I had two abortions and I am not ashamed

Though you have done nothing shameful,
they will want you to be ashamed.
They will want you to kneel and weep
and say you should have been like them.
And once you say you are ashamed,
reading the page they hold out to you,
then such light as you have made
in your history will leave you.
They will no longer need to pursue you.
You will pursue them, begging forgiveness.
They will not forgive you.
There is no power against them.
It is only candor that is aloof from them,
only an inward clarity, unashamed,
that they cannot reach. Be ready.
When their light has picked you out
and their questions are asked, say to them:
"I am not ashamed." A sure horizon
will come around you. The heron will begin
his evening flight from the hilltop.

From "Do Not Be Ashamed" by Wendell Barry

When I was 17 years old I decided to have sex with my first serious boyfriend, who was very nice Catholic boy at my public high school.  He was sweet and we were in love.  My parents, a doctor and the daughter of a doctor and a nurse,  were really cool and had been quite open with me about reproduction and sex since I was about 3, but I still didn’t want them to know.  It wasn’t really their business.  I was going to have sex and I knew the consequences.  I didn’t want to get pregnant and I didn’t want to contract a disease, so we were going to use contraception.  We did what lots of my peers did.  We went down to Planned Parenthood for free contraception, which we got after going through some mandatory sex education classes.   We had to wait about a week, I guess, in order to get started.  We waited.  We protected ourselves most of the time.  But we were in love and heat and so we slipped once or twice.

My mother was the one who figured it out.  I had been throwing up in the mornings for a couple of days, and she announced, in a matter-of-fact and slightly disgusted voice: “you’re pregnant.”  Of course I was going to have an abortion.  My parents were certainly not going to let me have a baby, and I knew I wasn’t ready.  I had taken care of my sister since she was born and had a very good grasp of how much work, money, and commitment was involved, and I knew I wasn’t old enough to take it on by myself.  Being pregnant felt a lot like being infected with a horrible disease.  I was sick and wanted the source of the nausea out, fast.  I didn’t think I had a “baby” inside of me.  I knew very well that, at about six weeks, what was growing was a mass of cells about 1/6 of an inch long and presently much more like an insect or a worm than a human being.

My parents were Seventh-Day Adventists from a medical family who themselves had come from pragmatic farm folk.  An abortion of a human fetus in the first trimester was not a lot different from the abortion of an unwanted litter of kittens: regrettable and sad, but necessary.  Unfortunate, not tragic.  My parents made me and my boyfriend pay for the procedure to teach us to be more careful in the future.

I was, for the most part.  But I was also extremely fertile, I guess, because I got pregnant again, at college, with my second serious boyfriend.  That time, I recognized the symptoms all by myself and escaped the serious disapproval and lectures that would have come from my mother and father.  They would not have berated me for having sex, or for having to get another abortion, but rather for being careless and stupid.  They didn’t need to scold me about this, because I had already internalized them well enough to lambast myself.  I felt that I had been reckless, irresponsible, and foolish, not just with my own life but also with life itself, with the potential life growing within me.  I did not choose lightly or cavalierly, but also did not think that I had been immoral or that it terminating it was anything like murder.  I had been thinking a lot about infanticide, ironically, since I was currently reading all of Euripides and had become especially enthralled with Medea.  I toyed romantically and self-destructively with the idea of myself as a Medea but never really believed my own hype.

My problem was that I was broke.  I had the luxury of attending school full-time without having to take a job for expenses, but my parents sent me only the bare minimum that I needed for books, pens, paper, and food.  So I had to figure out a way to pay for the abortion without having to tell my parents.  I was really, really lucky.  My scientifically minded, pro-choice Republicans parents would have excoriated me for my idiocy and made me feel a lot worse than I already did, but they weren’t going to disown me or treat me as a pariah, as many much more conservative parents would have done.  Also,  in California during the early 1980s it was still possible to get a state-funded abortion if you could prove that you had financial need.  I did.  The State paid and I went on with my life.  I found the procedure somewhat grisly, and emotionally exhausting and very, very sad, but I really didn’t think I had done anything particularly evil.  It would have been far worse to give birth to a child and release him or her into the uncertain fate of adoption, or try to take care of a kid that I resented and wasn’t mature or economically steady enough to support in a positive and wholesome environment.

I’m really lucky.  No one shamed me.  No monsters stood outside the clinic and screamed names at me.  No judge forced me to develop a fertilized egg that I didn’t want in my body.  No one wrote nasty letters or emails to me.  No one denounced me.  No one made me feel bad about myself for taking what I knew was the most responsible and ethical decision for me at the time.  No one threatened to kill me or the doctor who performed the operation.

