a half months, and I spent the remainder of the pregnancy on bed rest or very limited movement. We did a lot of testing and ultrasounds, including a series of scans that told us there was a problem potentially with her brain development — but they couldn’t tell for certain. I spent hours researching the issue online, talking with my doctors and other medical professionals trying to discern what this would mean for our child and for us.
There was a substantial risk of severe problems for her, but we chose to have her. We chose to have faith that the scans were merely an anomaly, and that whatever happened, we would love her with everything we had because she was our miracle child.
She just started kindergarten last week. And she is thriving and fine. In fact, she’s more than fine.
Again, we made a choice, based on our own circumstances and what we saw as the best thing to do for us. Choosing to keep your pregnancy is as much as choice as the alternative — and also a deeply personal one between you, your spouse, your doctors, and whatever conversations with God you may choose to have. Outside of that, it is no one’s business, because no one outside of it can possibly know all the agonizing issues involved.
Which brings me to my legal experience within the criminal justice and family law systems.
Unless you have been around women who have been beaten down and abused (men, too, but for this discussion, since women carry the children, let’s stick to them), or children who have been abused physically, emotionally and sexually, whose families struggle with financial despair and potential starvation each and every day of their lives, you can’t fully comprehend what kinds of issues may come into play in any individual decision where the circumstances are less than ideal.
I’m talking about children who long for the day school starts again so that they can get at least two decent meals a day during the week. Or a 14 year old child who is brutally raped by her father in the middle of the night, only to find weeks later that she is pregnant — not by her own choosing — with his child. Imagine having to carry that child to term, when you are a child yourself and forcibly impregnated with your own sister or brother, feeling that child move within you as a reminder every time of your rape — and then tell me that this mother’s life (a child herself) doesn’t matter at all, only the potential life within her.
I’ve said this before:
…I don’t want people to have more abortions. If I could, I’d wave a wand and make all babies be born under ideal circumstances to parents who would love and care for them.
But I happen to live in the all-too-real world, where sexual abuse and violent rape and all those other nasty things happen, where children wake up and wonder if there will be any food for them to eat — right here in the US of A — and where other things that most people can never even imagine happen within families and neighborhoods and all over the place.
And I know enough to know this: I don’t speak for God, and neither should anyone else. That’s why it is an individual choice — you make peace with your own soul, your own faith and your own family and friends based on your own, individual and hideous circumstances in each case — and beyond that, it’s no one’s business….
Now you know why I feel so strongly about this issue. Because I’ve lived it and because my entire adult life has forced this issue to the forefront. Life is messy and people get caught up in situations that are not of their own making far too often. We never asked for an ectopic pregnancy, but we got one nonetheless. Pro-life folks want you to think that abortion is the only facet of being pro-choice but they could not be more wrong or dishonest.
Being pro-choice is to be compassionate and honest about the world around us, and to value the life of the mother just as much as the life within her — and to trust the women and others involved in each circumstance to weigh all of the issues involved. Because that is what they already do. Most of the women that I have ever known who faced unenviable difficulties in these decisions chose to have their child where it was medically possible. Which is…a choice.
Pretending otherwise is simply to lie. And of those who choose to have an abortion, who am I to judge them when I’ve had to make that choice myself out of medical necessity? There are any number of reasons that I would never, ever choose to have an abortion, but again, that would be my choice. And after reading this, I needed to say that out loud.