A swift kick or sharp punch to the belly might dislodge an unwanted pregnancy. More invasive measures could be taken with a coat hanger. An array of toxins might be ingested in a seemingly more civilized approach. So, as you can see, there were many options for women before Roe v. Wade. And, of course, there was the choice of carrying the pregnancy to full term to appease guilt, Church, parents, and society-an alternative if you were willing to be shipped off to a home for unwed mothers and then allow the transfer of a baby to strangers who may or may not have been properly vetted. Still, this would remove neither guilt nor parental disappointment nor even the Church and societal stigma of being a foolish slut.
I was 17, a high school senior and absolutely unprepared to be a proper mother-and frankly did not want to be a parent under any circumstance. The only wise thing about me at the time was my awareness that I was too young, too foolish, and utterly unable to provide for another human being. My boyfriend stood by me and my decision and held no illusions of being a great candidate for fatherhood. But what were we to do?
I opted out of the aforementioned methods of termination. I'm not sure I knew how deadly those options were; I think pure fear steered me towards less dangerous attempts. Instead, I took an extreme amount of Quinine that some fool told me would trigger a miscarriage, but I merely lost my hearing briefly. Next, I tried laxatives. Later on, a doctor asked if I had thought I could shit the problem away. Copious drugs and cheap wine had no effect (except, perhaps, to my liver). Of course, I remained pregnant.
That was forty-seven years ago, and legal abortions were available in only four states. In 30 states, there were absolutely no abortions-period; case closed. In 16 states, abortions were allowed only in cases of rape, incest, or a health threat to the woman. Of the four states that legally permitted abortion, only New York allowed non-residents access, so it was New York
City for me.
Frankly, if I had to go through this and travel alone to somewhere far from Mobile, I figured a trip to my dream city that I always loved from afar might lessen the fear. Remember, I was just a high school kid with no travel savvy. Actually, there was some fear-the taxis. I had never flown in a plane, but the worry of how to catch a cab in NYC-and find my way to the clinic-absolutely terrified me. Of course, all I had to do was to follow some simple instruction/directions at the airport and hand the address to the driver, but somehow all the fear and stress that must have been festering in my mind focused upon the damn taxi cab. It went smoothly, and, actually, the entire misadventure was remarkable for its lack of incident.
This is the point in my story where I can feel the visceral indignation from my pro-life readers and friends. First, I make no apologies for my actions. Second, I actually understand and even feel much of the pro-lifers' viewpoint. As a vegan pacifist, against guns, the death penalty, and war, as well as an all-around tree-hugging lover of life, I get that one might observe a seeming "contradiction or inconsistency" in my beliefs. The point for me, though, is this: I do not see this as the taking of a viable life. Perhaps I could be persuaded to concede that late term abortions are more of a moral dilemma, yet even in those cases, I believe the life of the mother should take precedence.
Perhaps I have no right to judge or even try to interpret the beliefs of pro-lifers; however, I have only known one person, a friend, who is truly pro-life and not merely anti-abortion. This person lives a life dedicated to civil rights, peace, health care, women's rights, and all things to enhance life. So for those who go the distance like my friend, I feel I have little to argue.
However, with conviction I will address the powers-that-be, the lawmakers, the politicians, and the short-sighted, the anti-choicers, if you will. If my stance as a pro-choicer who values life seems hypocritical or duplicitous, then consider that the preaching and hand-wringing worries about this "maybe baby," this not-yet-viable human, is beyond two-faced. Is it really pro-life for these anti-choicers to disregard the multitudes of existing and viable humans of all ages who risk the possibility of a bullet entering them daily because we have no viable gun control, or who feel the fear and pain of being "put down" under our death penalty laws that too often convict innocent people? And how do these folks justify their support for war efforts that slaughter young soldiers and civilians? I suspect that the protesters who try to block a frightened young woman from an abortion clinic are not fighting equally hard for birth control, sex education, and top-shelf health care and education for those who do give birth to their unplanned child.
One can still be a Christian and support a woman's right to choose to terminate an unwanted, high-risk, or incest/rape-related pregnancy. In 1972, it was Clergy Consultation, a non-profit, faith-based group founded by a New York Baptist minister, Howard Moody, that shepherded women like me through an "underground railroad" to NYC for safe and legal abortions. I owe my life to this organization and the empathetic doctor in 1972 Mobile that suggested this alternative to some back-street abortionist. I fear that if our courts and neoconservative legislators succeed in blocking our right to choose, women may one day be left with a similar lack of safe options.