The next time I got pregnant I meant to.  I got really sick again–but it was, as a dear friend and ob-gyn told me, “a good sick.”  I did not enjoy being pregnant.  I felt invaded by an alien life form.  I had been invaded by an alien life form, albeit one who shared some of my genes.  But I choose to bring it to term, and I was very lucky that he turned out to be healthy and beautiful and himself.  I was ready for him–although it still seemed too soon.

If you have had an abortion, please do not feel ashamed.  You have done nothing wrong.  Do not listen to those who would take your light away.

23 thoughts on “I had two abortions and I am not ashamed

  1. Lovely. Some young person out there will read it and weep, grateful for your generosity of spirit. Thank you for telling your story.

  2. That was really beautiful. I am very glad you have managed to escape the shame associated with abortion. Have you ever told your parents about the second one?

    1. Thanks! Yes, I did tell them about it eventually. They are both dead now. My mother died of colon cancer while I was pregnant. In fact, I decided to have a baby because I wanted to share mothering with her. But she didn’t make it.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story. I also had an abortion and feel no shame, only sisterhood with my fellow prochoice women. 🙂

  4. Thank you for sharing.. I too had two abortions that I felt was the best thing I could do. I’m still in college and struggling. I could not imagine bringing a baby into this world at this point in my life. When I do have children, I want to be financially stable and mentally ready.

  5. My Sister, abortion is abortion! It’s stealing a life. I am not a saint, I will never condemn anybody who has had one, but it is still not right. You mentioned been sad, oh yes, it can also lead to depression. The truth is that it is not right the fact is that society embraces it but it is still not right.

    1. I’m very glad to know that you would never condemn anyone who has had an abortion. People who are pro-choice recognize that women are the only ones who should be in charge of their reproduction. Not the church, not the State, not a group of politicians, not a group of protesters harassing women outside of abortion clinics, but rather each individual woman has the right to decide what is best for her.

      There is no evidence that abortions lead to depressions. Crisis Pregnancy Centers notoriously spread this and other lies. This has been verified by Congressional Studies. See, for example, “FALSE AND MISLEADING HEALTH INFORMATION
      PROVIDED BY FEDERALLY FUNDED
      PREGNANCY RESOURCE CENTERS” http://democrats.oversight.house.gov/images/stories/documents/20060717101140-30092.pdf

    2. I was adopted as a baby as the result of an unplanned pregnancy. This, in combination with having been raised in a very conservative, Christian household, has led me to think A LOT about pro-life/pro-choice issues.
      Personally, I am pro-choice as I believe with every fiber of my being that what happens to my body should be up to me (as it is, after all, MY being).

      Even after having come to this conclusion, I still think a lot about both sides of the matter, because, really, having an empathetic perspective always makes things a bit clearer, no matter whih “side” you’re on.
      *So, what about the “depression and mental illness” that so many pro-choicers go on about? Initial thanks to lefthandofemInism for posting the link about the lies we are fed. I’m with her on that one, but for anyone who can’t totally subscribe to those ideas, munch on this one, it’s kinda “middle-of-the-road,” if you will, on that particular subject.

      http://m.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/09/abortions-mental-illness-survey?cat=world&type=article

      Six months ago I had an abortion, and neither am I ashamed. As a baby I was adopted and a month prior to discovering my pregnancy I had gotten in contact with my biological mother. I’ve been lucky enough in the time since to have developed a wonderful and loving relationship with her, it is truly a beautiful and wonderful thing.

      Some have, and will, question how I could do such a thing, having been, in fact, the living result of a clearly pro-life decision. Where is my gratitude?, you may wonder. Be reassured that I live and breathe with the utmost gratitude for the life that has been given to me. Do not confuse my decisions with ungratefulness. My story, my birthmother’s story, are influential, even key, to the choices I make.

      My birthmother carried me for nine months. She read to me, sang to me, gave birth to me, knowing all along that I would not be with her much longer. She had already chosen my parents. When I was born the courts were booked and my trial was post-poned. Afraid of leaving me in foster care for what would be nearly a week, she chose to stay with me instead. She fed me, changed my diapers, bathed me, rocked me… and then said “goodbye, for now.”

      If that is not love, pure and true, I do not know what is. What I do know, is that I am not capable of that kind of love. Not now. Maybe not ever, but with hope. And so, I act accordingly, refusing to be made ashamed.

      To lefthandofemInism, I thank you for so boldly telling us your story. The first commenter was right, you made this girl weep. You have my eternal respect and adoration.

