July 5, 2009

My First Abortion

I had an AbortionImage by willem velthoven via Flickr

This is one of those posts that I am writing without having much confidence that I'll actually ever post it. After watching an episode of The Daily Show in which Jon Stewart interviewed Mike Huckabee on the subject of abortion, I found myself thinking about how my life could have been very different if not for having the option of legal abortion.

I was 15 and living in a lower-middle class family on the West Coast. We were comfortable enough, and although I was still aware of living in a smaller and older home than nearly all of my friends, our lack of material success did not bother me as much as it had during junior high.

My first year of high school had been rough for a variety of reasons I won't go into here. I did not fit in very well, have a lot of friends, or do much to endear myself to the "cool kids." But that was about to change dramatically as I turned 15 and begin my second year.

This was the year I finally started to fill out a bit and develop some muscle (I was fairly tall and had been way too thin up to this point). This was the year I would make many new friends, discover alcohol, and lose my virginity.

From the perspective of any reasonable adult, including my parents, I was a terror by 15. Aside from doing well in school, I rebelled in every way imaginable. My friends were any parent's worst nightmare, and our weekend activities were a blur of hard liquor, loud music, fast cars, and girls. This would get far worse as I turned 16 and then 17, but that isn't relevant for the subject of this post aside from demonstrating that this was not merely a brief episode of bad judgment.

Against this backdrop, I somehow managed to lose my virginity. I was 15 at the time, and she was 14. She ended up getting pregnant and had an abortion without telling me about either. Although we were still together throughout this time, I did not find out that she had been pregnant or had aborted it until a few months afterward. She had told a good friend of mine in confidence. He managed to keep her secret too long but did eventually tell me.

At the time, I remember being very upset that she hadn't told me. It isn't that I would have tried to talk her out of it - I wouldn't have. No, I was upset because I would have tried to be there for her. I hated the thought that she had to go through that alone. Of course, I suppose that there is no telling how I would have actually behaved at that time had I known what was going on.

I think about this sometimes. I could have had a kid at 15. I can't imagine what that would have been like at the time. I was not one of those people who might have been able to grow up quickly and get his shit together at that age. You hear about some young parents being able to do that. I wouldn't have been one of them. I might have been able to pull it off by 18 or 19, but even that is highly doubtful. But at 15, I would have been a thorough disaster.

And the girl? There was no way her mother was going to allow her to have a child at 14 even if she had wanted to (which she didn't). Had she been 16 or 17, I suspect adoption would have been considered. But at 14, there is no way her mother would have put her through that.

In the debate over reproductive rights, I think we do not stop to consider situations like this thoroughly enough. It is one thing to say that abortion should not be used as a means of birth control among college students or adults. In the abstract, some of us might even be tempted to agree with that. But when one stops to think about one's 13 or 14 year-old daughter getting pregnant...well, I have a very difficult time understanding those who seek to make this a crime.

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