Nameless: My Encounter with Abortion

The issue of abortion in America is beyond contentious.  It is nearly impossible to have a calm, rational discussion without it turning quickly into ugliness.  In our society that is already rife with divisions, "abortion rights" may be one of the most divisive issues.  Forgotten in the debate, of course, is the right to life of the baby in question.  Rights come with responsibilities, something that is often forgotten in our modern world.  I would like to offer a cautionary tale as a way of bridging the gap in this divide in our culture.

In February 1991, I was falsely accused by my wife and arrested for domestic violence.  Leading up to that arrest, my wife and I had fought quite a bit, and the strain of graduate school intensified our arguments.  Earlier in our relationship, I had been emotionally abusive and prone to outbursts of anger.  Although the incident for which I was arrested did not happen, I had been abusive in the past, so I cannot say I was totally surprised that my wife called the police and effectively ended our relationship.

I knew that it was my fault.  I was arrogant and ignorant.  I was not faithful and naïvely pretended it did not matter.  It did matter, and I lost custody of my two boys and was out on the street before I knew it.

Missing my boys, adrift, and emotionally numb, I began a series of relationships with women, hoping I would find happiness.  I was careless, and then one of my girlfriends became pregnant.

My sense of responsibility clashed with my conscience.  One weak and unthinking moment would change the rest of my life, and that of two other human beings.

My girlfriend wanted an abortion.  I was against it, but I was trying hard not to be manipulative.  I shared my dilemma with my court-ordered domestic violence class, but I found no real support, only sharp opinions.  My girlfriend told me she was worried that her decision would affect our relationship.  I told her I could not make any promises.

I agreed to take her to the abortion facility.  She did not want me to go at first, but she did not want to go alone, and there was no one else to go with her, since she did not want to tell anyone about the abortion.

"I'm against abortion, but I understand that it is a woman's right," I said to my girlfriend, trying to be conciliatory.

"That's contradictory.  I don't get it.  I'd drive myself if I could.  I don't want you there," she said.

"I'm going.  That's that," I answered.

We did not speak on the drive to the facility.  After we had parked, an escort in an orange safety vest walked us through an angry mob.  The protesters held picket signs and yelled loudly as we approached.  Their words hurt, and I felt the sting of shame and remorse with every step.  A young female protester who stood near the door in silence caught my attention.  The others screamed, but she was calm and did not say anything.  The others seemed out of focus — a fast-motion blur — as the security guard whisked us through the gauntlet.  The quiet protester was in sharp focus, and time seemed to slow down as we approached her.  She looked at me with tearful eyes, appearing to have a glow about her.  She was a pretty girl, 18 to 21 years old, and she wore glasses.  She seemed oddly familiar.  Finally, she spoke.

"Please," she said, "you would have a beautiful baby.  Please don't get rid of it."  I agreed with her in silence but kept walking.  I turned around briefly to look back at her; she stared at me lovingly.  I stopped in my tracks.  She said something, but I could not hear it because of the noise from the protesters around us.  I thought she called me daddy, but I could not be sure.  She walked away and disappeared into the crowd.

Trying hard not to be completely freaked out, I kept going.  I had helped create life, and now that life would be sacrificed for convenience.  I looked back one more time to see if I could see the young woman over my shoulder as my girlfriend and I entered the sterile and lifeless-looking building.  She was gone.  I felt unbelievably ashamed of myself.

The facility had prison-like security.  From the outside, it looked like a condemned building.  On the inside, after passing through security gates, the lighting was soft and the furnishings tasteful.  It reminded me of a fancy tearoom.  The nurses were not wearing uniforms; they wore jeans and colorful shirts.  Their gentle and encouraging words masked the price negotiations that ensued.  No one mentioned the word "abortion," and it did not appear on the paperwork or the on cheerful placards on the wall.  Instead, the words were "health care intervention" and "reproductive health procedure."  To me, however, there was no disguising the ugly mission of that place.

A cheerful nurse appeared from a door to the inner part of the facility and called my girlfriend's name.  The harsh fluorescent light of the business end of the facility pierced the subtle atmosphere of the front, temporarily removing the illusion.  I could see the stark, drab hallway with several numbered procedure rooms — the death chambers.  I squeezed my girlfriend's hand and told her I loved her, but there was no response — only a nervous, embarrassed smile.  The nurse feigned compassion but grabbed my girlfriend's hand and hurried her along — I assumed to avoid any second thoughts.  After the door to the inner part of the facility closed behind her, I sat down in silent thought and sank deep into the couch of death's waiting room.

There was a quiet imbalance within me as I waited.  I cannot remember how long, but at precisely 4:01 P.M., I felt a terrible pain in my abdomen and my chest.  I felt as if my heart were being torn away.  The pain reverberated within my body's core as I contemplated my role.  Was it another panic attack?  A heart attack?  Something else?  I was not sure, but then, as suddenly as it started, the pain stopped.

After the abortion, my girlfriend and I spoke sparingly.  She was waiting for a reaction, but I gave her none.

"What time was the actual abortion?" I asked.  Two of the nurses glanced at me with scolding looks because I had mentioned the forbidden "a" word.

"The procedure was at around 4 o'clock, I guess.  Why?"

"That's what I thought."  My girlfriend looked at me for further explanation, but I did not offer any.  Our blood, our child, had been swept away, suctioned into oblivion, nameless, faceless, not known or touched with warmth.  Whispers of "daddy" fell from phantom lips.  My new son or daughter, who would now be thirty years old, was gone forever.  I had felt the pain of death, and I still mourn the loss to this day.

According to a 2013 National Institutes of Health report entitled "Understanding why women seek abortions in the US," only 1 percent of abortions are due to rape, 0.5 percent to incest, and 12 percent to health concerns for the mother or baby.  That means that the great percentage of abortions are performed for financial and other personal reasons. I realize that a woman has a "right to choose," but that comes with responsibility, and we need to be clear about what we are doing and not hide behind slogans and euphemistic language.

Having worked in both military and civilian prisons and having guarded someone on death row, I am familiar with state-sanctioned killing.  Whatever your position on that may be, suffice it to say that lethal injection is not just a medical procedure.  Neither is abortion.  It is the deliberate ending of a human life, plain and simple, and it is a dirty business.  No amount of mood lighting, euphemistic language, and tasteful furnishings can hide that fact.

Image: StockSnap via Pixabay, Pixabay License.

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