  6. I have had two abortions. Circumstances were not condusive to having either child. I was in my mid twenties. Looking back now at the age of 41, I do feel shame but not because someone made me feel that way, but because in my heart I know I killed my children. It is a sadness I will never shake from. I hate myself for it, though I move on in my life. If I had it to do over, I would never have made that choice. It is my only true regret in life. There is nothing wrong with feeling shame for having an abortion. Perhaps it will help later in life when a woman is ready to have children to understand how precious life is.

  7. Thank you so much for your story and everyone’s comments.
    I am having a terrible time right now. I’m irresponsible, stupid, mother of two amazing children, happily married to the man of my life and I’m getting ready to get my second abortion in a three month time period. I got pregnant both times while on the pill. The pill I first got pregnant on was a low hormone birth control. I took the every night at 9:30, religiously. I got really sick and my primary physician prescribed me a medication. I think that counteracted my birth control and I got pregnant. I had the abortion pill and the procedure went very well and the next day I knew I made the right choice. I swore to my husband I would never go through making that kind of decision again.
    Now that the past abortion is very rarely ever on my mind I was suppose to start my period four days ago. No period and two possitive pregnancy test. I have an appointment three weeks out to have the procedure done again and then another appointment 6 weeks out to get essure, permanent birth control.
    I love my kids to death, my marriage has been better, but all in all I’m happy. I have extremely awful pregnancies. My oldest, was born ten weeks premature. My youngest, I spent 28 on bed rest, 12 of them spent in the hospital. My family can not financially support another one of my pregnancies. I thank my lucky stars every day my kids are as awesome and healthy as they are. My husband and I had to file bankruptcy from the loss of finances while pregnant with my kids. Doing it all over again will set us back again when we’re finally on our feet again.
    I’m so happy I live in a country where I can make the decision I did. Pro-choice is my right and every other persons right out there. No one should be able to take that away from me.

    1. Dear Hannah,

      I just discovered your response to my blog–I haven’t checked in for a while, obviously. I’m saddened and heartened by your story, which is so incredibly common. You do not sound anything like a “stupid” or “irresponsible” mother. You have made a choice that every woman should have, a choice that protects your health and the financial and psychological health of your family. What could be more important that taking care of the children we have now, the ones all around us, who need so much? This is a question the anti-choice crowd never seriously considers. Pregnancy happens even when we are being careful, as your story demonstrates. You love your children. What would be stupid and irresponsible is indiscriminately to allow biology to control the fate of your children, your husband, and yourself. What matters most right now is for you and your family to stay stable and strong and to give as much to one another as you possibly can. The Anti-choicers would take us back to the dark times when women who couldn’t afford another were forced to make much more dangerous and terrible choices.

      Thank you, dear Hannah, for writing. And to all the women and men out there who understand why it is so important that we keep abortion safe and legal in this awesome country of ours, keep up the good fight!

  8. I’ve had more than one abortion, and I would never judge another woman/girl who did the same. It’s NOT a form of birth control, and is an intensely different experience for every female. It’s not an easy choice, nor is it one that is taken without a lot of soul searching. To those people out there who want to condemn and judge, where the hell are you in the adoption world? Are you adopting every single otherwise unwanted baby? I’m betting not,,,,

  9. I’m on the eve of my second abortion.

    My first was when I was 26, with a man I was in a long distance relationship with. When I discovered I was pregnant we were in the process of gently saying our goodbyes as we both knew neither of us could leave our cities. I did what I felt was right as I was already a single mother, I had my son when I was 17 and back then an abortion was out of the question for me, I didn’t want to bring up another child on my own and didn’t want a child to take anything away from my son. As I was put under in the theatre room I changed my mind and screamed out to stop, that same scream was trailing as I woke up post proceedure – I was too late. I speant many months agonzing over what I had done and still think of him or her but have come to terms with it knowing that is was the best for us.

    3 days ago I discovered my pregnacy. I am in a long term and loving relationship and we do perhaps want to have a child together but only once we’re married and financially stable. My son starts uni next year, his father is no financial help at all and again I don’t want to take anything away from him or weaken his chances for his future.

    I will regret this one too and wish that circumstances were different so that I could keep the baby but they are just not.

    I pray to God continuously for his forgiveness and mercy. That he takes my babies and keeps them safe – I will meet them oneday and I can only hope that they understand and forgive me too.

    I thank you for this page, it is the 1st time I have been able to speak out on this and the last one. I felt if no one knew, the less real it would be.

  10. Hi I am Veronica and I have a handsome 13 year old boy and a beautiful 8 year old girl. I love them to death and thank god from them everyday. My problem is that I’ve suffered from severe depression and anxiety/OCD since I was 23. I am on all kinds of medication including high blood pressure meds. I found out I was pregnant on Wednesday night and went to see my psychiatrist, he said whatever i decided we would work together. I am 39 years old and the meds are considered rate D which can cause cleft lid and a bunch of scary things. I have an appointment tomorrow to take the abortion pill…. I feel like the most horrible person. Please help!!!!!!!!!

