In March, 1971, I had a second trimester saline solution injection abortion. I was a Christian, married, and 24 years old.
Four months earlier, on Thanksgiving Day, my husband and I had celebrated my pregnancy with friends and, although it was a bit of a surprise, we were delighted to be expecting a child.
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 two to three 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, when, a couple of weeks later, I saw a very slight rash on my own face. I covered it up with make-up as best I could and drove thirty miles to school, feeling worse and worse the whole way. Halfway 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 return to our hometown 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 Roe vs. Wade and I had no idea what was going on in “Women’s Lib” circles at the time. He gently explained the difference between a simple first trimester D&C and a second trimester saline solution injection. He told me that he couldn’t give me advice, but, if it were his wife, he would encourage her to have the abortion.
The reason I had 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.
My aunt and uncle were missionaries in Taiwan at the 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 since left that church 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 with my decision 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 will disown them that they take matters into their own hands and risk the tragic consequences.
The bottom line is, 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 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.
Photo via Unsplash.
About Bette Moore
Bette Moore is a retired teacher who considers herself a born-again Episcopalian. Since leaving the classroom, she has been working with the Natural Learning Research Institute and processing her ideas on her own blog, Meanderings: Random Thoughts Along the Way. She is now working on two books: Learning to Write / Writing to Learn: 10 Core Competencies and Growing Leaders: Learning Environments for the 21st Century.