I had an abortion one month after my thirteenth birthday. I’m not sure how else to write that sentence, but it’s not quite right to say I “had” an abortion. That implies I had choices. It’s more accurate to say it like this: my father, a doctor, raped me from when I was eight years old to when I was 12 years old. When he got me pregnant at 12, he enlisted one of his colleagues to perform an abortion on me when I was 16 weeks pregnant. That was a whole different kind of violation on my body. I didn’t choose to be raped. I didn’t choose to be a mother or to have an abortion. All of my choices were made by my father and this other man, who was easily convinced that I was a slutty twelve-year-old and he was my father’s savior from humiliation. I was just a thing that turned into a problem that had to be solved.
A few years ago, there was impending abortion legislation which didn’t make an exception for rape and incest, and I brought it up to my mother, believing she would be equally horrified by abortion laws that would have forced me to give birth to my own sister at the end of my seventh grade year. What she said sent a shock through my body that I still feel as I write this. She said, “I’ll always regret that you had an abortion. It was against God’s will. And now you’ve had all these fertility problems–you could have had a child of your own.”
I blinked through tears, trying to keep the car on the road. I was driving her to the airport after her week long visit with my family, including a daughter who is very much my own, though we don’t share the same genes and never shared the same body.
Then my mother said, “The things that happened to you happened because God knew you could handle them.” I am clear I could not have handled having my father’s baby at 13. I’d certainly felt the responsibility of motherhood weighing heavy on my shoulders. I worried constantly about how I would protect this growing baby when I couldn’t even protect myself. I hadn’t felt like a thing instead of person for years, but my mother, placing me on the board of her God’s game made me feel like a pawn–a thing–all over again.
I’ve always been afraid to write the story like this–to admit that I felt like this baby’s mother. To admit I felt her soul insisting on itself as she grew. I’ve felt afraid because the argument made on the pro-choice side–which is very much the side that I am on–often centers around the idea that an embryo or a fetus isn’t a baby or a human being, and we shouldn’t be so naive as to think it is. Well, I’m not naive, but I know what I felt, and I am always skeptical of rhetoric that treats any form of life as a thing.
I can’t tell you what choice I would have made then, if I’d had a choice. I can tell you that I grieved that little soul, who the doctor held up for me to see, so I could “learn my lesson and never let this happen again.” And I can tell you that if I know anything about the universe, it’s this: Life finds a way. That’s evidenced in the weeds I found curling out of the molding in my bedroom yesterday, and the overgrown, abandoned lot where I’ve seen possums, butterflies and a litter of kittens living where, just two months ago, I filled up my car with gas and bought a bag of Cheetos and some lottery tickets.
That little soul that grew in me for 16 weeks found a way into this life. She didn’t come through my body, but I know she found a way. And I do know that, if there is a God who is supposedly omniscient, that God saw abortion coming a mile away. And maybe that God gave us the safe technology for abortion as a way to show mercy. I know that if there is a God, my abortion was a merciful gift from her.
EDIT: I need to say this, too. My father was a doctor. His buddy performed the abortion in his office, on a Sunday morning. Nobody was there. Because my father had money and access to abortion technology, my abortion would have happened whether it was legal or not, and nobody would have been prosecuted for it. But this is the most important point–this anti-abortion bullshit isn’t just a war on women. It’s quite specifically a war on children, poor women and women of color.