My mom and she would visit nearly every day. They would drink tea, smoke cigarettes, and roar around the house in laughter. She wasn’t religious or particularly conservative, so I am not sure what she thought of my mother’s proclivity for Limbaughesque monologues.
As I have mentioned before on this blog, I was raised in a steep ideological environment. Only Catholics went to heaven. Women who had abortions did so because they were selfish and could not control themselves sexually. Men never stayed with woman after having sex with them, and certainly not after an abortion. I was sent to a Catholic school, and lived in a Catholic neighborhood. The gardens of our neighborhood were graced with statues of the Virgin stepping on a serpent. I was surrounded by people who believed, more or less, the same thing. I never had any reason to doubt what my parents were telling me.
When my parents would go out of town, Carol would baby sit us. She had kids of her own. I am not sure who was taking care of them when she took care of us. I was in junior high when we got to talking one night while my parents were away. We were standing over the kitchen sink while I did the dishes and she smoked. She confided to me that she had an abortion. Actually, I think she told me she had three. There were illegal. She went to a woman who pounded on her stomach until she aborted.
“Don’t tell your mother,” she commanded, “She’ll pray for me.”
Of course I wouldn’t tell my mother. The experience was remarkable. It was the first time in my very controlled environment that I got a glimpse outside of my parents’ reality. Carol wasn’t selfish. She didn’t seem particularly sexual either. Moreover, it was her husband who had impregnated her before they were married.
I’m not saying that I changed my mind about abortion then and there, but it gave me pause. My vision became a bit wider than it had before. Also, it was strange to have a secret from my mother. I kept Carol’s confidence, and never told my mom about it.
Today, there are a host of reasons why I support choice. Mainly, I believe that the anti-abortion position is fundamentally a religious one. It relies on a belief that life begins at conception. However, there is no scientific agreement on that question. The constitution guarantees us separation of church and state, so I don’t think one religious view should constrict other people’s choices. Also, now that I am a parent and know how much it changes your life, I really believe that it needs to be a free and clear choice.
I think the episode with Carol was seminal. I was struck with how physically painful an illegal abortion must be. Somewhere in my indoctrinated brain, it occurred to me that anyone who would agree to something like that must be desperate. The thought flashed across my mind that their might be substantial reasons for wanting to terminate a pregnancy.
Having been brought up in the Pro-life movement, I have respect for people who are anti-choice. However, I am proud of my support for Choice. And I will fight tooth and nail to keep that choice legally available.