I had an abortion in 1975 when I was a college sophomore. I've never told anyone in my adult life - not my parents, my friends and lovers, my siblings or my teenage daughter. I didn't tell my colleagues in the 1990s when I was working at Planned Parenthood, nor when I was urging women to tell their own personal abortion stories as the U.S. Supreme Court stood poised to chip away at Roe v Wade over the past few decades. Why is it I never told anyone? Shame, I guess. I was a smart kid in college, taking women's studies classes, talking a good game about women's rights. I even spent two long uncomfortable weeks refusing to shave my legs before I caved. And I had a brief and intense love affair with a student who lived in my dorm.
Within weeks, I suspected I was pregnant. But I had never been to a gynecologist or known anyone who was pregnant. There were several horrible weeks of ignoring the increasing signs as I chose to increase my focus on my studies. I don't recall any longer a lot of the details but will forever be grateful for the local Planned Parenthood clinic and two of the nicest middle-aged women there who helped me make the hardest decision I have ever made. To this day, it remains my most difficult decision. I had an abortion and went on to earn a degree, move to Washington, create a nice life, have a child when I was ready to care for one, spend years working on behalf of reproductive rights, and remain silent about choosing abortion.
It's hard to know after all these years if my shame was caused more by becoming pregnant or by choosing abortion. I know I wasn't equipped to care for a child then. I have never regretted that decision. As with all we do in life, each decision leads to another and guides us through life. I did the best I could at the time and regret mostly my decades of inability to share that pain with people who love me.
I feel compelled now to share this fact of my life because on Sunday Dr. George Tiller was murdered while serving in his church. I met him in the early 90s when I was working for Planned Parenthood, and was immediately drawn in by his warmth and kind manner. I remember wanting to tell him that I had once had to make the choice to end a pregnancy. But instead I simply told him that I understood the toll his work took on him. He was a good man, dedicated to ensuring that women and their families had a choice. He introduced me to a woman who was devastated to learn late in her second trimester that her child was missing most of its brain. He gave her a humane choice.
And now he's been murdered by someone who purports to be "pro-life." At a time when madmen are willing to kill to make a point, how can I remain silent about my own decision 30 years ago? When the killer pointed a gun at Dr. Tiller on Sunday, he forced me to tell my story. I urge all women across the nation to tell their stories. There are millions of us - mothers, sisters, daughters, doctors, lawyers, factory workers, college students and waitresses - who made a choice at some point in our lives to choose abortion. Some of us may regret our decision while others may celebrate it. But the fact remains that no one has the right to take that option away from us, and certainly not with a bullet. Until we begin to shout our stories at the top of our lungs - drowning out the cacophony of violence from those who are "no-choice," we will never secure the options for the women who follow in our footsteps.
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