Widgets Magazine


Making the personal political: One girl’s decision to have an abortion

I have always considered myself to be a feminist. Growing up Catholic, my non-traditional beliefs occasionally got me into trouble with teachers, fights with peers and a few detentions along the way. From an early age, I never questioned that should I need to make a choice that went against my religious upbringing, I would make it without regret.

In high school, I carved out the inner pages of a book, creating a safe to house what my friends and I dubbed “the emergency abortion fund,” which was essentially a collection of a few hundred dollars from birthdays and celebrations. The name was more of a joke than anything, and I kept it in case anyone had a serious emergency that required large amounts of cash without parental knowledge. In the years since the fund was created, I occasionally made withdrawals – one year for Christmas presents, another for a computer — until eventually, the book was empty.

At some point during that time, I made the assumption that most young people make — that I was infallible and invincible and would remain untouched by the darker side of fate. After all, I was accepted to Stanford, one of the most prestigious schools in the country, and my GPA now proves that, to at least some degree, I’m succeeding here.

My life changed in a bathroom stall. I knew before looking at it what the pregnancy test would say. I knew what it would say, and I knew what I would have to do after.

If you’ve never heard the song “Vienna” by Billy Joel, some of the opening lines are, “If you’re so smart, tell me why are you still so afraid?” I don’t think Mr. Joel knew when he wrote that in 1977 how many times I would think of that line throughout my life. I knew I was smart. I know I am smart. I have been told by parents, educators and mentors that I am smart. Tests and transcripts only further serve to confirm that. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your perspective, being smart is not an all-consuming force that eliminates emotion, especially the more powerful ones like grief and fear. Making what you believe to be the smart decision does not make the after-effects any less difficult to bear.

I knew the smart decision. I made the smart decision immediately upon seeing those two lines. I called Planned Parenthood and set up the soonest appointment possible. I was lucky enough to have a friend who came over within minutes, who drove and sat with me through everything.

I had my abortion on a Tuesday morning. I had known I was pregnant for five days, and I thought about that baby every minute during each one of those. I remember the doctor leaving the room after the procedure and coming back ages, or moments, later to say the line, “Well, you’re definitely no longer pregnant!” He probably thought that was a smart thing to say. Those words were greeted in my drug-addled brain with a mixture of relief and overwhelming sadness. The smart half of me felt relief. I do not know what to call the half of me that was and continues to be plagued by sadness.

I decided to write about my story originally because I thought I was unique. But when it came time to purge the phrases I wanted to express from myself, I realized the reality was the exact opposite. Every woman who has had an abortion comes with a different story, many from more desperate and infinitely less supportive situations than mine; many go alone, and to them I say: You are the bravest women I may never have the pleasure to know. But every woman who has an abortion and comes to the conclusion of her own volition knows that this is the smart decision. It might not feel like the right one, or the moral one, or even the one you want to make, but it is the smart one. It might be that no one ever tells you that you or your decision is smart. But you are, and it was.

I think the idea that gets lost in all of these debates over whether funding for Planned Parenthood should be cut, or whether abortion should be legal at all, is that the decision to have an abortion is not a flippant, cavalier one that only has a fleeting impact on a woman’s life. One in three women has an abortion in her life. Thirty-three percent of the female population is not composed of sociopaths. Although the procedure is clinical, the decision is not. The prevailing narrative assigned to women who have abortions is one of the failed mother. We are either people who are not trying hard enough or stupid kids who are unable to understand the consequences of our actions. I know I personally was not ready to be a mother, and I recognize that is not true for everyone — some women are more than ready, but circumstances force them to edit a chapter of their life in a way that causes immeasurable pain. No matter what the situation, though, it is not uncommon to grieve, even if making the decision was “easy.”

