Sep 022010

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I’ve had two abortions. Both resulted from contraceptive failures. (Did you know that some antibiotics can counteract the Pill? Neither did the doctor who prescribed the Pill for me.) The first, at age 20 in New York City, in 1985, was unexceptional except that several of my friends had recently had abortions too, so I had the benefit of their information and experience. The only hard part was coming up with the money, since at the time I was totally uninsured. The cheapest available clinic was crowded, and the nurses and doctors were a little brusque, but no big deal. The discomfort was so minor that I didn’t even bother taking the codeine my then-boyfriend had swiped from his mom’s bathroom for me. My boyfriend and my roommates and my girlfriends all went with me and hung around in the waiting room. Then we went home in taxis – a huge luxury for us at the time – and drank bad scotch and watched Star Trek reruns. It was a good weekend.

As I finally got myself together in my twenties – finished college, went on to graduate school, finished my doctorate and started a career as a professor – I sometimes thought of the baby I didn’t have. It was clear to me that I had made the right decision, that without the abortion I could never have gone on to have my happy and productive life. And I knew I would have been an inept and miserable parent! But these thoughts crossed my mind no more than once or twice a year, often as a way of telling myself how lucky I was. And as abortion became more and more politicized and stigmatized in the U.S. I joined other women and men in going to clinic defenses as an act of gratitude for the political and medical system that had given me the chance to have my useful and interesting life.

Then at age 40, living in a very small college town, I got pregnant again. This happened the very first time I was messing around with a new partner, and it took a while for me to realize it, because I actually had a period while pregnant. (Did you know that, in very rare instances, your menstrual cycle can continue well into a pregnancy? Neither did my doctor.) My bisexuality compounded my ignorance – I had only been with women for the previous decade, and so had forgotten a lot about birth control and fertility. Anyway, when I finally figured out that what I had was not just a bad flu that wouldn’t go away, I felt really dumb. And when I realized how much the right to abortion had been whittled away in the 16 years since I had last needed one, I felt even worse. The state I lived in had a waiting period and a little speech that the poor doctor was required to read me, and no local clinics would perform abortions so that my new partner and I had to drive two hours in each direction twice to find one that would, and then there were these kind of pathetic demonstrators waving signs at me across the street. And it was shocking how careful the security had to be at this clinic. But adversity seemed to make everyone involved more determined and also more caring of each other. So the people at the clinic included this funny and fierce gay guy doing clinic defense, waiting to walk me past those protestors if necessary. And there were these efficient and kindhearted nurses, and a smart and gentle doctor who turned out to be a Canadian doing her ob-gyn residency at a local university hospital. Since this was a second-trimester abortion it was a little more slow and uncomfortable than the first one had been, but I was so happy and relieved that I didn’t care. I practically danced into the waiting room.

In a funny way going through this abortion together, so early in our relationship, made my partner and I trust each other more, see more clearly how we could support each other in bad times, and also showed us that we shared some fundamental underlying values. So that was one important result. Another important part of the experience, for me, was getting the long-distance support of pretty much the same friends who had gone through the first abortion with me. One was pregnant after years of fertility problems; another had a two-year-old; so I hesitated in telling them what was going on. But I shouldn’t have worried. They were completely understanding and they cheered me on. And this time, luckily, my insurance covered it. Not having this baby enabled me, once again, to move forward with a productive, useful, and joyful life. It was a gift.

And I Am Not Sorry!

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