This is the personal story of Wisconsin writer Heather Rayne. It appears at bluecheddar.net with her permission.
I have been writing for many years now. And I have never been one to really hold back. I have written about anxiety, depression, legal issues, drug use – plenty of personal matters most would hide away and not speak about publicly. Those who read my stuff probably think they know pretty much everything about me. And while they know a lot – there are certain things I have left reticent. With much fear and hesitation, I am about to disclose one of them.
This week, our state lawmakers are furthering their draconian agenda by taking on the issue of abortion while voting on budget items. How whether or not a woman decides to proceed with a pregnancy is budget related is beyond me. And I just wish they would come out and say it: “Hey! The “people” who donate to our campaigns, help keep us elected and may be our future employers do not approve of abortion. So, we are going to dismantle these rights one quiet, sneaky step at a time so the general public doesn’t even notice.” These actions by our legislators have prompted me to speak out. SOMEone needs to be honest here.
I wasn’t raped nor was I a victim of incest. My life was not in danger, not any more than the average woman anyway. And I was not merely a child. But I did have an abortion.
I knew I was pregnant right away. I had the same sick feeling and constant vomiting that I had with each new birth control pill I had tried. Pack after pack – literally right down the toilet. I was petrified and uninsured. I went to Planned Parenthood for a pregnancy test. A fear I never before experienced suddenly became a reality. The test was positive. I walked home in the dead heat of summer, throwing up on the way, in a complete haze.
I was in a very unhealthy place. No money, a dysfunctional relationship and a number of bad habits all helped make up the pile of shit I called life. Even though I attempted to imagine adding a child to my world and as much as I had delusions that a baby could fix everything – I was ultimately smart enough to know better.
My boyfriend didn’t seem to have much difficulty coming to his conclusion. “We can NOT have a baby right now,” were the exact words. Even though I knew he was right, it was still a jagged knife cloaked in rejection and horror. He hated me, I just knew it. And he was afraid. I had the power to ruin the carefree life he so enjoyed. But believe me, it was not a power I would wish on anyone.
I found out that I was only 4 weeks along and had to wait another week before scheduling the procedure. It may as well have been an eternity. I was disgusted with myself. I was a smart, young woman and my irresponsibility was embarrassing. I was careless, period. It was my body and I could lay the blame on nobody else. The week was filled with sickness, shame and fear.
Typically, when a woman considers the option of abortion, she does not do so with a grain of salt. Even when there is complete certainty, what-ifs and doubts can weave in like a cancer. This is not a choice made lightly. And it is not a life moment simply forgotten.
Senator Mary Lazich stated that in the 60’s, having an abortion was thee thing to do; that you almost HAD to have one to be a woman. Not only is this insulting but it is a flat out fairy tale. She couldn’t appear more disconnected if she tried.
I had been warned about protesters but never expected the mob that was there to greet me. Brochures, banners and signs with pictures of fetuses lined the sidewalk. Men, women and children were shouting and dramatically “praying”.
“Murderer! Murderer! Murderer!” Was screamed into my face over and over until the clinic staff was able to safely help me inside.
Once I had been extensively counseled and had everything explained to me, I went back to the waiting room for what seemed like an additional week. I couldn’t believe it was happening. I couldn’t believe I was there. Me. The last person I knew to even have sex. I waited until I was almost 19. I was by no means a “slut”. And I was with that boyfriend for 3 years. A couple of years later and there I was – a loser, a whore, a murderer.
My legs were in the stirrups and I was offered headphones to wear so that I didn’t have to hear what was happening – as if that would be enough to throw me into denial. A nurse stood behind me and held my hand while I went through an intensely uncomfortable and heartbreaking procedure.
On the drive home I felt as though I had just had a lobotomy. I stared out of the window and did not speak. I hated him for letting me go through with it. I hated myself for even being in that position. But that hate faded the more I realized that I had made the best decision possible at the time. You see, a person can have feelings of regret with even the best of decisions.
I had always been pro-choice. I wasn’t raised religiously so I didn’t have that brand of stigma. But I thought I was better than that. I was smarter. I wasn’t like those other chics. Except…I was.
I have read that about 40% of women have an abortion at some point in their lives. Even if it is only half of that – that is still a shit load of people who are told to hate themselves.
It is certainly not something of which to be proud. It is not a topic for the dinner table or drinks with friends. It is a personal, sensitive issue. But it does exist. It is indeed prevalent. And I do not want to perpetuate this punishment of shame by keeping silent and pretending it only happens to other women.
Those who devote their lives to condemning people like me feel the need to punish and demean. And this new legislation mandating ultrasounds for abortion patients is yet one more lash on the back of the already wounded. And what is worse, it is being done under the pathetic guise of patient interest.
You see, you cannot punish a woman for this decision. If a woman cares enough to feel guilt, she already does. If punishment would mean anything, you can bet she is already punishing herself. And if she is one of those women to whom it really doesn’t bother all that much – signs, blow-horns and ultrasounds will certainly not make an changing impression.
These anti-choice legislators want women in this position to see the fetus before going through with a termination. They want the technician to describe what is on the screen. They want to make sure that she will be disciplined with mental images for the rest of her life. At best, this is mean-spirited. At worst, this is evil.
Senator Lazich says that women do not fully understand what they are doing without an ultrasound and full description of the “baby” in her womb. Boy she sure thinks we are idiots, doesn’t she? While this choice may come with subsequent guilt and sadness – I can assure you it does not come with confusion. Any woman going in for that procedure knows EXACTLY what the outcome will be.
The clinic did perform an ultrasound on me. However, the screen was turned away and not a word was spoken. I assume that was out of compassion and respect. I did not have to see any images. Yet, all of these years later, I still have moments of guilt and fear and shame. Had I seen the image, I cannot be sure it wouldn’t have sent me into a complete downward spiral. Either way, the decision would have remained the same and I am absolutely positive it was the right thing to do, for me.
I am now a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, an aunt, a volunteer, an animal lover, a writer. I help whenever I can help. I love with all of my heart. Hell, I don’t even kill spiders. I am just like your neighbor, your friend, your sister, your mother. Abortion is not reserved for the invisible or the criminal or the oddities of society. When you call a woman a murderer for having made this decision, you are likely also referring to someone you care about.
Abortions are not to be celebrated. No one is PRO abortion. No woman wants to have one and no woman treats it like a trip to the mall. It is one of the most difficult decisions a person can make; a decision that should have NOTHING to do with government, policy or legality. It is one made with tears, difficulty and dare I say, bravery.
I had an abortion and I am no monster. And regardless of my choices in life, no one – NO ONE – has the right or reason to make any sort of mandate on my body.
There are many arguments as to why these anti-abortion bills are perverse. And there are plenty of smart people publishing stories, articles and blogs outlining those arguments. I am simply telling my story so that others know they do not deserve to be shamed for a choice they have made and that they have a voice just as loud as any other.
Having an abortion didn’t take away our dignity or our humanity. And I will be damned if I will sit by quietly while the government tries to do just that.
Read more by Heather at Ramblings of a Neurotic Housewife
This post also appeared at the blog Cognitive Dissidence.