content warning: suicide, childhood abuse
"I wasn't sure about sharing my story, but now I feel like I have no choice. Just like all women in Missouri are about to have no choice. When I was 16, I was told by a doctor that I would never get pregnant. When I was 23 years old, I had left college with no degree, bummed around a few communes with disastrous results, and was back at home trying to make sense out of my life. I met a guy and chaotic love consumed us, even though I knew he was leaving for the military in less than 5 months. After 4 months, with only 1 month remaining until he left, the shock of lifetime happened. I was pregnant.
While unplanned pregnancies are a difficult situation for most to face, I can honestly say that my position was particularly complicated because I am adopted. Because of this fact, I had always been pro-life up to that point. How can you possibly be pro-choice when you yourself could have been aborted??? It seems pretty simple until it happens to you. My biological mother, Kathy, was 16 when she found out she was pregnant. My bio father, Sean, was no longer in the picture. After I was born, I went to a foster family for one month before being placed with my adoptive family. My adopted parents, Roger and Terrie, had lost a bio baby several years prior and Terrie was no longer able to have children, so they opted to adopt to fill the hole in their hearts and in their family.
But babies don't fix people, especially abusive people, and it seems nothing in the world can fix Roger. Roger was an incredibly manipulative and cruel man. Terrie divorced him when I was 6. I was 7 the first time I remember him calling me a 'fucking bitch'. When I was 8, he kicked my older brother out of the house, leaving me as the only target for his frustrations and rage. There were many dark, terrifying, and lonely years after that before I was able to break free and leave for college. One of the worst parts was that he had actually convinced me that it was normal to live a life of hate and violence and fear and darkness, and it took a lot of time, internal work, and gentle handling by the kindest of people to guide me to the path of a functioning adult. I spent a lot of energy cursing my gruesome fate. It seems particularly egregious when you are seemingly randomly placed into a violent home life, instead of being born into it. There were many days I just wished I didn't exist and a few where I tried to make that happen. I took handfuls of sleeping pills, desperate for any escape, but it was only temporary and I always woke up. It's honestly amazing that I made it through this time of my life, though I do have a pretty nasty panic disorder and PTSD to show for it.
So there I was, pregnant by a man I had only known for a matter of months, and now you have an idea of why adoption for me was a nonstarter. I could not live with myself had I created life and then sent it off into the world alone to suffer whatever miserable road lay before it. I didn't have a kitchen table, let alone health insurance. In complete truthfulness, I was the opposite of stable and had voluntarily committed myself for suicidal thoughts only five months prior. All of this being an incredibly lengthy way to say, I was in no position to create a new life or to give it even a fraction of what any child deserves. The man facing this situation with me was also in a uniquely difficult conundrum. He was already committed to the Air Force, but had gotten a temporary deferment to spend some time with his dad whose wife had very recently passed away. He was leaving in March, no matter what the circumstances. We believed he would be away at training for at least a year, meaning he would miss the pregnancy, the birth and the first few months should we decide to move forward. He hated the idea of leaving me to face this alone and I couldn't even fathom it. I could barely breathe when the test came up positive. I had only taken it on a whim because I was baffled by having terrible cramps only a week after my period. He looked at the positive result and asked what we were going to do. I told him, without skipping a beat, that we had no choice in our position but to get an abortion. He looked me straight in the eyes, agreed, and that was that.
We talked it over with very few people who were close to us who understood and supported our decision, given the current conditions. We made an appointment at the Birth Right Center and that was a horrible experience. They had nothing but guilt and shame to offer us. We made an appointment at Planned Parenthood in St. Louis, the only one remaining in the state that is set to close in 72 hours, and we got a hotel room because it was two and half hours away from where we lived. I remember thinking I can't imagine what women without any support or means do in this exact same situation. There were protesters at the gate when walked up to the building. I knew there would be l, but I still cried as they yelled at me. Thankfully, I had found out early so I didn't have to go through an actual procedure that day. I was given a pill to take there and a prescription and that was it. They did an ultrasound to confirm the presence of an egg sac, but that was the most invasive part of the ordeal.
We went back home and that weekend, I put the other pills I had been prescribed in my mouth between my lip and gums and waited for them to dissolve, as directed. My partner set up an air mattress in the living room and he held me through the pain in between helping me with trips to the bathroom. It was a deeply personal and intimate experience from start to finish and I am eternally grateful for the right to make that decision completely of our own free will. Given our circumstances at the time, it would have been utterly irresponsible of us to have a brought a child into this world. Financially, physically, emotionally; it would have been a disaster for all involved. We would have become dependent on government support in more than a few ways and would have been a tremendous burden on our families. I can honestly say that I am doubtful of my ability to handle the mental and emotional toll and may very well have succeeded at taking my own life, emboldened by my previous failed attempts. But none of that came to pass, because I had a choice. Instead of leaving a trail of destruction born from the chaos that would have ensued, he was able to keep his commitment to the military, which repaid him with a Bachelor's degree, and I was able to heal, grow, learn a better, healthier way to exist, because I had a choice.
That man and I grew immensely through that experience and established the foundation of love and respect that sustains our marriage to this day and influences the parenting of our two beautiful children, because I had a choice. Women in Missouri are about to lose that choice completely. More specifically, poor women in Missouri will lose that choice. The well off will always be able to travel to another state or country, for that matter, if need be. The wealthy always have a choice. And men will always have a choice. A man can always walk away, wipe his hands and be done with it. Sure, there's child support, but good luck collecting it or making it stretch to cover every unforeseeable expense that may be incurred with a child. Even then, money doesn't replace a dad or a partner to help you shoulder the burden. A man will never know the permanent physical, mental and emotional toll a woman will endure who is forced to be an incubator against her will. This is absolutely an attack on women, the most vulnerable women, no less, and I will fight for every woman to have the choice I did. Anything else is inhumane to every person who draws breath." - Berkley