Lisa’s Story

It was 1986 and while abortion was safe and accessible in my Canadian city – it was not yet quite “legal” or funded through our medicare system. I was a feminist, a pro-choice activist and had even volunteered as an escort to help other women walk through the protesters to the safety of the clinic.

I was almost 20 when I realized I was pregnant. I had recently ended a relationship with a live in boyfriend who was becoming progressively more abusive. At the same time, I went off of the pill because it was causing me migraines and didn’t anticipate having sex again anytime soon. A couple of months later I was having drinks in a bar when I ran into my ex-boss (a man 16 years older than me). He had just broken up with his girlfriend and somehow we ended up drunk and back at his place and in bed. He was actually a very decent man – this event was more out of character for him than for me. While we chatted on the phone a couple of times, and there was genuine affection and a friendship between us – it was understood by both of us that the sexual encounter was a mistake. Pregnancy never crossed my busy mind until I found myself with a “stomach flu” that I couldn’t shake for several weeks.

Right after the procedure, I went home and told my sister. Until that moment I had told no one in my family. She hugged me and held me while I cried (tears of relief mostly) and then sat down and wrote me a cheque to cover the $200 procedure. It was the most supportive I could imagine anyone could be. At the time she was struggling with infertility. But she was pro-choice; my much older feminist role model. And that day I learned everything about who I wanted to be, from her.

It is 20 years later. While I have never regretted the abortion I certainly shed a few tears and thought about it a few times when I was not conceiving in my early 30’s. It was more like remembering the loss of someone I had loved, but knew that my life was better for having moved on while still wondering how it might have been if I hadn’t.

Recently, a woman I know was struggling with her views on “choice” and as a board member at pro choice community health clinic she really had to get her conflicting thoughts sorted out in her mind. She believed in “choice” when it came to rape or very young teens or someone in dire poverty but she was struggling with the idea of a married woman, or just an adult not in dire financial straights making the decision. I sat down with her (at her request) to discuss the literature, the research, the stats etc. but ended up to my surprise just telling her my own story. Months later she told me that it was my story that helped her understand that this choice has to be available to any woman – because she is someone who looks up to me and admires the work that I do as a counselor, advocate and educator with and for teenage girls. She looked at me and realized that “who” I am… and all that I have done and been for so many girls would not have happened if had been working at my minimum wage job raising a child alone … I may never have had the opportunities I did and been able to develop into the strong leader and role model that I am… that the choice was absolutely right for me and that she could not judge me or any other woman. When she said that, it was like I came to peace with my decision all over again.

Today, I am the mom of a beautiful, brilliant 5 year old – who was conceived after significant challenges (none due to my previous abortion!) I am exactly the kind of mom I dreamed of being at exactly the right time in my life. I look at my wonderful child and I know that no matter what, she has to be able to make her own way in the world without anyone else ever controlling her body, her sexuality or her fertility. Someday when she is old enough to make sense of it, the story of my abortion, and of my being adopted and of her unique conception will all weave together into the fabric of her understanding of my life and her life as a woman.