I shouldn’t be shocked by yesterday’s Supreme Court Decision – but it has stirred something deep in me and I feel like I’m in some sort of a time warp. I have been careful about when, and with whom, to share my own story, but now I know I need to speak out
In February 2017 my best friend from high school sent me a link to The Atlantic that was asking for personal stories from women who had undergone abortions. Marle encouraged me to write and send my story. So I did.
It was not published in the on-line “Notes” section with the other stories. Instead, Chris Bodenner, the editor of the piece, wrote me a personal email. He was obviously a lot younger than I was at the time because he told me that he had no idea that German measles could cause birth defects. As he wrote in his article, the concern at that time was the Zika virus – so he did some research.
What he told me was that the German measles epidemic I wrote about started in 1965, and that by 1970 abortions FOR CASES OF GERMAN MEASLES were no longer illegal.
After writing my article and sharing it with my brother, he remembered what he was doing in 1971. His job was in Admitting at Arcadia Methodist Hospital. He had been told that if a doctor wrote “TA” on the form, he was to admit the woman – but not to ask about the abbreviation
In 1971 I was a practicing Evangelical Christian, and having been raised in a sheltered environment, I had never even heard the word “abortion.” I had no idea what the “therapeutic abortion” that my obstetrician was recommending was all about. He tried to explain that time was of the essence, but, as I explain in my article, my family and I needed time to seek council and to pray. So we did. We didn’t realize what pushing the procedure into my second trimester would actually mean …
Yesterday’s Supreme court decision caused me to revisit Chris Bodenner’s article which contains a somewhat edited version of my story:
Reading it again … I’m not sure that I would make the same decision today – but the past cannot be rewritten, and it remains my truth. My decision to have an abortion – even as a married woman – was mine and mine alone. To this day I’m glad that I sought council from trusted friends and family – but the ultimate choice was mine.
Below is the text of the entire article I sent to Chris Bodenner:
GOD’S WILL FOR MY FAMILY
In March 1971 I had a second trimester saline solution injection abortion. I was a Christian, married, and 24 years old. My husband and I celebrated my pregnancy with friends on Thanksgiving Day in 1970 and, although it was a bit of a surprise, we were delighted.
I was teaching fifth grade at the time and will never forget the moment when a student walked up to my desk and said he didn’t feel very well. When I saw the rash on his face, I flashed back to a terrible photograph I had seen in a magazine in my obstetrician’s office the week before. It was of a “Rubella baby” … and the caption said “Bobby’s mother recovered from German measles in 3 days. Bobby wasn’t so lucky.”
I didn’t know exactly what that meant, but I later found out. I learned that the reason they finally connected Rubella with birth defects was that delivery room personnel were coming down with German measles 2-3 weeks after the birth of a baby with severe birth defects. Although the mother recovers in three days, sadly, the baby stays sick throughout the remaining time of gestation and is still contagious at birth.
I had almost forgotten about that student and the magazine picture a couple of weeks later when got up and saw a very slight rash on my own face. I covered it up with make-up as best I could and drove 30 miles to school … feeling worse and worse the whole way. Half way through the morning I couldn’t deny what was happening to me and I cried all the way home. When I called my doctor he specifically told me not to come in. He knew what was wrong and told me to go to bed and that I’d feel better in a couple of days.
My husband was in the Army at the time and we felt that we needed to go home in order to have support from our family, our church, and the doctor I trusted. My doctor told us about a “therapeutic abortion.” As a naive Christian girl I had never heard the word “abortion.” This was before Rowe vs. Wade and I had no idea what was going on in “Women’s Lib” circles at the time.
The reason this was a second trimester abortion was that my Christian family had never faced anything like this before. We were blindsided by the news and needed time to come to grips with what was happening. I wanted to talk to church leaders I trusted. Although my doctor told me about the difference between a simple first trimester D&C and a second trimester saline solution injection, he explained it very gently. He told me that he couldn’t give me advice, but if it were his wife he would encourage her to have the abortion.
Then we turned to our church. My aunt and uncle were missionaries in Taiwan at that time, but they were home on furlough. As a missionary nurse, my aunt agreed with my parents’ Sunday school teacher who was the Chief of Cardiac Surgery at a major hospital in Southern California. They all agreed that this was within God’s will. They told me that this was a “technology that God has given us in order to prevent more suffering in the world.” On their advice I went ahead with the abortion.
Although I seldom talk about my abortion, I have spent a lot of years being very angry with Christians who make a political issue out of something so deeply personal and spiritual as this was for me. I spent precious time talking with my Christian support system as I was making one of the hardest decisions of my life. I have left that church now because I don’t believe that God “changed Her mind.” That is the little throw-away line that I used to mask my rage at Christians …. Christian MEN in particular who want to have a say in a decision that is between a woman and her God. The way I was able to find peace was in knowing that I sent that little guy, Tory Cameron, back home to be with God.
I look at it the same way now. The suffering that abortion alleviates in the world is the mess we have created because we haven’t figured out a way to take care of the children who are already here. Every story is different … but what the “pro-life” crowd doesn’t want to consider is the fact that abortion is never going to go away. Never, that is, until we figure out a way to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Sometimes that can be a young girl living in poverty who has no way to support a child. Or it is a mother addicted to drugs whose baby will be born addicted and possibly severely damaged. And then there are the young girls who are so afraid that their families would disown them that they take matters into their own hands and risk the tragic consequences.
Bottom line, NO ONE thinks abortion is a good thing. I don’t know what my life would have been like if I had carried Tory to full term, but I do know that it would have been different. I wouldn’t have the two children I have. My marriage may or may not have ended earlier … or we might have lived “happily ever after” with a beautiful, handicapped child who we both would have loved.
But I do know two things for sure: First, the decision was mine, and mine alone, to make. And second, I will someday be reunited with Tory and we’ll talk about it then. That’s when I will apologize … if necessary.
This is the reply I received from after submitting my story to The Atlantic/notes
At 01:29 PM 2/6/2017, Chris Bodenner wrote:
Thanks so much for writing in, Bette. I’ve read, edited, and posted countless stories of abortion over the years, but this is the first time I’ve heard of German measles causing such perilous complications. learned a lot just reading this short piece:
So thank you again for sharing such a personal and powerful story, especially on an aspect we haven’t covered yet. We’ll most certainlypost your story soon, but I’m curious: What did you mean by “Now I know what was going on and that’s part of my story that I could write later”? Would you like to share?
Best regards, Chris
[Note: I read my story and realized that “part of my story” was not essential – so Chris used what he felt was important and posted my story within one of his own – focusing first on the Zika virus.]