Holly’s Story

Dear Dr. Henry Morgentaler:

A few weeks ago I sat in my campus Health Services office for a routine checkup with my doctor (who seems to think that I should be institutionalized due to the stress and depression during University exams that I reported to him). After I fended off his notions of my instability, I asked for a pregnancy test. I wasn’t all that worried, but a while back the condom had broken during intercourse with my partner, and I took a morning after pill, dealt with the nausea and waited for my period to come, which at this point was very late.

I had mentioned this to my partner and we both agreed that abortion would be the best thing to do in my circumstances. I am a second year University student. I’m moving to Europe next year. I’m young, I’m not entirely stable (not ‘parenting’ stable, that’s for sure) and I have a huge list of things I simply need to do in my life before I could think of having a family, which I’m not actually sure I want.

Being fiercely pro-choice and an out-spoken feminist all of my life, I thought of this rationally, I thought of myself as a young woman exercising her freedom of choice.

Still, when the doctor told me that I was pregnant I burst into tears. I told him I needed an abortion. He suggested I keep the child. (I have since reported this to Health Services) He did “realize that it may interfere with my career” but he didn’t see how having a child at my age would destroy my chances of having a career, unable me from living on my own and being independent, lock me into a relationship I was still unsure about and ruin a life: a child being raised by an unwilling, angry mother.

I went home and searched for the closest abortion clinic, which was about an hour away, in Toronto. Not considering asking anyone for a ride there filled me with dread, but my discovery of the name of the clinic elated me with hope, for the first time that afternoon: Morgentaler.

Earlier this year, I wrote a fairly extensive, well-received research paper about the history of contraception and abortion in Canada. I fully enjoyed researching this subject, and, naturally, your name came up repeatedly.

I realized then, more fully than I had realized during all my time as an outspoken pro-choice feminist that my abortion was what you and others like you were fighting for over so many decades. You funded safe, illegal abortions with your own finances and spent time in jail so that I would have this option, so that I could be seeking out access to your legal clinics for an abortion covered by health insurance, rather than being forced to become a twenty year old resentful mother, or else risk my life in an unsafe, illegal abortion. How could I allow myself to feel guilty for doing something I knew was right, when so much was sacrificed so that I could have the option?

Confident in the name Morgentaler, I booked an appointment, adjusted to being “technically” pregnant, dealt with my sore breasts and went to the bathroom what seemed like 29 times a day.

The night before my abortion, I panicked. I think I was most afraid of the pain, during and after the abortion. I did what I had never done before: I logged on to Pro-Life websites and scared the life out of myself with stories of damage to the Uterus, horrific failed abortions, sterilization and death.

Nevertheless, my partner drove me to the clinic the next morning, and I refused to let him in. This was something I was doing for myself, not him. This was something I will have done for the rest of my life, whether I was with him in the future or not, so with a promise to call, I found my way into an unmarked door, strangers staring (or was that my imagination?) and discovered the confident sign that bore the name Morgentaler.

I met with some of the kindest nurses, doctors and counselors I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. They all understood where I was coming from and were impressed that I was confident about going through the procedure. I was nervous, but I was fascinated by the different ages of women in the clinic. There was a girl at least a few years younger than me who was having an abortion because she had a toddler already, who she had at 16 because she thought it would be easy.

The procedure itself was relatively painless and at times even enjoyable. The drugs kept me in a state of euphoria as I chatted with the nurses about the signed Cider House Rules movie poster in the waiting room. I also had an I.U.D. inserted, which I had decided to with the help of one of the counselors. I recovered from the operation while sipping ginger ale and talking to two other women, one who was still in pain, another who seemed to be enjoying her anesthesia. I ended up getting my ride to drive her to the train station.

It was an experience I am actually proud of having. I have exercised my freedom of choice. I now fight for abortion rights as someone who was directly affected by them. I am now truly and utterly grateful for those who fought for my right to terminate that pregnancy, and Dr. Morgentaler, I cannot thank you enough.

Sincere in Gratitude,