Living through Abortion’s Stigma
Living Through Abortion’s Stigma
[Image] A woman with long curly hair, hugging herself, and looking like she is about to cry. On either side of her is a silhouette – one of a woman with a bun in her hair, and her arms extended, and the other of a balding man with hands on his hips.
[Caption] I got pregnant at 15. My parents were upset and disappointed.
[Image] The woman, eyes wide, hugging the woman with the bun in her hair – her mother.
[Caption] My mom then told me a secret: She had an abortion at 19.
[Image] The mother and daughter hugging, seen from shoulders up. The image is layered on itself, making the image look more emotional.
[Caption] I never knew. She swore me to secrecy.
[Image] A series of silhouettes – mostly male – holding signboards and picket-signs. Two of the signs read “Murder” and “Don’t Kill”.
[Caption] We lived in a small, rural area. Picketers were always outside the clinic.
[Caption] My mom told me to NEVER tell anyone, that people would judge me harshly, that they could get physically violent.
[Image] A figure covered in a hoodie – hood up – arms out, walking past silhouettes of people holding picketing signs.
[Caption] My mom dressed me so I wouldn’t be recognized. The whole experience was humiliating.
[Caption] 15 years later, my second abortion was because of rape. I told no one.
[Image] The curly-haired woman standing with three other people – two other women and one man – around a water cooler. The curly-haired woman looks nervous.
[Caption] But around the same time, my office was abuzz with gossip: someone else at the office was getting an abortion.
[Image] Closeups of the three co-workers. The first is an older woman with white hair in a bun. The second is a middle-aged balding man with glasses. The third is a dark-haired, middle aged woman.
Older woman: She’s such a slut
Man: She wants to kill her baby! No sense of morality.
Dark-haired woman: Why can’t she own up to her mistake? She should be forced to keep her baby as a lesson.
[Caption] I was horrified. I was so ingrained with shame that I did the procedure alone, drove myself home afterwards, and no one came to check on me because I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone. I still have a block on my tongue about speaking with anyone about this part of myself. But I am happy with my decision.
I have had 2 abortions now. Almost 15 years apart to the day.
My first was when I was 15, I had a libido and a boyfriend. When we learned that I was pregnant he begged me not to tell his family, but I still had to tell mine. My parents were upset and disappointed, but my mother wanted me to abort, my father took a back seat. My mother told me about how she had had an abortion when she was 19 because she had been partying hard and didn’t want to risk the complications. I never knew before and she swore me to secrecy (she has passed now) We lived in a rural area where there were picketers outside the clinic. She dressed me in a way that no one would recognize me. The doctors and counsellors were cold and distant, the procedure painful and humiliating. When my mother took me home to recover, I was relegated to my room and had no visitors – not even my mother. She told me to NEVER tell anyone, that they would judge me harshly and that it might even come to violence upon my person.
By strange coincidence a close friend of mine at school ended up pregnant with in the same month that I did, though she decided to keep the child. I have had the surreal view of her life in contrast to my own. I have seen her struggles and difficulties, as well as her triumphs. I respect her decision and love her and her child but am so grateful that my life did not take a similar path. It still hurts my heart though when I look at her child’s face and think that my own child would have been the same age. It quickly changes though when I see the quality of the life that this child has had, being raised by a child themselves, and I am glad with my decision.
My second abortion was 15 years later after I broke up with my ex, I went on a date that ended in forced sex. I know my mind and that I would resent such a child specifically as I was never able to press charges because he gave me false information. At this clinic in Seattle I met compassionate doctors and counsellors. The procedure was easier, though I was so ingrained with the shame that I did it alone, drove myself home afterwards and no one came to check on me because I couldn’t bring myself to tell anyone. Less than 2 weeks before my procedure the office I worked in was abuzz with gossip about how a woman in another branch was pregnant and didn’t know who the father was and was getting an abortion; how much of a slut she was, how immoral and a baby killer; why didn’t she own up to it and keep the baby as a lesson. I was horrified that such things were said by people around me, including other women.
Now here I am, I finally found a doctor to prescribe me an IUD as even after being married, divorced, raped and 2 abortions I still cannot find a doctor that will sterilize me. I know I would be a terrible parent. I still have a block on my tongue about speaking with anyone regarding this part of myself. Thankfully my fingers are under no such censorship. If nothing else I hope that people take away from my history that I am happy with my decisions. I know in my heart and soul that I did the right thing for myself and for others.