I was a little surprised when I ran across this article in Salon about abortion as a Twitter meme. It appears that in the wake of Dr. Tiller’s death and ensuing trial / publicity, women around the world are sending messages with the #ihadanabortion hash tag.
Those who are ANTI-choice shd B glad #ihadanabortion. I went on to finish college, support myself, marry … have 2 honor students. Nice, huh?
I’m not surprised that there are so many women who have abortions. Or that their speaking out has inspired media coverage. I am surprised, actually, by the fact that so many people have such strong spines to speak out about something that so many other people still look at with such shame. I was surprised to tears, actually.
I have LONG advocated for transparency, honesty in communication, a coming together of our fears and weaknesses because they are what unite us, more than anything else. As differently as we all may look and behave, our core desires to be loved and supported, our core fears that we will be rejected if flawed and imperfect are universal. There is not one of us who has not – or will not – made a “mistake” that we will learn from.
As my un-husband always says, “it’s not the decisions you make, but what you make of your decisions that counts.”
But abortion – anything sexual, actually – holds a unique spot in our collective psyche because it is rooted in religion and then infused into our political system as the most divisive go-to issue when thousands of people need to be whipped into a quick and furious froth. For some reason, we have decided that this is THE issue on which lives, political races, politicians, and a population can be judged. And that’s just on where you stand on the issue, nevermind if you had one!
So fine. Judge me. If you are the type of person who would judge the sum total of my existence on the fact that I had an abortion when I was 16, then you are not the type of person who’s opinion holds an ounce of relevance for me. Our value systems are not aligned, and not just on the abortion issue. But on everything around it – freedom, judgment, conformity, narrow thinking. You name it. I do not believe that I have the right to decide what’s right for everyone. If you do, you are an ignorant fool, it’s that simple. (Also, you’re probably religious, which is a bit odd, since I think you would have to say that only “god” can judge, so do you think you’re god?)
I was 16. I have never regretted it. Hell, most of the time I don’t even remember, until something happens to remind me. I have never looked back and thought “I wish I hadn’t done that.”
I was 16! I had left home to escape an untenable home life. I found, for the first time in my life, a sense of independence and strength. I changed my life for the better, to meet my own needs, and no one could stop me. A small part of it was a summer fling that both set the standard for how I wanted to feel and be treated, and also left me pregnant.
I was well-educated and well-raised. I had used protection, but in the flawed way that 16 year-olds often do. As soon as I realized that I was pregnant, I knew I would terminate it. Because I was 16.
When I look back, I am so glad that I did. Not because I would have been a horrible mother, (indeed, it turns out that I am really good at being a mother,) but precisely because I would not have been. I would have thrown everything I had into it. I would have been high on the teenage myth of infallibility and believed I could do it all, and I would have tried. And I would have failed. Because as every adult knows, teenagers are idiots. We don’t trust them to vote in elections that decide our future, so why would we trust them to raise the children that ARE our future?
I would never have taken the time to get to develop and know the extraordinary woman that I am. I would not have gone to theater school, or gotten an anthropology degree, or traveled Europe alone, married an amazing man, had an amazing daughter…..
Having one child, with a supportive partner and ridiculously supportive extended family is hard enough, as an adult. There’s no way I could have done it alone, as a teenager. It would have been half-assed at best.
And I’m sorry, but the cost to society of half-assed parenting is plainly obvious. I had a choice to add to the statistics of teen abortions or of half-assed parents, and I chose the path of greater good. Now, there are plenty of women who have had kids as teens and done amazing things. I admire them more than I admire almost any other group of people because I know what it takes. But I know myself, and I am not one of them. I wouldn’t have been.
Moreover, I didn’t want to. And that’s really all that matters. This is my body. Nobody gets to put anything in it without my consent. (Though they have, and I learned and grew from that too.) Nobody gets to tell me what to do or not to do with it. Period.
And at the age of 16, I felt that power. The decision to end an unintended pregnancy, more than anything else, confirmed my belief in myself and my body, but also in my future. I knew what I wanted to do, and by taking control of the situation and my body, I taught myself that I have the right and the strength to do so. That’s cool.
I wanted it to be a hard decision, but it wasn’t. I even wanted it to be a painful process, but it wasn’t.
I had an abortion when I was 16, and for me, it was the day that I grew up and realized that I was in charge of my own life and my own future.
I had a daughter when I was 29. And I was ready. And I love her with everything I’ve got. And I’ve got a lot more to give her because I took the time to grow into the amazing woman that I am, with the strength, courage, vision and experience to help her find her own strength, courage and vision. And to experience life on her terms.
Life is too powerful and precious to live by the confines of anyone else’s convictions. I stand proud in every decision I have ever made. Not because they were all perfect, but because they all taught me something, I have made the most of them, and they made me ME. A me with a lot to share.