My Abortion and Why I Regret It

I am pro-choice. I will always be pro-choice. None of my experiences will ever change that.

My problem? My abortion wasn’t a choice. I was forced into it by socioeconomic hardship. It’s been four years, and I still struggle with the emotional pain.

My partner has extremely low sperm count and very low testosterone levels; he had been told years before we met that he could not “naturally” conceive. We weren’t using birth control because we didn’t anticipate an unplanned pregnancy. It happened anyway.

We were coping with extreme poverty– both of us were under-employed; working for minimum wage ($5.95 per hour at the time) for a total of 15 hours a week each. We were seeking full-time work every day but couldn’t find it. We were shelling out $800 per month for a studio apartment and couldn’t qualify for food stamps because they require all adults to work 20 hours a week or more.

This wasn’t typical young-America poverty; this was the real thing. We had to steal toilet paper from public bathrooms and we washed our clothes in a bathroom sink. At one point, I lost my toothbrush and had to use a wet rag for about a week because I couldn’t come up with a dollar to buy a new one.

Needless to say, it wasn’t a good time to have a baby– but we were (and are) in love with each other and we had a lot of love to give a child. I don’t view fertilized eggs as human beings, but I developed a very strong attachment to my embryo as soon as I saw the two pink lines on the test. I didn’t want an abortion. I wanted a baby.

I tried to turn to my friends and family for help, but I wasn’t surprised that none of them responded well. I have a very tense relationship with my mother. When I said, “I need to talk to you,” she responded by saying, “Do you have AIDS?” I told her no. She was only slightly less upset to hear that I was pregnant. She offered me $200 to have an abortion, but wouldn’t offer me any money to have a baby.

She pointed out that I had no health insurance. I said that I could
qualify for Medicaid since I was pregnant. She said I’d be carrying my
baby into a “ghetto clinic full of gold-toothed n****s” and would
probably get assaulted on my way out. She called me trash. She told me
that I was nothing more than an aspiring welfare-mama and that my chlid
would be a leech on society.

My partner is an abuse survivior, as well. When we told his father,
he called me a whore and asked who I was screwing because “my son sure
as Hell wasn’t the one who knocked you up”. He told me and my partner
that he wasn’t going to “play grandpappy” for my bastard child. He
offered to pay for an abortion. He offered to cover DNA testing to prove
that my partner wasn’t the father. He didn’t offer to help us with the
baby.

Desperate for some way to find help so we could carry the
pregnancy to term, I went to a crisis pregnancy center. They didn’t
offer me any financial or material resources. No help with rent, no
medical care, no breast pumps or WIC information. Instead, they gave me a
bunch of slut-shaming hand-outs and false information about the dangers
of abortions.

We wanted to have a baby. By the time I made my decision and accepted
my mother’s money to terminate the pregnancy, I was very attached to
the pregnancy. I dreamed every night about nursing and rocking my baby
in a warm living-room, moonlight streaming through the curtains. I
dreamed about a beautiful natural birth attended by a midwife. I dreamed
about falling in love with my baby and being a wonderful mother. My
partner fell asleep every night with his hand over my womb, and I knew
it was what he wanted, too. But that wasn’t the course that was set out
for us.

At nine weeks, I had my abortion. Because everyone knows I’m
pro-choice, none of my friends or family members– besides my partner–
seemed to understand my agony. I was horribly depressed for several
months. I bled a lot. I couldn’t have sex for months because I was so
traumatized by all of it.

It’s been four years. We’re much more financially stable. We
both have full-time, lucrative jobs and we’re looking into buying a
house. Two years ago, we stopped using birth control. We haven’t
conceived yet.

I feel guilty every day for terminating the pregnancy, because–
rationally or otherwise– I can’t help but feel like the pregnancy was a
miracle. And it was a miracle we may never be able to repeat.

I know that a lot of my fellow feminists would react rationally– it
wasn’t the right time, we couldn’t afford a baby, we can always adopt,
maybe we should look into IVF. But it’s not the same. I wanted the first
embryo I conceived. We wanted to have a baby together, and we wanted it
to be OUR choice.

I’m posting this because I want other feminists to know that the
right to abortion isn’t always a right to choose. I also want the
people who call themselves “pro-life” to understand that pregnant women
don’t need slut-shaming information or guilt– they need financial help.