While relieving, my abortion has caused me to undergo a process of reliving and relearning. I relive aspects of the procedure or think about what would have happened had I made other decisions. I relearn ways to forgive, love and move on. Most of all, I have relearned what it means to be grateful — for supportive friends, for the way ice cream can almost always make you feel better and, most importantly, for my fortunate circumstances. I was able to make my choice without an abundance of hassle, and for that, I can never be thankful enough. The most important thing about a hard decision such as this is the person’s ability to make it. While I do not mean to get overly political in this personal piece, I do hope that this story functions to humanize the people who are often demonized for making a hard decision that is smart for them at the time. Above all, know that the decision is not made lightly. It is something that will stay with me like a gentle bruise on my brain — sensitive, but a reminder that all things heal in time.

– A Stanford student*

Please submit responses to opinions ‘at’ stanford.edu.

*Editor’s Note: The Daily does not typically grant anonymity to writers but made an exception due to the sensitivity of the content of this piece.

  • Cory Goodwin

    “”I think the idea that gets lost in all of these debates … is that the decision to have an abortion is not a flippant, cavalier one that only has a fleeting impact on a woman’s life.””

    This is never lost on the pro-life side. We always stress that seriousness of the decision. One that you may not regret now, but you will one day for your sake. I don’t say that because I wish you to be hurt, but because if you eventually hurt for your baby, it means you are a human and not a monster.

    I pray for the soul of your baby. That her only crime was the she was conceived, she was murder by her mother, so her mother could attend Stanford.

    I pray for your soul. That you may realize your mistake, repent, and be set free by the Lord.

  • So for aborting a five day old embryo you call her a monster? This embryo had no capacity to feel, it was not aware nor was it alert, it was not yet a fetus, it was not a baby. Yet you go out of your way, even as a Christian, to attempt to goad her into mental anguish by saying she should suffer for aborting something that didn’t feel? That she’s a monster until she ruins her life by feeling for something that had none?

    I pray for you, Cory. God is a loving God, a God of forgiveness and mercy, his son died for our sins so that we would be able to enter the kingdom of Heaven, yet here you are attempting to send this woman through hell already here on Earth? Neither you nor I speak for God. You would know this had you been a true Christian, one filled with compassion rather than cruelty.

    This woman has committed no crime, the embryo is in Heaven, it didn’t suffer then and it definitely is not suffering now that it is with God. The ‘baby’ wasn’t murdered, it was an embryo, it wasn’t even a fetus, you are personifying and projecting your emotional fantasy into the life of someone else, it is disgusting. Your prayer for her soul is one cast on deaf ears, because if God heard your prayer he would hear your heart as well, it isn’t one of compassion. It is a black and cruel heart, one aimed at causing suffering to someone you have never met, one who has gone through something you will never go through, and did so in the best of ways by making her choice early on which is what a loving woman does.

    The only monster here is you. May God have mercy on your soul, for you seem to have no mercy for your neighbor.

  • Coffeyhouse5

    I am rebuking you in love as my younger sister. No matter how smart you are, little sister, you murdered your son or daughter because he or she posed a problem for you in your own selfishness. I was so smart that I did the same thing when I was your age. I waxed poetic for decades about how hard my life was (already a single parent with no support network), and how that was the “best” decision, wah wah wah, poor me. Now at 58, I regret murdering my offspring more than anything else I’ve ever done in my life, and I begged God’s forgiveness. Abortion is the intentional, cold-blooded murder of an innocent human being made in the image of God. Murder is a very serious sin. There is no way around it. I exhort you to admit to your sin and repent. Forgiveness is the gift of God for those who sincerely repent of their sins.

  • ChristinaDunigan

    So having an abortion makes you “the bravest women I may never have the pleasure to know.”

    That’s a weird definition of “brave.” I think of Corrie and Betsie ten Boom hiding Jews from the Nazis. I think of Harriet Tubman risking her own freedom and life on the Underground Railroad. I think of the girls in Islamist states knowing that they may be subjected to acid attacks, rape, or murder for doing so but go to school anyway. I think of flight attendants staying at their posts until every passenger is safely off the crashed plane.

    But evidently my idea of a brave woman is weird.

  • Carolyn Russell Grotevant

    While I share your idea that God is loving and forgiving, I don’t share your caviler attitude toward the baby. Embryo or fetus, this is still a human life. He or she was still the son or daughter of this writer (and, obviously, some man, somewhere, who may very well be hurting over this); still an innocent who didn’t deserve the death penalty just because he or she was conceived.

