From the Outback

I remember sitting at this very kitchen table telling one daughter and then years later the other daughter about the abortion I had when I was 19. I told them about abortion being illegal at that time and how my boyfriend devised a plan which turned out to be very scary, although successful, and then I told them about how I wanted to make sure they avoided the same fate. And they looked at me like teenage girls look at their parents.

I could have been an emu that wandered into our kitchen from the Australian outback, acknowledging the open loaf of bread on the counter and stretching its neck to peer on top of the refrigerator and, finally, fixing its two beady eyes on the teenagers at the table. I was that foreign. Everything about me was foreign and out of place. “That’s not going to happen to me,” said one girl and then the other. And, of course, it wouldn’t, because, by that time abortion was legal. Neither of them would have an abortion by an amateur by the light of a table lamp in a motel room. No, they were right about that.

I remember sitting in the hallway of the old community action office where I worked. Across from me sat a new friend, a woman my age, who was my partner on writing a grant to help women released from prison find employment. We decided to combine work skills with energy conservation and teach women to make insulated curtains which they would then sell. It was well-meaning but ridiculous but we didn’t know it then.

We were sitting on the floor waiting for our boss to review our first draft. The conversation turned to our college lives. She told me she’d gotten pregnant and had to get married. I told her I’d gotten pregnant and had an abortion. I told her how the decision still affected me; it had been a terrifying experience and it hung on me like my mother’s last sweater, maybe not the terror as much as the shame. “I don’t see what the big deal is,” she said. “People do what they need to do.” She has been my friend now for forty years.

I mulled this over and then I quit telling people about my abortion until I wrote my story in a very frank and raw way and many people read it. Then I stood on a stage – not once but twice – and told my story as if in the telling I could somehow change the course of history, remind everyone contemplating abortion restrictions what it was really like when abortion was illegal but the only people who cared were people who already thought abortion was a right so my angst impressed no one but me. In my mind, I’d think how I was hurt by what had happened, how it scared me and made me feel like a criminal. But then, I’d think, oh, please. Even I waved my angst away like it was the whining of a teenager.

I have grown used to people thinking that my having had an abortion – illegal or not – was no big deal. And I know that it is futile trying to convey the panic and fear I felt at the time or the shame and guilt I felt afterward. It isn’t like that anymore so people don’t get it. And they shouldn’t. My daughters shouldn’t get it, my friends shouldn’t get it. No one should have to get it. Illegal, scary abortions are a thing of the past, a fifty year old thing, like polio. No one ends up in an iron lung anymore. I’ve been told those days are over.

8 Comments on “From the Outback

  1. I remember when abortion was illegal here, and a dangerous procedure never done by trained health professionals. i was horrific and i can easily understand how horrific its and was for you to go through this.

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  2. Having also written that story, a lot of people DO find it shocking, though probably not the people you spoke to. But there are plenty of them out there and most of them lack the requisite body parts to have any complaints about abortion. I figure if you don’t have a uterus, you should just shut up about it. But what do I know, right?

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      • You are right. It is possible to get an abortion in South Dakota, but I found it interesting to compare laws regarding buying a gun with laws regarding getting an abortion:

        In South Dakota, the following restrictions on abortion were in effect as of January 1, 2018:

        Abortion would be banned if Roe v. Wade were to be overturned.
        A woman must receive state-directed counseling that includes information designed to discourage her from having an abortion, and then wait 72 hours before the procedure is provided, thereby necessitating two trips to the facility. The 72 hour waiting period does not include weekends or annual holidays. (The waiting period to buy a gun is 48 hours South Dakota. State gun law does not require a permit to acquire a shotgun, rifle, or handgun within its borders. The buyer must submit the application when purchasing the handgun from a federally licensed firearms dealer.)

        Health plans offered in the state’s health exchange under the Affordable Care Act can only cover abortion if the woman’s life is endangered or her health is severely compromised.
        The use of telemedicine to administer medication abortion is prohibited.
        The parent of a minor must be notified before an abortion is provided.
        Public funding is available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment.
        An abortion may be performed at 20 or more weeks postfertilization (22 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period) only if the woman’s life is endangered or if her physical health is severely compromised. This law is based on the assertion, which is inconsistent with scientific evidence and has been rejected by the medical community, that a fetus can feel pain at that point in pregnancy.

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      • A good reason to NEVER move so South Dakota. But there are a lot of places in this country I would not live. However much I periodically with for better weather and warmer climes, at least I live where life is pretty blue and most people more or less understand where I’m coming from.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. you still are entitled to your feelings. most people now do not know how it must have been due to the times being what they were –

    Liked by 1 person

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