The Meaning of Choice: Donna’s Story

Because I’m close to sixty now, abortion was legal when I was in my 20’s, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. And in that decade, I had two abortions. To do so was my right, and my difficult, agonizing, unforgettable choice.

I have never — not once — regretted what I chose.

I’m a mother, luckily, after having struggled with infertility for many years — a decade, nearly. Certain family and friends privately felt I was being punished for abortions with infertility.

I know that’s not correct. While I recognize the forces in their lives that led to their beliefs, accept their conviction, and try to understand their position from a religious as well as medical point of view, I respectfully disagree. Their choice would be different from mine, unique to their situation, to each individual. We should each have the right to choose.

When I had my first abortion, my life was in a tenuous phase — broke, in debt, partying too much, non-monogamous, definitely not ready or financially able to parent, pregnant due to a birth control failure (way before PlanB). Was I capable of turning things around to become a mother? Maybe…and maybe I was actually at a greater risk of a significant deterioration of my mental stability. At 25, I felt too young — and definitely too poor — to be a good mother. And I desperately wanted to be a good mother, when the time was right. Because my own mother had died when I was a little girl, and I wanted any child of mine to have both parents in their life.

Two years later, things were looking up: career starting to become real, crazy partying days in the past, and a long-term relationship had taken root. I knew then that I could be a good mother, and wondered if the accidental pregnancy I was facing (again, despite the responsible use of birth control) was the opportunity to prove it.

But my partner did not want to be a father then. He made a choice. His body would not carry a child for nine months and nourish it during and after pregnancy. But he was responsible to provide for a child he helped create–even if he neither of us had intended to at that moment — should that child be born into the world.

Was he willing to walk away from that? Well, why not? Millions of men before and after have done exactly that.

He made his choice. He didn’t want a child then.

I had to make mine. But what if I’d had no choice?

After the procedure, there was another woman in the recovery room with me, around the same age as me. Scared and in pain, she cried out, sobbing. I asked her if she needed help. The woman said — in an accent I didn’t recognize — Czech? Polish? — that she hadn’t expected it to hurt so much.

We rolled our heads to face each other across the narrow space between our cots. Her face was red and wet with tears.

“It is worse because my heart is also breaking — broken. My love does not want my child, doesn’t love me that way. I am so lost, I am alone.”

Many years have passed since then: children have become adults. Love has been found, and lost. And found elsewhere.

Women understand what “choice” means and how hard it is: how deeply our dreams for the future, our relationships, and our sense of selves are entangled in coming to a decision that affects many, but mostly affects us. No woman I know has ever undertaken that decision without carefully considering the consequences.

Here’s what we all innately know: it’s essential to have the right to choose. Every woman must legally be able to choose for herself — whatever that choice may be.

That’s why I’m with WHARR.