    I see way too many with that same attitude toward an unborn baby. And too many who refuse to call him or her that; which I suspect just makes it easier to “dispose” of them.

  • It’s an embryo whether you recognize it as such or continue to personify it and romanticize it by applying the term ‘baby’ onto it. Below is a 7 week old embryo, 5 weeks older than the one being talked about in the article.

    You act as if morally superior to the author, comparing the act of aborting the [at most] 2 week old embryo to giving the death penalty. That is quite a twisted view, this embryo is not akin to a baby, it is an embryo. It wasn’t sat on court and told to suffer the penalty of death by a painful cocktail of chemicals via injection or zapped to death in the electric chair, it was killed swiftly by the doctor. It didn’t feel nor did it suffer, as the embryo doesn’t develop the capacity for either until it hits 20+ weeks (it becomes a fetus at 9 weeks).

    Again, your entire argument is one of emotion one of feelings (“what if, out there, some man is feeling for the unborn child,” what’s most likely? That this was sex for procreation or that this was a fun night which ended in the woman accidentally becoming pregnant. You know exactly which one happened as the author’s tone isn’t hard to decipher), you allow yourself to project your morals, your religion and yourself into the situation and act as if you have any say in what happened to this embryo. You have no right, none. The only reason I’m commenting here is to defend this women of which needed to remain anonymous, I wondered if that truly was necessary, then I see this, obviously it was as I can only imagine what you emotional ideologues would do had you gotten her name.

    The irony of this is the fact that you bring up the idea that by refusing to become emotionally blinded, romanticizing this embryo as a baby just floating in the mother with a fantastic future, free of any illness or disease, 100% chance of survival in the womb, will grow up to be a fantastic son or daughter, it becomes easier to ‘dispose’ of them. It doesn’t make it easier as these women are not stupid, the majority of women don’t treat this as callously as you imply. The difference is they don’t allow themselves to live in a fantasy, the decision to abort isn’t an easy one.

    By ignoring reality and viewing this – as you put it – as a ‘baby’, ‘an innocent,’ ‘the son or daughter of this writer,’ your future would be forced: she is a student, you can’t do school and be a mother and be great at both – great, not good, an okay parent is as useless as an okay student – she’d most likely be living off of her parents + receiving financial support from the government to provide for this baby (for the next 18 years), if this wasn’t enough and her parents couldn’t support her, she’d need to drop out of school to get a job, this would lock her future into one of low-income, working entry-level jobs she’d be another single parent with no chance of entering the middle-class (unless she found someone who’d be willing to take in her and her daughter).

    Is this what you want for her? Because that was the most realistic alternative. The guy wasn’t going to run back and be a father – especially not considering that this wasn’t an attempt at conceiving a baby, it was sex, young irresponsible sex – she wasn’t ready to be a mother, she said it herself are you going to put a gun to her head and tell her she has to go through 40 weeks of carrying this child? My beautiful girlfriend is at 25 weeks right now, she’s in pain, sick but some days are better than others, we went in trying to conceive our child. Yet I am not putting myself, her or our son into this equation because her situation is not even close to our own, just as whatever scenario you are concocting inside your judgemental mind is not the same as what the author went through.

    How you, as a woman, can be so blind to the reality of pregnancy is beyond me. I don’t understand how you can so willingly allow yourself to demonize the choices of other women solely because YOU feel something about THEIR situation. It is their body, their embryo, fetus and finally – post birth – infant (this is what you call a ‘baby’).

    You might not share my ‘caviler attitude,’ but only one of us seems to care about a woman’s right to her own body, and everything inside said body. I’m not for aborting actual fetuses that have grown the ability to feel, I am however for the woman’s choice to abort something that will not feel at all. Our rights are infringed upon regularly due to people consumed by emotion, abandoning rationality and signing laws that reflect that.

    Remember this before you try to violate the rights of other women for the sole reason of being blinded by emotion, unable to distance yourself, your morals and/or religion from the lives of others. We live in a country based on freedom, civil liberty, political freedom and the freedom to be of any faith without prosecution of government. You spit on all of those when you join a group of people in our society making women feel unsafe and attacked for doing something extremely personal, of which you have no right judge.