I had an abortion, but I wasn’t the one who chose it. Society chose
it for me. In my ideal feminist world, my partner and I would have been
able to find the support we needed to “choose life”. Instead, we were
forced into a choice that neither of us wanted.

Maybe regretting my aboriton isn’t the feminist thing to do. Maybe
it’s not okay that I was attached to a clump of cells in the vague shape
of an embyro. Maybe it’s not okay that the pain of abortion still
hurts, four years layer. But it still hurts– feminist or not. I would
have been a good mother.

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13 Comments

  1. tooimpurenangel
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I don’t think it’s anti-feminist at all to regret an abortion.

  2. dcardona
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing your heartbreaking story. I hope that someday you are able to become the mother you wish to be.

  3. Vermin Jerky
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

    I hope that the pain leaves you some day, my beautiful sister, and that you get the child you want and deserve. You’re not wrong to feel the way you do. Our society is so flawed and cracked that sometimes people fall through. You did your best with what you had, even though it wasn’t what was best for you or your family. I applaud you for sticking to your beliefs and for being willing to speak the truth about your experiences. May it be hoped that our daughters and their daughters (in blood or in spirit) will never have to fear an experience such as yours.

  4. HollyPop
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    It is okay to feel regret. It is okay to be attached to your embryo. It is okay that it still hurts. None of these things are un-feminist. You get to feel however you feel about your pregnancy and your abortion, because they are your lived experience, and as feminists, all of us here should defend your right to feel the way you do.
    The range of emotions women experience about their own experiences with pregnancy and abortion run the gamut from regret to relief, sorrow to joy, and everything in between, including indifference and ambivalence. As feminists, we should all recognize that all of these feelings are valid. It would be un-feminist to say that regretting an abortion or feeling a connection with a clump of cells is un-feminist, just as it’s un-feminist to say that it’s wrong to have an abortion without going through an agonizing decision-making process. They are two sides to the same coin.
    Surfin3rdWave, I recognize your pain and your regret as valid. I recognize your right to feel that pain and that regret. And I thank you for sharing this, for using your story to highlight how the right to choose to be a mother is undermined.

  5. MarissaAO
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

    Maybe regretting my aboriton isn’t the feminist thing to do. Maybe it’s not okay that I was attached to a clump of cells in the vague shape of an embyro. Maybe it’s not okay that the pain of abortion still hurts, four years layer. But it still hurts– feminist or not.
    Thank you for sharing your story. As you said, it wasn’t your choice. Anyone who claims you’re less of a feminist for regretting not having the ability to act on your own reproductive choices is being a wilful jerk.
    When I had an abortion, I was struck by the diversity of the women in the waiting room – all different ages, ethnicities, classes, religions – and of course the vast difference in attitudes that they displayed. And I think that’s very important for feminists to remember, is that each woman’s decision to get an abortion is her own unique experience, despite there being a dominant narrative, and each experience is valid.
    I’ve been in a situation volunteering with low-income people (I don’t want to get specific in case someone from there reads this), and when I told my supervisor – who I have great respect for – about a particular case involving a woman with two small kids, she said, “jeez, haven’t these people heard of abortion?” Which bothered me immensely for precisely the reason that I feel one has to respect a woman’s reproductive choices, no matter what they are; and because such comments presume to be able to judge what reasons a woman should find compelling in her decision, without knowing a thing about her life. I can understand my supervisor’s lack of sympathy – she can’t afford to get emotionally involved with everyone – but her remark was still unnecessarily glib.
    And of course it’s all the worse when you can’t turn to your family for support. I’d like to take that DNA test and shove it down your father-in-law’s throat. What a waste of carbon-based organic material.
    I’m curious about the nature of the pregnancy crisis clinic you went to, it sounds really shitty.

  6. ikkin
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for writing this. I am so completely sorry that you were put in this situation. I know I cannot imagine the pain you feel, and I sincerely hope that someday you’re able to fufill your dream of being a mother. I am so sorry that your family and your partner’s family was so unsupportive.
    I shared your story with some of my friends, my pro-life friends. As a social worker, I come in contact with people all the time who just aren’t getting their basic needs met. The social programs we have in place do nothing to lift individuals out of poverty or help people in poverty when something unexpected happens. I wish the pro-life movement could join the pro-choice movement in helping to create facilities and programs to help women and families find a real alternative to abortion. So often, the pro-life movement ignores the financial burden of being a parent and often is more interested in shaming women than helping them. I hope stories like yours will change the tone of welfare politics.

