Thursday, August 30, 2012

It's my choice

I'm sick of all this rhetoric surrounding abortion that focuses in on exceptions for rape and incest, because the fact of the matter is the majority of women I know have admitted to me that they, at one point in their life, have had an abortion, and not one of the women I personally know told me it was a result of rape or incest. 

Yes, women and girls who are victim of rape and incest sometimes end up pregnant and sometimes that pregnancy will end in an abortion. And those women should be protected. No questions. However, I feel like this defense always subtly implies that those are the only truly valid and legitimate reasons to terminate a pregnancy. I believe in my heart that there are many, many, many legitimate reasons to terminate. #1 Because the pregnancy is detrimental to the mother's health and/or puts the mother's life at risk. #2 Because there is something very wrong with the baby. #3 The mother isn't financially, emotionally, or mentally capable of having the baby. #4 The mother simply doesn't want to have a/another child. (And I'm sure plenty other good reasons I don't even know about.)

Let me be very frank: I have had two abortions. I had one in the Spring of 1995 when I was 16 years old. And because not only was I young and dumb enough to think it "can't happen to me", I was young and dumb enough to think lightening wouldn't strike I had another one in the Spring of 1996 when I was 17 years old.

Many pro-life activists insist abortions are unhealthy for women because they affect their mental health due to living with terrible regret and guilt for the rest of their lives. Let me make this clear: I do not, and have never regretted my abortions. I did not regret them when I graduated high school (which statistically I would not have). I did not regret them when I graduated college (which statistically I would not have). I did not regret them when I graduated graduate school (which statistically I would not have). I did not regret them when I married my husband (who I never would have traveled to grad school and met) and went on to have two beautiful little boys (which I would not have if I had not met my husband).

What I DO regret...being in the position to have to make that decision in the first place. I do regret that I was not responsible using birth control. When I was a teenager, my boyfriend and I used condoms, most of the time. My mother knew I was sexually active (I actually did tell her myself), but her strategy wasn't to take me to the OBGYN and get me on the pill, it was to tell me not to do it again. P.S. Note to other mothers: that didn't work! Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming her. My actions are my own, but I guarantee you I will approach birth control differently with my children. Even if I have to drive my sons' girlfriends to Planned Parenthood myself!

When I was 18 years old, I went to the OBGYN myself and got on the pill. And for almost 10 years I was on the pill and had NOT ONE pregnancy scare. When I was 27 years old, I went off the pill, and two months later I found out I was pregnant with twins. Birth control WORKS people!! (Don't let me get started on the whole birth control debate going on right now!)

Returning to my first statement, about the number of women I know who've had abortions: My point is it's more common than you think. I know many women who I would never dream would have had one, have whisperedly told me "I had one..." It's like this deep dark secret people don't discuss. And why would they? It's a PERSONAL matter. I don't discuss my other personal medical matters with people, so why would I discuss that?

This blog is the first time I'm going "public" with my abortions because for the sake of women's reproductive rights, maybe we need to start putting faces and stories to abortions. While I want to protect abortion rights for rape and incest victims and women facing health issues; I also want to protect that 16 year old honor student, who is captain of the debate team, plays varsity softball, and wants to be the first person in her family to go to college, who also just happens to find time to get a little frisky with her 17 year old boyfriend when she's not busy with all of her other extra curricular activities...and finds herself in a very frightening situation.

Am I saying that is what every person in my situation should do? NO! Every woman (or teenager) has to decide for HERSELF what she wants to do when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. Being pro-choice doesn't mean you are pro-abortion, it's means you are pro-CHOICE. You are pro a woman/teenager being able to say 1. I want to continue this pregnancy and parent, 2. I want to continue this pregnancy and put up the baby for adoption, and 3. I do not want to continue this pregnancy. It should be HER CHOICE that she should make with her partner and her doctor.

Someone close to me who didn't know about my abortions (but will now if they read my blog) once said to me that teenage girls who got pregnant out of wedlock had to "deal with the consequences of their actions." I can't tell you how much statements like these blow my mind. You know that bumper sticker that says "It's not a choice, it's a baby"? Well how about, "It's not a consequence, it's a baby." If someone fails their driver's ed class, do you give them a brand new car? Because someone "fails" their birth control, you don't hand them a child. A life. Here, let me punish your irresponsibility by giving you a child to care for. That logic is as clear as mud!

Not to toot my own horn, but I'm a pretty good mom. I'm not perfect by any means, but I'm pretty darn devoted to the health, happiness, and well being of my children. I was a pretty good teenager too, but I was still incredibly selfish and self-centered. I WAS NOT ready to be a mom. Not emotionally or mentally, and damn well not financially. I pity the child who would have been raised by 16 year old Amber. (And most likely not with the help of 16 year old Amber's 17 year old boyfriend. Don't get me wrong, he grew up to become a fine dad when he was much older, but would have been a "dead beat" back then for sure.)

Have plenty of other teenagers in my position made different decisions? Sure. That's their prerogative. Not everyone has to agree. But just as I can't force my will that teenagers should not have babies, and instead graduate high school, college, grad school, and then get married in their late 20s only after they have started their own career.... No one can force their belief that forces someone else to carry through with an unwanted, unhealthy, or unsupported pregnancy. This is America. We have freedoms. We have choices. And for god's sake...quit trying to take them away!!