    However, I do agree that it shouldn’t be government funded as – if you’re against abortion – you shouldn’t have to pay a dime for it. That’s infringing on the rights of those with religious views, or just views in-general, of which abortion conflicts with.

  • What a terrible view to upkeep, I can’t imagine the suffering you’re going through and I truly hope you are able to let go of it. It is in the past, there is nothing you can do, to dwell on the past and keep it with you is one of the most dangerous things – just as being afraid of the future is detrimental too – you were not selfish, I do not understand why you would willingly paint yourself with such a term, you’re obviously caring – even though you are as most Christians are, filled with judgement – so why would you believe yourself to be a murderer?

    Sin is irrelevant, especially now. Jesus died for our sins, both past and future ones, you’ve committed no crime, you didn’t murder your offspring, it was never an ‘offspring’ as that is by definition what you call an infant outside of the womb, depending on when it was performed it was either an embryo or a fetus. I doubt you waited 20 weeks, which means it felt no pain, it wasn’t murdered in cold blood it wasn’t ‘murdered’ at all. You are not a bad person, you shouldn’t allow your mind to lie to you like this, there was no guarantee that the embryo or fetus would have survived, there’s no guarantee you would have survived childbirth either, there’s no guarantee it would have been born without deformations, illnesses, or other hardships. There’s no guarantee it would have been a good person either.

    What if’s are nothing but suffering, you can open the holy book of any religion and you’ll find a variation of “don’t dwell in the past,” even cultures have this in the form of proverbs or sayings etc. you as a Christian will see Heaven will you not? (rhetorical question) You spared the embryo the terrible world around us today, I believe it is in Heaven now, with God, and you’ll be able to meet it then.

    God is forgiving, people these days project themselves onto Him which is ridiculous as God is without flaw. He loves us all as his children, just as he loves you, just as he loves his Son. I never once for a second believe that God judged you, that he needed your forgiveness or wanted you to ask for it, if God had spoken to you I believe he would have tried to comfort you. Remember, by accepting God into your heart, you are sure to enter the kingdom of Heaven.

    God is perfect in every way, why would he have human flaws? If you feel that God is judging you, or that he affects you in a negative way, then you have been lied to. God does not harm us, God does not wish us harm. God certainly wouldn’t want you to suffer.

  • Carolyn Russell Grotevant

    I know fetal development enough to know the difference between an embryo and a fetus and a baby. This is the same “baby,” regardless of what stage he or she is at in that development. The same “clump of cells” (as many often say) that you and I were once. In my day, before we all became doctors, biologists or Latin students, when we were pregnant, it was with a baby. I see no logical reason to demean that baby now with fancy names unless and until I become one of those.

    This isn’t emotion, religion or anything else you want to subscribe to me. This is a fact. A biological one.

    Whether a one night stand, or a long-standing relationship, we don’t know if the “father” might be upset at his child being “disposed of.” I know enough men who have “lost” their child this way and still wonder, 25 or so years later, what he or she would have been like. Obviously not all men are callous about a child.

    Just because the “baby” doesn’t feel him or herself being killed, doesn’t make it any better. If that were the case, maybe we should just anesthetize someone before we carry out the death penalty. That baby was still a “person,” with unique DNA, regardless of whether he or she wasn’t allowed to grow to full term and be born.

    One thing you have right: the “mom” wouldn’t have had quite the same life. In fact, according to Guttmacher, most abortions are done simply because the “mom” didn’t want to interrupt her education or her career. I realize that not everyone has a good support system in place, but many do continue on with both once the baby is born, whether she keeps her child or gives him or her up for adoption. To stereotype a woman, as you did, as being “needy” is, to my mind, a flagrant disregard for our capabilities. And to champion one who chooses “convenience” over the life of her child? I don’t even know what to call that.

    I wish you all the best with your “fetus.” The fact that you told me he is your son says more than you realize.

  • Anonymous

    “Thirty-three percent of the female population is not composed of sociopaths.”