The Perfect Abortion

by Jeanne

July 27, 2020

There is no such thing as a perfect abortion.  The perfect abortion is no abortion.  It is being comfortable with your sexuality and having access to the tools you need to manage your reproductive function.  That was not in place for me when I had my abortion.  So, I needed an abortion.

I was pregnant, I didn’t want to be pregnant, and I wanted to end the pregnancy as soon as possible.  I had great clarity on that.  It was a moment in the tortured history of abortion when abortion was safe, legal, and, at least where I lived, fairly uncontroversial.  Imagine.  You do need to imagine because that moment didn’t last long.

I had my abortion in the late seventies, in the early part of 1978 if memory serves.  I was in my twenties, living on not much and full of hopes and dreams and ambitions.  I suspected I was pregnant, and a test at the local clinic confirmed it.  I was lucky.  The young man who had been my partner was completely there for me.  We met in a coffee shop and I told him I was pregnant.  He was there to support me in any decision I made.  He was a good man, but he too had a future he was looking forward to, and it did not yet include children.  I knew that even though he didn’t say it.  My decision was made almost before we met, but his steadfastness was needed and welcomed.  I remember my partner and me going to a clinic for a visit prior to the abortion appointment.  Everything was carefully explained.  Questions were answered.  No one suggested I needed help making this decision, but I felt that any qualms I might have had would have been met with compassion and whatever support I needed.

It was the perfect experience.  I am forever grateful to the staff at the clinic for their professionalism and lack of judgment.   If they had feelings one way or another about abortion, they did not share those with me.  I really appreciated that.   By the way, I was on MediCal at that time, California’s version of Medicaid.  It covered my abortion.

But just because I was perfectly clear that I wanted to terminate my pregnancy, didn’t mean I was disconnected to what was happening.  I knew that if I did nothing a new person would be created inside my body.  It would just happen.  That kind of amazed me.  If I didn’t want that to happen I had to take action, and that action would end that possibility.  Again, I knew unequivocally that I wanted to terminate my pregnancy, but I also believed that it was a big decision.  And it was my decision alone.  This was my body.  I might want to consider my partner’s feelings here.  I might be swayed by the cultural and religious expectations I had been raised with, but, at the end of the day, it was my decision to make, no one else.  And kudos to my twenty something self for knowing that.

When I was in college abortion was illegal.  I had heard the stories from friends about their illegal abortions. Some had gone well, discreetly done in a swanky doctor’s office.  Others done in shame and secrecy and risk with some women not surviving the ordeal intact.  A friend who loved children and longed to have them was made sterile from her back street abortion.  I feel sure that loss has been with her all these years.  It never goes away.

My abortion, which happened less than a decade later, was a trip to a clinic, an out-patient procedure, and a taking it easy for the rest of the day.  My partner came with me to the clinic, drove me home, put me to bed, and brought me ice cream.  I was greatly relieved and a little sad.  About six months later, after I had moved away, and after my partner and I had parted company, we got together again for an evening.  For the first time we talked about how we felt about the abortion.  He felt OK talking about what he went through because it no longer had to be just about my welfare.  I felt OK talking about the ambivalence I couldn’t entertain when I was so focused on terminating the pregnancy.  We cried a bit about what could have been.  We never doubted that the decision I made was the right one, but we still grieved about the loss.  I can’t really explain that, it’s just what happened.

Postscript: Both of us went on to become parents; he, two boys, me a girl.  We had our children when it was the right time for each of us.  As it should be, and as I hope it might someday be for all prospective parents.

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