March For Life: Am I Pro-Choice or Pro-Life?

One year after my abortion

Today marks the 38th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.  Thousands of activists are in the streets of the nation’s capital to speak up and stand up for unborn life.

I had an abortion when I was seventeen years old. Back then, it seemed like the only choice. It really did. I couldn’t fathom adoption. I couldn’t metabolize the thought of carrying a baby for nine months and then… just giving it up.

Increasingly, I have come to realize that those were selfish thoughts of a seventeen-year old me. I don’t blame that girl, but my thoughts about abortion have changed since becoming a parent.

The knowledge that I stopped the life of a human being that could’ve grown up and been a child just like my sweet Violet tortures me. It tortures me. In the wake of Violet’s birth I am slowly becoming aware of this process taking place deep inside my brain.

Up until now I have validated my abortion and the abortions of millions of other young women who came before and after me.  Now?  I wish I had gone the adoption route. But guess what? I’m still pro-choice.

I have yet to reconcile all these thoughts winging around my head. I rarely allow them headline space in my brain.  Sometimes though, when I’m watching my daughter play and my love for her wells up so strong it nearly chokes me, I think about that other baby.

It hurts. It hurts real bad.

Several years ago I wrote a piece on my personal blog about my thoughts on abortion.  In the interest of today’s topic I’m going to repost it here:

You would be 12 years old. You would be finished with elementary school, excited to begin junior high. You would be crushing on various boys/girls, dreading taking a shower in gym class. You would have a favorite band. A favorite pop star. A favorite television program. You would be here.

You would be a person. With a name. Whether or not you were raised by me, you would be here, on earth. You would know who Britney Spears is. You would maybe vote for the next American Idol on your cell phone. You would have an opinion on Paris Hilton. You would have a favorite color. A favorite movie. A favorite food. You would have a favorite t-shirt and a favorite pair of jeans.

I killed you. Didn’t I? DID I? Is there a “you”?

That’s what they say:
“One thing that comes to mind when I think of abortion–murder. What gives us the right to take another life? Maybe it’s the lack of responsibility or just simply the lack of knowledge.”

I’m a murderer?

I knew what I was doing. I was no innocent. Or was I? At 17, I knew what abortion meant, I think. But I wasn’t fully capable of understanding the psychological consequences.

Experts say that at the end of 8 weeks “your baby will be about a third of an inch long. Bones are beginning to form and fingers, toes, ankles and wrists are developing. By now, you’ll probably ‘feel’ pregnant and may be experiencing some of the early side effects, like morning sickness. Your weight may also have increased slightly and your breasts may be sore and tender. Until the end of week 8 your baby is known as an embryo.”

I aborted you at week 8. They sucked you from my body using their specialized vacuums that didn’t feel very specialized and then they tossed you in the trash like so much garbage. Now, I spend the rest of my life marking ghost anniversaries, reconciling choice vs. abortion. And wondering.

But I am older now. Wiser. And if I could go back, I would do the same thing. If they took away my right to govern my own body I would and will fight them tooth and nail. Because I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I do. But I also know that each woman that makes the mother of all decisions is forever haunted by her choice. There is no black, no white… just ten shades of gray.

I found out I was pregnant on July 26, 1994. I had an abortion on August 9, 1994. They made me wait 2 weeks because they wouldn’t permit me to “terminate the pregnancy” until I was at least 8 weeks along.
I wouldn’t permit myself to think of the life growing inside of me as a human. Ever. Some people say you weren’t human. That you were just a mass of tissue and cells. Me? I don’t know what to think. Either way I talked to you during the long drives to nowhere. I drove and I listened to U2 and Soul Asylum (this song). I used to drive into the Wasatch mountains and talk to you. I would throw up, listen to music, throw up some more and attempt to explain myself. And apologize for what I was about to do.
“I am a mess. I can’t be a mother. I can’t even take care of myself.” I would sob to the mass of cells multiplying inside of me. Secretly, I felt like I should put you up for adoption. After all, my best friend Natalie was adopted and she has the greatest parents ever. I successfully justified my decision to abort with very adult sounding talk of future and education and what’s best for everyone but deep inside I just felt selfish and afraid.

So tired that I couldnt even sleep
So many secrets I couldnt keep
I promised myself I wouldnt weep
One more promise I couldnt keep

It seems no one can help me now,
Im in too deep; theres no way out
This time I have really led myself astray…

Is there a “you”?

“PRO-CHOICE!” is the bold rally cry for that side of the debate. No one should be able to impose their morals on my body. I do believe those sentiments but will always struggle with this; that’s not why I did what I did. At 17 I wasn’t a feminist. I didn’t give politics any thought. I just wanted it all to go away. I didn’t want to be gossiped about. I didn’t want to be pregnant and prove the Mormon neighbors right. I wanted to show those fuckers that Monica Butler was going places. Now here this, you fat bitch Sister Okey and your asshole sons that call my Mom a slut and make fun of my family for being on welfare, I am going places!

I dreamt of colleges, bricks stitched with ivy and handsome young professors sporting argyle sweaters and tweed jackets with elbow patches, engaged in discussions about important events! I dreamt of getting away from welfare and judgement and sex-is-badbadbadbadBAD. And so I did it. I got rid of you. And I will spend the rest of my life trying to reconcile my decision with my heart.

For me, the right to choose is important but the blanket term “Pro-Choice” falls short of defining my stance. It’s a fist pumper of a mantra for empowerment that is becoming inextricably linked with feminism. And I’m proud of the women who fought to allow me to make the choice I made… yet “Pro-Choice” does little to comfort me when I think about you, if you exist.

Ten shades of gray.

Abortion. Termination. It means the end of something. A conclusion. But my decision to terminate was the beginning. The beginning of thousands of what ifs. The beginning of being haunted.

Where are you? Are you in Heaven? Does Heaven exist? Were you allowed to be born to someone else? A good mother? A righteous mother who earned the honor to welcome you into her life? Are you on the planet somewhere, living the life that I denied you? Or are you tethered to Heaven, waiting to confront me when I die? Will I ever meet you? Are you even a person?

Where ARE you?

The official March for Life site is here.

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