There was no doubt in my mind that I would have an abortion when I got pregnant by a man who told me he’d had a vasectomy. Planned Parenthood, that wonderful organization, said they’d heard the story before.
I was living in New York at the time, working as a legal secretary, trying to recover from the past decade, during which I had gotten married and pregnant at 19; gave birth to a son with hydrocephalus (a disorder of the central nervous system requiring several surgeries); had a baby girl two years later, got divorced, and, after two years as a single mother, let them go live with their father and his new wife while I figured things out. It was 1974 and abortion had only recently been legalized.
I am now 66. My children are grown; my daughter has two of her own. My son lives independently, despite ongoing physical and mental problems, a few miles from me. From this vantage point, my third pregnancy and subsequent abortion are minor blips in a difficult, complicated life. I rarely even think about it, except when women like Ms. Gresset tell their painful experience and extend it to everyone else by concluding nobody should have an abortion. There are as many experiences of abortion as there are women who have them. In my case, at the moment it was performed I did have intense feelings—but they lasted only for those few moments. I felt like life—not a baby, but the life force, life energy—was being sucked out of my body, which it literally was, and I cried. My first thought, however, was not of regret, but of determination. I said to myself, “This is never going to happen to me again.” And it hasn’t.
What if I’d had that baby? I would have had to care for him/her by myself. My two children, who’d already suffered through more difficulties than some people endure in a lifetime, would have felt confused and rejected that they were not living with me, yet I had another child. It would’ve taken me ten times longer to feel confident and competent enough to take them back, as I did after four years. If I’d had that baby, I have no doubt he or she would have a lot of problems as an adult.
Given the controversy surrounding this issue, I think it’s irresponsible to air an anti-abortion statement—which Ms. Gresset’s is—without giving equal time to the other side. Ms. Gresset doesn’t just tell her own experience, she goes on to proclaim that everyone should learn from it and never have an abortion. Wouldn’t it be absurd if I told everyone they should have abortions based on my story? It is just as wrong for Ms. Gresset to do it. I’m not even going to venture into that territory, but just say that I’m enormously glad I had the freedom to choose not to have a child when having one would have been, not “inconvenient,” but devastating.