    Thank Veronica

  11. ABOUT A YEAR AGO I FOUND OUT THAT I WAS PREGNANT AND IT WAS THE MOST HORRIBLE TIME OF MY LIFE EVER! I WAS 23 YEARS OLD AND DEFINITELY WAS NOT READY TO HAVE A CHILD, GIVEN MY HOME AND FINANCIAL SITUATION. I KNEW WHAT I HAD TO DO, THOUGH IT WAS ONE OF THE HARDEST DECISIONS OF MY LIFE, I KNEW IT HAD TO BE DONE. I HAD JUST GRADUATED COLLEGE, THE PERSON WHO I GOT PREGNANT FOR WAS OLDER AND DID NOT WANT CHILDREN. SO I DID THE ASPIRATION METHOD ABORTION, THOUGH I FELT RELIEVED AFTER, I WAS VERY SAD, THIS SADNESS LASTED ABOUT WEEK OR SO, AFTER I HAVE CONVINCED MYSELF THAT THIS WAS BEST. FAST FORWARD TO TODAY, I HAD TAKE THREE TESTS OVER THE COURSE OF 2 WEEKS AND THEY ALL CAME OUT NEGATIVE, THIS MORNING I TOOK THE LAST TEST THAT I HAD AND BASED ON MY LUCK IT WAS POSITIVE. NOW I AM BASICALLY BACK TO WHERE I STARTED. MY HOME SITUATION HASN’T CHANGED, THOUGH MY JOB DID AND THE PAY IS A LITTLE BETTER, IT IS STILL NOT ENOUGH TO SUPPORT BOTH MYSELF AND A CHILD. SO I MOST LIKELY WILL HAVE TO GO THROUGH AN ABORTION AGAIN. THOUGH I WAS NOT ON BIRTH CONTROL, I DID TAKE THE MORNING AFTER PILL, BUT I GUESS I AM THE 1 PERCENT THAT THE PILL DIDN’T WORK FOR. I FEEL LIKE SUCH A HORRIBLE PERSON FOR WANTING ANOTHER ABORTION, ESPECIALLY FOR SOMEONE WHO HAS ALWAYS WORKED WITH KIDS AND ABSOLUTELY LOVE KIDS. I AM SO STRESSED OUT, AND HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA WHAT TO DO. I WENT THROUGH THE FIRST ONE, NOT BEING ABLE TO TELL ANYONE BUT MY CLOSE FRIENDS, AND SINCE MY FAMILY ARE STRICT CHRISTIANS, THIS IS NOT SOMETHING I CAN EVEN MENTION TO THEM. HAVING A CHILD SHOULD BE A BLESSING, AT THIS POINT IN MY LIFE I FEEL LIKE ITS A CURSE. I HAVE JUST STARTED MY GRAD SCHOOL APPLICATION AND IF I DO DECIDE TO KEEP THIS CHILD, THIS IS SOMETHING THAT I WILL HAVE TO DELAY AGAIN. SORRY, FOR THE RANT AND THE JUMBLED THOUGHTS, I JUST NEED TO GET EVERYTHING OUT, AND SINCE I HAVE NO ONE TO TALK TO, I JUST HAD TO GET IT ALL OUT ON HERE.

  12. Thank you. Reading this comforted me so much. Like someone said above and the first commenter, a young person read this and wept.
    I was 23 and mine were 3 months apart. It’s hard when you live in an uptight and religious society. Very hard. Abortion is illegal where I’m from and you could end up in jail (as well as the doctor who performs the procedure). That’s why so many babies are thrown out in the street, literally. The alternative is to be disowned and in some cases killed. This is one reason I just can’t move on. I know I did what I had to because it was all wrong. But this judgment and hearing how hard people are on women makes me lose my will to live day by day. I could write so much more, but I won’t. Thank you from very far away.

  13. You’re right. You are infected with a horrible disease. It’s called feminism. That “little mass of cells” was a human baby, your human baby. He or she will never get to grow up and do the joyous things that little children do. It’s a tragedy. It’s heartbreaking.

  14. Hi everyone its 2016 hope to hear back fm some ibhave two kids 3 and 7 i am married my first child was born at 5 months and the sec gived me problems but was full term i have bad very bad pregnancies when i was younger i had about 3 abortions at 14 ,20.28 i am now 36.. when i might my husband i had 2 more abortions now i am pregnant again we were so clearlyfull but i guess not enough i am in sooo much pain…soo i am getting another abortion and my tubs tie also i cant go though this again smh….i do feel ashamed my doctor makes me feel that way also

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