It may seem surprising that a woman who had an abortion and now works in an abortion clinic would admit this, but here goes: I've never been quite sure if abortion is morally okay or not. Certainly, if a pregnancy has progressed so far that it can sustain it's own life outside the womb, given a reasonable level of care, of course, then there is no question. But in the meantime, it always made sense to me that the choice should belong to the person who's body the growing pregnancy depends on.
When I started my job at the clinic, my new boss gave me a tour of the facility, pointing to a picture framed on the waiting room wall, a sepia-toned photograph of her great aunt. Unable to face the scandal her pregnancy would have caused, and without the option of abortion, my boss explained, her aunt chose the only course of action she could face: suicide. "She's why this place exists."
I got a chill when I heard this. I wonder what I would have done in her shoes.
As a teenager, I felt a strong bond to the life growing within me, I would even go so far as to say I loved it. But the potential scandal terrified me, and besides, I wasn't ready. And I didn't want my child to be raised by a resentful, immature mother. Adoption was never an option for me: If I could survive the humiliation of a teen pregnancy for the love of an unborn child, if I could sweat and strain and struggle to give birth, I knew I would not be willing to hand my child over to anyone.
I've been told that I did the right thing, the compassionate thing, by sparing that child a difficult life. But I don't buy it. I can't imagine anyone, unless mentally ill, agreeing that they would be better off never born.
But then again, does the potential child's rights or feelings carry any weight at all when still dependant on the potential mother's lifeblood for survival? I use "potential child" rather than "clump of cells" or "embryo" or "fetus" because I don't want to pretend that a potential child is anything less than just that. I don't say "baby" because, though it may look like the baby it promises to become, it isn't. Not yet anyway. I say this, not because I'm pro-choice, not because I discount the possibility of a soul, but because I've had two miscarriages and I don't want to go into another attempt with false expectation. We must keep in mind that not every pregnancy, and I'm talking planned pregnancies here, results in a child. In fact, it isn't uncommon for a woman to come in to a clinic for an abortion and learn, upon ultrasound, that there isn't a viable pregnancy to begin with. Two out of the five women I counseled last clinic were disgnosed with "missed abortions" — in other words, pregnancies that weren't going to make it anyway.
Sometimes, I do wonder what would have happened if I had been brave enough to go through with my first pregnancy. I can't deny that it scares me to think that I may have lost my only chance to have a child. That fear, that potential for regret, for a long time clouded my ability to think about whether I wanted to have children at all. Better not to want chidren, I thought, than to face the possibility of such a deep, primal, life-purpose desire left unfulfilled. It seemed too painful to even think about it.
Whether abortion is morally justifiable or not has become a moot point for me for three reasons: because I'm not facing an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy of my own, because time moves in only one, uncomprimising direction and therefore the past is unrevisable, and because I don't believe in a God that punishes. In my work counseling, I stick by my orginal certainty that the choice belongs to the individual woman. I'm only there to listen, to care without judgment, and to provide information.