I had an abortion.
A full-fledged three-day affair in 1974.
I wrote about it in detail in my memoir –– After the Flag has been Folded. It’s a very telling part of my life and even if you don’t give a rat’s tail about Vietnam, you ought to read the book just to read about the struggles that good Christian girls go through sometimes.
Because I was that girl.
A good Christian girl.
Ask anyone who knew me. They will tell you — even my Mama would testify to it — that I was a girl who loved Jesus and knew she was loved by Jesus.
Still I had an abortion.
It’s complicated, the hows and whys of all that. I said it all the best way I knew how in that memoir of mine. I thought it was interesting when the book came out that a lot of reviewers put that fact up in high their comments about the book. There were some I’m sure who did it for no other reason than to be able to point a finger at me in that “AH-HA! Gotcha!” way, as if they’d caught me — the good Christian girl — playing the hypocrite.
I’m more of a hypocrite now than I was at age 17, I’ll tell you that much right off the bat. At that age, I was just a very confused and wounded soul. Now that I’m well-seasoned in the ways of adults, I’m pretty good at hiding all my tender places. You only get to see as much as I dare to show you. The girl who walked into Medical Center hospital on that dreary January day and entered the Maternity Ward with my blue overnight case in hand felt nothing but fear and anger (which is often a manifestation of fear).
So you are probably squirming in your seats by now, right? As adults we just hate it when people get all confessional on us. It makes us nervous. We want to fix people, erase all that pain, and study the past through those fancy lenses they use to diminish the wrinkles of aging starlets.
It’s true that I don’t talk much, if ever, about that abortion. My husband gave me a gift years ago when he taught me that there are some pearls you just don’t toss in the hog pen because some body’s going to get trampled, and it ain’t going to be the hog.
In other words, he was saying, it’s okay. You don’ t have to talk about it if you aren’t comfortable talking about it. I’m not uncomfortable talking about the abortion. Or how it was I came to make that decision. It’s just that talking about abortion — mine or anyone else’s — brings out the wallering in people.
You might be wondering why I’m bringing all this up now, given that it’s not the anniversary of Roe vs Wade. Shouldn’t I be writing about Rupert Murdoch or Mark Driscoll?
I’ll tell you why it’s on my mind. For the past few weeks I’ve had a Twitter follower who is very involved in the Pro-Life movement. He’s new to me and I don’t suspect he knows very much about me, which is fine, I like meeting new folks. But it seemed every time I posted to Twitter, he found a way to tie it into the Pro-Life issue. I recognized it as his evangelical style. So at first I just let it slide.
Listen. I was that Pro-Life mouthpiece for a time. I served on the Board of the Pregnancy Crisis Center. I still think the ministry of such centers is admirable, though I’m no longer involved — nor do I want to be. That last statement will offend some of you. You may think less of me as a Christian because of it. You may even add me to some prayer list. For that I thank you. I need all the prayers I can get, all the time.
Just don’t try and win me over to your national platform in the process. I am up to my neck in platforms at the moment – like a one-armed girl in a snake pit — and yes, I threw that line in there for fun. Sometimes a girl has to do something to lighten the mood.
Anyway, like I was saying, this fella kept hammering away at this Pro-Life stuff on Twitter like it was a bad nail needing straightening. I respected his fervor for the issue. I don’t automatically assume that because someone becomes fixated on a cause that the person is a ranting fool. If that were the case, most of you would have tired of me long ago. Some of you probably have. I’m sorry. I understand. I get tired of my own ranting self some days.
What I assume about most the people I commune with, however, is that they carry on like that because they care very deeply. I respect that. I even appreciate that. I’d much rather hang with a person who cares too much than one who only cares about their own sorry self.
So I kept looking for ways to interact with this new friend without broaching the Pro-Life issue at all. But then he tried to tie the Pro-Life issue to the Casey Anthony case and well, that just seemed ironic to me, for all sorts of reasons, which we can discuss if you like. So I sent him a message and told him that I had an abortion. He immediately wrote back this effusive note of apology, and since then, he hasn’t tried to engage me in the Pro-Life conversation any more. Which is probably a good thing because, really, how meaningful of a conversation can you have about something as loaded as abortion in 140 characters?
But you know how I’m always on the lookout for poetry in life?
On Sunday there was this article in the New York Times about Dr. Mila Means, and her struggle to offer abortions to the good people of Wichita, Kansas. You really should take time to read the article, but I know you are busy and all. Seems soon as Dr. Means made up her mind to start performing abortions she started getting death threats. One letter warned her to look up under her car each morning for explosives.
But instead, Dr. Means, she went out and bought herself a bright yellow Mini-Cooper with a lightening bolt emblazoned on the side, as a kind of double-dog-dare-you. I have to admit, I like a woman with spunk. One of my favorite movie scenes is that union scene in Norma Rae.
Some of you are too young to remember that movie, or to remember what a three-day ordeal an abortion was back in 1974.
I remember both, vividly.
I came out of that hospital determined to get myself an education and to never, ever again tell God to shove off and leave me alone the way I had in the months leading into that ill-conceived pregnancy.
Anybody who takes death threats to an abortion doctor lightly doesn’t know their history. Two years ago, Dr. George R. Tiller was murdered in Kansas by a ill-tempered man, who claimed he was killing to protect unborn babies. Tiller was considered a maverick himself because he performed late-term abortions. Babies that would be considered full-term in somebody else’s hands.
What I found interesting about the story of Dr. Means was the reason why she decided that she wanted to get into the abortion business.
She’s got money problems, and abortions are lucrative business.
Back in 1974, they put me in a room with another woman on the maternity ward. A black woman who was in her 40s. I remember that for a lot of reasons, one of which is this was Georgia, and white people and black people didn’t even go to church together, much less sleep in the same room together with nothing more than a curtain separating them.
She already had eight kids, if I recall rightly. She said she couldn’t afford to feed another one. I sat on the edge of that bed, with that clump of seaweed expanding my cervix, listening to her talk about her kids as the nurses outside the door carried squalling infants to their mamas.
There was only one doctor in all of Columbus who owned up to doing abortions. He was a long-haired hippie from Montana, one of those liberal states where Jesus is the name of the fella who makes the roadside tamales. It never occurred to me that money might be the motivating reason the Montana doctor was willing to do abortions.
Ironic ain’t it?
That a woman might want to abort a child because she can’t afford it and the one doing the aborting is doing it so they afford a Mini-Cooper?
Unlike Dr. Tiller, Dr. Means (even her name is ironic because it’s her lack of means that propelled her decision) is not willing to do late-term abortions. (At least not until it pays better, I imagine.)
Before she decided to get into the lucrative abortion business, Dr. Means, a Christian woman, applied for the position of Director of the Pregnancy Crisis Center. She didn’t get the job because she told those people that she believed there ought to be allowances for abortions in cases of incest or rape. Dr. Means quit church after that and says now that she suffered from religious brainwashing.
The Director the Pregnancy Crises Center warned Dr. Means when she decided to do abortions that she had made the “loneliest of choices.”
In the pursuit of their political agendas, they often forget that what they are wallering over isn’t just a matter of who is right and who is wrong.
They forget about the loneliest of all people.
The one doing all the deciding — that mama of that unborn child.