It’s been three weeks since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Summer vacation, followed by my family’s turn with Covid, postponed the writing of this essay. I wondered if everything had already been said on the topic, but this one is simply too important and close to my heart for me not to weigh in. So, here goes.
I was traveling in the UK when I heard the jaw-dropping, sucker-punch-to-the-gut news. My reaction was quite the combination of emotions: Utter disbelief (despite knowing it was imminent), deep disgust (at how far our country has regressed in the past five years), seething anger (at those who believe they can and should dictate what a woman does with her body), and visceral fear (at the lengths to which those in power will go and what the future might hold)—all of this chaotically infused with an intermittent, deep longing to bury my head in the sand with denial.
As a young college grad, I proudly drove around with the following bumper sticker plastered to the back window of my beat-up car:
Three decades, two kids, and countless hours as a women’s therapist later, my vehicle no longer displays the public proclamation, yet my pro-choice conviction has only grown stronger.
When training as a psychotherapist, we are taught never to reveal our personal values in therapy. It is not my role to impart my beliefs upon my clients. It is to help them uncover their own, wherever they land.
As a coach, writer, speaker, and human, though, I cannot be silent. I believe a woman’s right to an abortion is not a political issue, but basic health care and a matter of human rights.
I have an insider perspective on abortion. For a number of years in my twenties, before becoming a mother myself, I worked as a counselor, ultrasound technician, and Director of Counseling at my local abortion clinic. I consider it some of the most impactful work of my career.
As a counselor, part of my role was to ensure that each and every woman seeking an abortion was fully informed about the procedure, her options, and, perhaps most importantly, that she was certain of her decision. The emotions surrounding her choice could be ambivalent, the decision itself could not. On more than one occasion I had to turn a woman away because she was not absolutely positive of her choice to terminate.
It is easy to judge others until you find yourself in the same predicament. We don’t always know when the messy, unpredictability of life will catch us off-guard, despite our best intentions.
Women of every kind came into that clinic for abortions—from staunchly pro-choice to adamantly anti-choice. In my experience, most who had been anti-choice before their own unplanned pregnancy and abortion changed their minds after living out the experience first-hand.
There were a few women, though, who demanded an abortion while simultaneously vocalizing their anti-choice stance. One patient even terminated her pregnancy, then proceeded to march out of the clinic and straight back to her job campaigning for the local anti-choice political candidate. In other words, My situation is special. I want the right to choose for myself, but no other woman should be granted that guaranteed right. In this rare, but frustrating situation, I would take a deep breath and ensure she had access to the very same safe, medically sound procedure to which she was so resolutely opposed.
I guarantee you know women who have had abortions. And you can be damn sure some of the men making this life-altering decision for us will find safe access to one for their daughters and extra-marital entanglements. I know because I’ve met them.
Women do not take the decision to have an abortion lightly. No one wants to face that choice. It is a deeply personal, often gut-wrenching one. And it must continue to be an option.
For decades my work has centered around the empowerment of women. What is more disempowering than stripping a woman of her ability to decide when, and if, she bears and raises a child?
Back in my twenties, I couldn’t know how my view on abortion would be impacted by giving birth to children of my own. Motherhood, and all it entails, has only solidified my position. Parenthood is a lifetime commitment of the heart, soul, energy, time, and lots and lots of money (chuckling, also, FACT.). In all seriousness, though, I can’t imagine raising a child when not (reasonably) ready for it.
So, please, use your voice, join the fight, and support our collective access to safe, legal abortion.