My abortion

Her face is like an image in a photograph, as clear today as it was years ago when I first saw her. The little girl, named Amber, was among my best friend J’s social work, foster care caseload. And I wanted to adopt her.

I had a son, longed for another child, and hoped to have a daughter. When I was two months pregnant, I knew something was wrong. This was based on nothing but a feeling, one I never expressed. Not even to my husband. Although I was healthy, had no reason to be apprehensive, I remember walking downstairs to the laundry room, touching my abdomen, and thinking, this child won’t be born.

A little over three months pregnant, I was at the hospital, waiting to have amniocentesis. During the scan to locate the fetus, my obstetrician saw what he gently would tell me once my husband arrived. The longer I waited, the more anxious I became. I had asked why we just didn’t proceed with the amnio only to hear that he wanted to wait until Charles came. When he did, the doctor took us to a small room where we learned that the fetus was severely deformed with spina bifida and hydrocephaly. I said no when asked if I needed time to consider my options. That I was there for a procedure to detect abnormalities meant my decision was made. The next morning, I was admitted for induction abortion: hours of contractions, labor pains that ended with the delivery of a dead fetus. I asked the gender. A girl.

Amber’s mother wouldn’t allow an adoption and once she could care for her daughter, they were reunited. I hope with all my heart they did well. I did. Within a year of the abortion, I was pregnant again. And pregnant with a feeling that this time everything was right. It was.

As clearly as I recall Amber’s face, I’m foggy on the sequence of what I’ve just told you. Did I meet Amber soon after I had the abortion? Or later, after I’d had my second child, another boy?

Doesn’t matter.

What does is this: If the restrictive abortion laws recently passed in Georgia, Alabama, Ohio, and Missouri had been in place when I knew something was wrong with that pregnancy, I’d have had no choice. My life wasn’t in danger. I’d have been forced to give birth to a child requiring surgery after surgery, who would never have had a normal life. All my time, energy, emotions would have been devoted to her care. Nothing would have remained for my son, for my husband.

Here’s the distillate: The life, mine, I loved and knew would have been in danger.

The abortion was my decision, was best for my family, for that fetus I aborted, for me. And even if there had been no deformity, no other consideration, only that I wanted an abortion, the decision was mine to own.

Abortion should be private for any woman, regardless of the circumstances—a decision between her and her body, not within the realm of legislation. No question. Without apology.

Women will not return to a past where they’re considered male property, enslaved. Our bodies belong to us. Our privacy belongs to us. We will not become dehumanized, objectified. How dare anyone suggest, assert, or legislate otherwise.

Missy Comley Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: missybeat@gmail.com.

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