Lynn’s Story

It’s funny that people define themselves as pro-choice, and, yet, they will say they don’t believe in late term abortion. I don’t get it. Is it less of an abortion if the termination takes place before fourteen weeks? Anti Late Term abortion people claim that they disapprove because of the approaching viability of the fetus. I say that an abortion is an abortion no matter how early or late it takes place in the pregnancy, and I approve a woman’s right to choose abortion at any point in her pregnancy that is legal. But, then, I’m biased in the whole late term abortion debate because I had an abortion at 24 weeks. That was almost eleven years ago. I’m about to turn 30 now, and I can say with more certainty than ever that I do not regret the choice I made; in fact, I think it’s the best choice I ever made.

In November of 1991, I was 18 and recently married. I was nowhere near ready to become part of the small percentage of women who suffer a birth control failure. I had only been married two months and was horrified that my body could betray me so callously. The shock of adjusting to marriage with a man who had misrepresented himself and whose true colors were beginning to show was suddenly compounded and made more complex by this horrifying turn of events. I told my husband that I wanted to have an abortion, and he agreed that it was the thing to do. The first hurdle was cleared. The problem turned out to be, however, that my new husband acted on nothing. He was happy to agree with me as long as we were just talking, but his plan of action was to just wait around to see if the problem would rectify itself. Ignore it, and it will go away.

It didn’t. I was effectively stranded in life. I had no vehicle, no money, and no friends. Living in the rural South, I didn’t have the option of public transportation to the nearest clinic. In short, I had no idea what to do. For those first three months, I suffered horrible nausea and vomiting and was so exhausted most of the time that I couldn’t even think, let alone try to find a way to help myself out of this situation. Every time I tried to discuss the matter with my husband, I was met with silence or a vague, “Oh yeah. We do need to do something about this.” Time passed, Christmas passed, and I turned 19. I was starting to show. My Johnny-on-the-spot husband finally decided to tell me that we were going to have to do something. The wheels that should have been started rolling 22 weeks ago were finally beginning to turn, but they were almost turning too slowly.

We went to the local branch of Planned Parenthood where I was given a pregnancy test and spoken to about whether or not I wanted to continue the pregnancy. When I said that I wanted to abort, I was given a list of abortion providers in larger cities to which the driving time would range anywhere to 2.5 to 4 hours. I chose the nearest provider, which was going to be about 2.5 hours away. My husband took off work, and off we drove. This clinic made me wait half the day before they finally gave me an ultrasound, told me I was 23 weeks along and that they couldn’t help me but that their sister clinic in a city 4.5 hours away could. They refused to help me make an appointment or to give me any real information. We were left to drive back home, having wasted gas money and a vacation day for a wild goose chase. Once home, I called the other clinic and got an appointment for the following week. More vacation days were arranged and a hotel we couldn’t afford was booked since the procedure was going to take three days. Three days! What on earth were they going to do to me for three days?! I had told no one other than my husband that I was pregnant, so I had nowhere to turn for comfort or encouragement. Bags packed, we drove away once again. I was excited that it was finally going to be over and that I would have escaped what seemed to be a fate worse than death. My husband scolded me for being excited.

We got to the clinic, and the nurses and doctor were very nice, helpful, and caring. My husband chose this time to try to talk me into “just having it.” I asked him if he would be interested in giving it up for adoption. He refused. I refused to care for it. Not being able to obtain my agreement to stop this ludicrous behavior, he turned cruel and told me that he never wanted to hear another word about any of this from me. That first day at the clinic, I learned that the procedure would consist of three steps. Laminaria would be inserted into my cervix for two days to cause dilation. On the third day, my water would be broken and the fetus removed. I was pretty scared at the prospect, but even more scared of becoming a mother to a baby who not having had prenatal treatments and having been exposed to my alcohol consumption would likely be born disabled. The first day’s laminaria insertion was quite painful and not at all fast. The second day’s insertion was just as uncomfortable. By the night of the second day, I was in intense pain. Looking back, I realize now that I must have been in some form of labor. I was positively miserable. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. All I could do was moan and groan. My new husband’s true colors were really showing by this time, and he told me to shut up, that I had chosen to do this. By the morning of the third day, I was so miserable that the anticipated horror of having my water broken had turned into a welcome relief. The shot of anesthetic was like a pardon from God. I never looked at what that kind doctor removed from me that day because I didn’t care what it looked like or even what sex it was. That pregnancy was never something I wanted, and the idea of having that child to filled me with horror and resentment. It was all over, and I had survived. I limped out into the day a new woman.

It probably sounds as though the experience was horrible, and it was. Nonetheless, The experience was at the same time, a positive experience as well. The abortion was positive because I learned that I was ultimately responsible for myself and for my problems. I learned the very hardest way possible not to wait for someone else to take care of my problems but to tend to them myself. It was a positive experience because I learned the strength of human nature, or at least about the amount of strength I have. Most importantly, I learned that I am a survivor. Learning that I have the strength to survive such an ordeal makes both the decision to abort and the outcome of the abortion very positive experiences for me. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I think every woman should have a late term abortion. I think it’s best to take care of an unwanted pregnancy as early in the pregnancy as possible. It’s less expensive and less traumatic to nip it in the bud so to speak. For several years, I berated myself for not taking care of my problem in a more expedient manner. I finally learned that the best course of action was to prevent such a thing from happening again, and I’ve done that. In a perfect world, abortion services would be well publicized and easy for any woman to obtain. In this imperfect world, we all do the best we can at the time and wait for the next thing to happen. Though my experience was emotionally and physically difficult, I would never promote denying the right of a woman to have a late term abortion based solely upon my personal beliefs regarding when life does or does not begin or because of some personal agenda. The most positive and important aspect of my abortion is that it was possible and legal. I believe my choice to abort saved me; therefore, I believe that late term abortions should continue to be possible and legal for any other women who want it or need it. Maybe, just maybe, they need to save themselves just like I needed to eleven years ago.