Abortion saved my life. I’m not an apologist, nor do I feel comfortable telling lies about it. Not every moment of my life following my abortion has been a romp through the roses, and I don’t wake up every day feeling like a good person. I live with it every day, because I think about it in some way, every day. I promised myself that I would never let myself forget the circumstances and decisions I made that put me in a situation to make such a difficult choice, and I don’t think I have. I also promised myself that I would spend the rest of my life working with other young women not to prevent them from making such a choice but to ensure that it never becomes necessary.
Everybody seems to want to hold an opinion about whether it’s even possible to regret an abortion. They want to weigh in on whether or not it’s possible for women to suffer from post-traumatic stress or experience a sense of regret in a way that, on both sides, strikes me as callus. It’s as if my reaction to a life-changing (sorry, it was life-changing, but so is motherhood, right?) event is supposed to dictate whether or not other women should legally be allowed to make a choice that might make them feel the same way.
I don’t regret my abortion. It was a moment in my life during which I took complete control of my fate and decided that what I would do in the future would not be a waste. I decided that I didn’t want to stay with my boyfriend long enough to raise a child with him, and that I couldn’t count on him enough to stick around for it. I realized that there was enough potential in my future that I couldn’t possibly entwine it with someone else’s. I realized that I had a responsibility to myself to prove it. So no, I don’t regret my abortion – I’m thankful that I had an opportunity to look my life in the face in a way that many people never can. But I do regret the circumstances that created an unwanted pregnancy, and the way I allowed my life to spin out of control to such an extent that I allowed a man to so completely disrespect me by having unprotected sex with me without any regard for the consequences. I regret that I lost sight of my future for long enough to forget that my decisions effected my future, and that being a teen mother had never been part of that. I regret that I allowed myself to drink myself into oblivion and snort enough up my nose that I didn’t really care if I was having sex with someone who cared about me. Those things are the things that become much more painful, and as a result, I regret that I allowed myself to become absent in my own life. Women have abortions for many reasons, and as far as I’m concerned, all of those reasons are good reasons. I have no authority to judge another woman’s experience, sex life, reproductive decisions, or choices. This is simply my story. My abortion arose out of painful circumstances. It shocked me into becoming a different, better, useful person. It jolted me into realizing that I needed to work in a way that helped prevent the cause, rather than banter back and forth about the effect.
I counsel teenage girls. We talk about their lives, their boyfriends, whether or not they use protection when they have sex. We talk about their parents and the boys on whom they have crushes. We talk about their friends and whether or not they like school. We also talk about what it means to be date raped, and how it feels to be scared of being pregnant. If I had continued to live my life without ever having to make an important choice, without ever having to stare down my future and promise to myself to come out on the right side of circumstance, I would have never been able to help the hundreds of girls I help every month. I would never have realized how lucky I am to be able to realize that this can happen to anyone, in any stage of life, from any kind of background, of any faith, with all levels of education. Maybe some of us are bad people, but that has nothing to do with whether or not we’ve had an abortion. It has to do with whether or not we’ve chosen to use our lives and experiences to help others, or to create unnecessary pain for others.
So here’s how I come out on this debate: Abortion did change me, and it changed me for the better. I would never be person I am today if I hadn’t been forced to live with the ramifications of my choices. And I am really, really okay with that.