My anger, frustration, and fear are deep rooted. They've been welling up over a period of nearly 50 years and I want to —no, I need to — share what have up until now been my private thoughts, experiences, and perspective. In the 1960s and 1970s, I let Gloria Steinem and a host of other women do it for me. Now, it’s my turn. I can only hope that others will follow. It will help save lives.
For the first time in my adult life, a woman’s right to choose, to have or not have an abortion, is legislatively, in jeopardy. And, this is not happening somewhere else; almost two-thirds of the countries in the world give women the right to choose.
This is happening in front of our eyes. It is happening here in the United States. Many state Republican legislators have leapfrogged over the federal law, the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade that gave a woman the right to choose.
Here are some alarming figures: The Guttmacher Institute (founded in 1968 by a male physician) does research and analysis regarding women’s sexual and reproductive health. Among many policies and programs, it tracks and supports abortion rights. A recent published report says, “In the past two years alone, 32 states have adopted some form of abortion restriction … In the first six months of 2012, 15 states passed 39 restrictions on abortion. Last year, 24 states passed 92 restrictions, an all-time record.”
Included in the report is an in-depth analysis, based on 10 types of abortion restrictions. They are broken down state by state into three categories: hostile, in the middle, and supportive. Depending upon the number of legal restrictions a state has imposed determines the category. These restrictions can be onerous and appear to be targeted to low-income women with or without insurance. The analysis, found on the Guttmacher Institute’s website, includes a discussion, charts and graphs, and describes how the trend has been increasingly moving over to the hostile category.
In the early spring of 1966, I had a friend, Melissa*, who, when she got pregnant, knew that she didn’t want the child. The time wasn’t right. She was 21 years old. She did not want to marry the father, and she was willing to do whatever it took to get an abortion.
Another college friend had many connections and found a doctor for Melissa in New Jersey. It would be an illegal abortion, and it had to be kept secret both for Melissa’s protection and the doctor’s.
One of the prerequisites was that, if she wanted the procedure done, she would have to agree to be taken wherever they took her, come alone, and ask no questions.
Meanwhile, it would cost $400 in cash. She had $200. Although she and the father wanted nothing further to do with one another, she wanted him to come up with the $200 balance. Because I knew him (he was a senior at Harvard and used to date someone I knew), I became the designated messenger.
We were all nervous. What if she met the “doctor” and had a back alley abortion by someone using a coat hanger or worse? Several weeks later, she had the procedure on a Monday morning, was picked up, blindfolded and taken to a place that smelled like an antiseptic facility, possibility a clinic.
She came back to school and later that afternoon went to her Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation interview.
Thankfully, the physician was a real one, one who had seen, along with his colleagues, countless botched abortions. She got her Ph.D., married, had several children and never regretted her decision.
When Gloria Steinem took the podium in front of the church at Saint Mark’s Place in the early 70’s, she spoke to a crowd of hundreds of women and men, she shared with us proudly and boldly that she had had an abortion in London in 1958. At the time, I thought what bravery, what courage she had to speak out.
After that day, prominent women and women of every religion, color, age, social status, and economic status came out in droves and shared their names and their personal stories. The numbers and stories became like a woven tapestry. The overriding principle was not the idea to have an abortion, but rather to have the right to choose.
In Russia, women used abortions as a means of contraception. Here, in the United States, there were other methods that did not need a medical intervention, such as a condom or diaphragm. However, the Supreme Court’s decision in 1973 put a lot of women — and men — more at ease.
In 1975, I was 29 years old. When I became pregnant, I chose to have an abortion. Getting pregnant was an accident and a mistake. I wasn’t married, nor did I want to be. I didn’t want a baby and I wasn’t ready to have a baby. My maturity age was probably 15, and so was the father’s.
I was thankful to have the choice. The consequences of bringing a child into this world without the means to support it, without the father’s participation and possibly without the love of family, relatives and others, are still painful to think about.
It’s 2012, and come November 6, we will make our choice. While on the campaign trail, the conservative Republicans have forced the moderate former Governor Mitt Romney to the far right, their way or the highway, using their religion as the underpinning for their beliefs.
But don’t be fooled or cajoled, but rather be forewarned. These reactionaries, radical fundamentalists — they are not conservatives — are Republicans who at this very moment are working to not only make abortion illegal but also preventative measures, such as the morning after pill.
The Republican platform says, as if Moses had added a new commandant to the Ten Commandments, that there shall not be any abortions in this country, even if the circumstances include rape or incest. Let’s talk about jobs and the economy, they say. Let’s not tell them how we really feel. We will only do that in the safety of like-minded people.
Michelle Goldberg, reporting for The Daily Beast, noted that House Majority leader Eric Cantor spoke this past Friday at the Values Voter Summit sponsored by the Family Research Council in Washington, DC.
Cantor said that there are some people in this upcoming election who think it is all about jobs and the economy (my words - like the Republican presidential candidate former Governor Mitt Romney, but he said, …"we know that this election is about something more." He continued by saying that it … "is going to determine whether or not the very moral fabric will be upheld, or whether it will be torn apart."
The Obama-Biden ticket is pro-choice, as is the Democratic Party platform. One of the new additions in the 2012 Affordable Care Act is that a birth-control coverage mandate is included. We can’t move backwards; we need to lean forward.
* For reasons of privacy, Melissa is a pseudonym.