Helen’s Story

As a child my mother used to tell me about a working class neighbor in the 1950s (I grew up in England) who had a backstreet abortion that left her crippled. Afterwards she said she’d do it again because there was no way she could afford another child. This experience made my mother ardently pro-abortion, and I came of age at a time when the slogans ‘free abortion on demand and without apology’ and ‘our bodies, our lives, our right to decide’ were still around. When I was in my late twenties I got pregnant when my partner’s condom, one of a batch I got for free from my health center, broke. (We threw away the rest of the batch.) I was in graduate school at the time, as was my partner, living on very little money and with no plans for children, so of course I decided to have an abortion, and naturally my partner agreed. During the weeks of the pregnancy I had day-long sickness, and felt like an alien was occupying my body. I didn’t enjoy eating or doing much else that I usually took pleasure in, so I was eager to end the pregnancy. I was living in a New England city with a very good, reasonable abortion provider, and I made an appointment through my doctor, and between us my partner and I came up with the $400 or so it cost—which was a significant amount of money for us. This was the early 1990s, and a scattering of anti-abortion fanatics were permanently camped outside the building. I shouted at them that they would be campaigning for better health care and childcare if they really cared for women and babies, mostly to give courage to others walking through the gauntlet. The women in the clinic were wonderful, both the staff and the other patients. The procedure was quick and painless. Afterwards I felt a little sore, but otherwise almost euphoric—no more nausea, no more occupied body—and hungry. My partner drove me to a local sandwich shop, and on my request bought me a beef and boursin cheese sandwich on sourdough bread, and a bottle of milk. I find it hard to think of another time when I have enjoyed food so much! I’m now 41, a professor of English, my partner (the same one) a social justice activist and researcher-writer. We are very happy together without children; we have lots of children in our life, as family and friends know us as child-friendly and we serve as actual and honorary aunt and uncle. I often feel grateful that I was able to get the abortion when I needed it, and I am acutely aware that so many women no longer have any real access to abortion in the US. I am so appalled by the generalized anti-abortion culture—films that glorify unwanted pregnancies and never even admit abortion as an option—that I was really pleased to find out about I’m Not Sorry. I only wish these stories could be told every night on network television—to make all those women out there realize they are not alone.