  7. Laura_M
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    Not that I’m any great expert on what is or is not feminist, but I really do think that there’s nothing “unfeminist” about regretting your abortion when you actually didn’t want to have an abortion. In my view, at least, speaking up about a part of the whole pro-choice thing that we don’t often hear about, even though it’s still obviously causing you a lot of pain, is a very feminist thing to do. It takes a lot of strength to be able to do that, and I respect you for it.
    And not that you really need me to tell you this, but it isn’t for anyone else to say whether or not you’re allowed to feel pain as a result of what happened. It was a choice that you weren’t able to make the way you wanted to because of circumstances that were beyond your control. It’s your pain. If anyone judges you for feeling it, they’re not really on your side.
    I am so sorry that you were and are going through all this. *Sends a hug if you’ll accept one from a stranger*

  8. Brianna G
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

    You were attached to the idea– understandable, considering that you and your partner seem fearful that he may never be able to conceive. Many women who don’t actually believe that a life begins at conception will still feel an immediate bond to the idea, the potential, of the baby.
    Your attitude–regret– is not unfeminist. Even though most women don’t feel regret, as you say, most women actually do choose the abortion. Even if they have socioeconomic reasons, it’s still their choice. Regardless, your emotions are still real, and they come from rational reasons– your desire to have the baby.
    Rest assured, the pro-choice movement has not forgotten women like you. Just because some people reacted badly to the idea of you carrying your child to term doesn’t mean that’s the standard. Situations like yours– and the alternative, situations with poor parents who can’t afford to care for their children on their low incomes– are absolutely something feminism addresses.
    I myself have long advocated for better financial support for poor parents, particularly government-funded (so you won’t be limited because you don’t meet the standards for some local charity). It was wrong that you were forced to make a decision you didn’t want to make. It was wrong that you were unable to find financial help in your time of need. It’s wrong that women go on the internet in desperation, begging for help from strangers so they don’t have to go through with an abortion they don’t want– and more wrong that no one can give it to them. And it’s wrong of your friends and family to assume that being pro-choice means you cannot want to be pregnant, however inconvenient.
    May you heal, and never stop fighting for what is right.

  9. Brett K
    Posted April 18, 2010 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. You’re absolutely right – reproductive choice isn’t just about the right to choose abortion; it’s about the right to make whatever choices we feel are best for us and our families. So often we tend to focus on the abortion side of things and forget about all the other changes that need to be made before women – ALL women, regardless of socioeconomic status, disability, etc. – are granted full reproductive choices. I am so sorry that this happened to you. You have every right to mourn your abortion, and to be supported by the feminist community in doing so. I can only hope that you and your partner are able to conceive again, and that you will be able to find the support and resources that you need and deserve.

  10. ShyFoxie
    Posted April 19, 2010 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    I’m so sorry to hear about that, and I don’t think that your feelings are wrong or anti-feminist or anything. You didn’t even HAVE a choice in the matter, and I agree that if pro-life groups cared as much about mothers and children as they say they do they’d spend more time supporting would-be mothers, not shaming and trying to scare them.
    You and your partner were emotionally ready to be parents and wanted to, but the support you needed wasn’t there. Anyone who wants to reduce the number of abortions should look at helping women like you, not ranting and slut-shaming.
    Also, screw all those people who said hateful things about you and your partner. They don’t even deserve the energy you spent typing what they said in your post.

  11. kearstyn
    Posted April 19, 2010 at 6:32 am | Permalink

    Your story is exactly why I am pro-choice. Women should have the ability to choose either to have or not have children, regardless of socio-economic conditions and outside pressure, and both choices should be accepted by society and the people around us. We shouldn’t have to choose one or the other. We should have the access to both.
    My heart breaks for you, and I wish you and your partner the best of luck in conceiving again.

  12. Phenicks
    Posted April 19, 2010 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Your story is way too common and needs much more attention. Thank you for sharing

  13. ChoirGrrl
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing your story.
    And I don’t think that regretting your abortion is anti-feminist. Being pro-choice not only means that you are allowed to CHOOSE whether or not to have an abortion, but it also means that you get to CHOOSE how to feel about it. A woman can CHOOSE to have an abortion, and she can CHOOSE whether to feel heartbroken or relieved or ambivalent. And all of those feelings are perfectly valid; none of them are anti-choice or anti-feminist.

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