It was 1986, in a small city in Ontario Canada. The type with 2 high schools, 1 movie theatre, and not much more. He was the first really deeply serious boyfriend I had. We were head over heels in love. One night we were making out in a car on a side road, and I somehow just knew that I had gotten pregnant. We had used different birth control off and on; mostly condoms. I didn’t have a part time job and had no extra money for the Pill. Dumb – because he had just finished high school and had a job – why on earth didn’t I ask him to pay for the Pill? Not my Pill – our Pill!
There was no internet back then, and you weren’t sure if you could tell a friend and ask for advice – because what if they didn’t keep it a secret? Teen age girls can be gossipy, even if it isn’t intended as meanness. There was an ad in the local paper for Birthright, who would give you a free pregnancy test. Whew, because if I didn’t have any money for the Pill, how on earth could I have paid for a pregnancy test at the pharmacy, right? Down I went to their office. The woman there gave me a little bottle, told me to put some of my morning’s urine in it and drop it back off. Which I did, a few days later, in a paper bag. I was told to come back in a week. By then, I’d heard they were anti-choice, and I already knew I’d want an abortion, so I gave them a fake name.
When I came back, the woman was actually fairly pleasant. She told me I was pregnant, and mentioned parenting and adoption, and as a side note, “Well, you could have an abortion too, but of course WE don’t agree with that”. I was just nodding along, because now that I knew, I wanted out of there, fast. She gave me some sort of pamphlet which I barely looked at, and discarded in the first trash can I came to – some sort of drivel-ish nonsense about the beauty of motherhood.
I told my boyfriend. “You need to get an abortion.” he promptly said. Um, ok. That IS what I intended to do, but it shattered my romantic visions of him in a hurry. Not even the façade of a ‘I’ll stand by you no matter what.” No “Maybe we can get married…?” Sheesh. He’d spent most of the last date we’d been on, trying to convince me to convert to Catholicism, so we could get married in his church, right after I graduated. Because, you know, he was SO Catholic.
I went to my family Dr. At that time, you could get an abortion but only in a hospital, and with the approval of 2 doctors on an approvals board. I think I wrote a letter. I know I never went before the committee. I got an appointment – but it was in another city, over an hour away. On a Monday, and I had to be there for 8 am. So taking the bus or train that day, was out. My boyfriend and I hatched a hurried plan; my parents usually took a long walk and would drop in on different sets of friends on Sunday nights. I left the house 10 minutes after they did that night. I met my boyfriend nearby and we spent the night in a cheap motel. I left my folks a note on the kitchen table, saying I had a call from a friend who lived in a nearby country village, wanting me to spend the night. I said she picked me up, and I’d go to school on her bus with her the next day. Then I wrote down her name but mis-spelled her last name, hugely. No way they’d have found that in the phone book, even if they’d tried, but – surprise – they didn’t. For once in my life, they didn’t check up on me, or give me heck for not calling them when I got there. Zip. Huh.
When we got to the hospital the next day, we waited in a room with some other people – some were couples like us, a few were girls on their own. No one looked at each other or made any conversation. Silence. Like we were all making sure that no one talked about why they were there. Then they called my name, & we got up & went down a hall. The nurse said to my boyfriend, “This is where you say good bye – you can wait over there” – she pointed to a row of chairs in a hallway. We grabbed each other for a tight hug. If he’d said right then, forget this, let’s go get married and have a baby, I probably would’ve left with him, but, absolutely, I’d have come back again . I wasn’t going to be a mom at 17, and I knew that for sure.
They gave me a paper smock, got me on an OR table, and told me to count backwards from 100 while they put a mask over my mouth. I think I got to 98, and I was out like a light.
When I woke up, they gave me some juice & cookies. And then Mr. Catholic took me for a long look-see in a novelty/joke shop. I wasn’t in the mood – I was groggy and a little shell shocked I think, but I just went along with it. We broke up a few weeks later. I Facebook stalked him about a year ago, & guess what? Married, with a ton of kids, one of them Special Needs. He and his wife are working his family’s farm. And he is super religious – belongs to all kinds of Christian farmer and politically based organizations. Hypocrite.
The only thing I ever felt after my abortion, though, was relief. I spent the next 6-7 years, advocating in every way I knew how, for safe and easy access to abortion. The Morgentaler case was winding its way through the Canadian courts, and access was fragmented. I protested, I wrote letters, I joined organizations. I never really told my story, though, except to 1 or 2 close friends. And then once Canada’s abortion laws changed (for the better) – I shrugged, said, “Good enough” and went on about my life.
But then I read a news story the other day, about how our local Planned Parenthood wants to develop a website where you can easily access information on abortion referrals, instead of having to make a lot of dead-end phone calls, and I thought, “Wait – what? Didn’t we take care of all this?” And no, no we didn’t. A lot of hospitals, especially in the Northern part of the country, just don’t do abortions. A lot of women have to travel, paying out of pocket for those costs, for an abortion.
Fuck that. I gave them a huge donation, because now I can. And I sent them an e-mail, asking if they need people to pick women up and drive them to their local office, so they can get information on abortions, or whatever they need. I’m a lot older, wiser, and have a great job. And I don’t want anyone to struggle, to get the help they need. I just wish I hadn’t fallen asleep when our law improved, and not woken up for about 23 years to the reality that abortions still aren’t a simple thing.