Justine’s Story

I’m a 44-year-old woman with a much-loved 20-year-old son. I’ve had a successful career on Wall Street, which has been fortunate, since my son, while born into a marriage, has lived in a single-parent household most of his life. The marriage didn’t work out, and his dad, a nice enough man, has never been able to contribute reliably to the cost of raising our son. Luckily, I’ve been blessed with the education and skills to give our son a good home, a solid education, nice vacations, and a generally happy, comfortable American life. I’m a rare example of a single mom whose prosperity increased after divorce.

But would this have been possible if, back in 1978, when I was 20, in college, and found myself pregnant, I had been obliged to give birth? I was living with my boyfriend and two other roommates, on next-to-no-money, all of us college students working one or two jobs apiece. My boyfriend, who was three years older than I, occasionally suggested I should have a baby with him, but I was pretty clear that, at least while in college, it would be a terrible idea. (Since that boyfriend became the husband who was such a poor provider, I’d say my instinct was wise.) My pregnancy was accidental, but my decision to terminate it was quite deliberate.

I was so fortunate that this happened at a time when the women’s movement was strong, and in a city with ample health and other resources for women. I went to a feminist community health center for the test, then for the counseling, and then for the abortion. I took the advice to remain awake for the procedure, which was a little bit painful, certainly uncomfortable, and sad. I didn’t want to be going through this ordeal, but I sure didn’t want to be having a baby at 20. I wanted to finish school, finish becoming an adult, and start makng my way in life.

I am also vain and arrogant enough that I didn’t want MY child to be raised by other people, and I believe that’s the prerogative of a caring mother. There are so many truly terrible parents out there, and so many other good people whose circumstances do not allow them to parent well, thanks (I believe) to our government’s inhumane policies. The possibility of my flesh and blood living a miserable existence was a to me worse outcome than the idea of such a life being extinguished before it really began.

I have been a good mother to my son, I have loved him with the completeness and maturity that I only became able to provide once my own childhood had truly ended and I’d begun to achieve my capacity to provide for myself and others. I do not imagine what-ifs… about his “older sibling,” because I believe each and every time our life takes a turn, all that follows is completely new. Therefore I hold that the son I love would not have come to me if I’d been unable to make the choice I did in 1978. I would never change the good fortune I’ve received.