Carrying through pregnancy is a woman's decision — only


I am a mother. I have two daughters. I had three pregnancies.

I was in an abusive relationship with a partner who despised me. He cheated on me repeatedly with friends, and was verbally and physically abusive. Our relationship was in its final, terrible stages when I became aware I was pregnant.

I was horrified.

My parents had made it very clear they disliked my partner. They also had made it clear I would not be welcome in their home as an unmarried mother. My teenage years were filled with threats of, “Don’t you dare come home pregnant. We will not support you.”

I had no financial ability to support this child. As a live-in nanny, I would be unemployable. Returning to England would mean returning home, and searching for housing, a job, and dealing with my mother’s bitter criticism. My relationship had destroyed what little self-esteem I had — the thought of her condemnation filled me with nothing but dread.

And so, I sought the only solution that made any sense: I had an abortion. Ironically, my mother was aware of my pregnancy and supported my decision. Any other choice would have been completely untenable in her eyes. Looking back, I realize she knew unwed motherhood would be hard, and she wanted a better life for me. All I heard was the negative, not the love behind her harsh words.

I watch as women’s rights are being slowly chipped away. This country has a terrible longing for the mores of the 1950s. A return to the so-called family values of shame, zero choice, female subjugation, and all the fallout of such patriarchal tyranny.

These mores include one rule for the wealthy, and a whole other set of rules for the poor. Racism and all its terrible judgments sadly tend to go hand-in-hand with such tyranny. The rich will always have access to abortion, and the power to bend the rules to their will.

This, after all, is America. Land of the dollar.

The poor will, of course, take the brunt of the Draconian new abortion restrictions. The wealthy will travel with ease to states with looser restrictions. They will have access to discreet women’s services that will continue to flourish for those with the deepest of pockets.

Women of color will suffer the most. There is no figure more openly scorned than a brown, unwed mother.

Abortion is a horrible choice that no woman ever wants to make. Every woman’s abortion story is an intensely personal one. No two stories are ever the same. Mine was probably very familiar to the abortion providers: An unsupported young woman who felt she had no other choice.

I was 23 when I made my decision. I saw a problem, never a child. Because facing the reality that this was a child I was not allowing to live, was too much to bear. On what should have been my first child’s due date, I sat in an empty church in Manhattan and howled for forgiveness. Knowing deep in my heart that this was a child — a real growing baby — did not change my mind for one second. I could not have this baby.

I cannot imagine the horror a younger woman — or child — must go through upon coming to the realization that this is not something that will go away on its own. Especially when the father is someone this child, or young woman, has trusted implicitly their entire life. Such as a popular trusted uncle. Or, God forbid, even their own father.

Abortion rights are an essential part of womanhood. I will never judge any woman or child for making what is one of the most difficult decisions she will ever have to make in her lifetime.

The religious mania fueling the new restrictions continues to astonish. I spent every Sunday in the basement of a church, attending Sunday school, learning the teachings of Christ. We moved to a new parish when I was 8, and my mother never found another church that she felt comfortable in.

The basis of those lessons has remained with me my entire life.

The extremism on display in the United States makes a mockery of those teachings. The Jesus of my childhood was a forgiving soul, who never judged no matter my circumstances. He was warm, filled with love for all, and willing to accept everyone regardless of behavior, race or sex.

I do not recognize this judgmental, spiteful, hate-filled Jesus who is worshipped by the religious right. Extremism is fueling this war on women.

Women are not the property of men. We are not brood sows. While a lot of us have the biology that enables us to produce offspring, many, many women would prefer to never exercise that option. Others would prefer to delay motherhood, for myriad reasons.

We are responsible for our own choices. No one has the right to remove that choice, especially a man who will never be pregnant. No woman ever became pregnant alone.

But countless women deal with an unwanted pregnancy alone. I did.

This will not change if abortion becomes illegal. These same women will be completely unsupported as single mothers. We all know the conservative agenda when it comes to a safety net for such families: Unborn babies become hungry children.

The same conservatives screaming to protect all unborn children will be the first to judge a struggling unwed mother asking for assistance, whether it be through food stamps, housing, or an adequate education.

Mothers are the first to be judged harshly if a child appears to be in need. There is rarely a mention of the deadbeat father who walked away the moment he heard he was about to have a lifetime’s responsibility for a child he never planned on. Women are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.

I know from experience all that holier-than-thou judgment is purely background noise to any woman post-abortion. A woman who has had an abortion has to seek the hardest forgiveness there is to grant:

Her own.

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Louise Ortega,