I disagree with Katha Pollitt, but I wouldn’t dare debate her. She is an intelligent and articulate woman and would surely win. I do, however, want to represent the women she did not, the ones who regret ending a life and will never stop wanting to hold their baby. And to mine: I am forever sorry.
I appreciated Gillian Kendall’s interview with Katha Pollitt about abortion rights [“It’s Her Choice,” December 2015]. Before I went on birth control, I was in a relationship with someone who was verbally abusive and manipulative. We rarely used contraception, and I had multiple pregnancy scares. I’m grateful I was never in need of an abortion.
That’s why I’m active with Planned Parenthood now. As Pollitt points out, pro-lifers believe that abortion would stop altogether if it were made illegal. But in reality a ban would return us to the days of backstreet butchers and cases like the thirty-one-year-old woman in Tennessee who recently attempted to abort her fetus at twenty-four weeks with a coat hanger.
Women coming forward with their abortion stories give us hope of eradicating the villainous stereotypes that pro-lifers have been working to perpetuate.
My eighty-eight-year-old father, a voracious reader, recently stayed at my house for a few weeks. After he read everything on our bookcases, I handed him a copy of The Sun.
He loved Readers Write, so I dug out eight more issues, and he read all of them. Last week I gave him the December issue, and he said, “This one is about abortion.” Yes, I know. “I hope they don’t do away with it in this country again,” he said.
I am the oldest of seven. Between her fifth and sixth children, my mother was newly pregnant when the German measles epidemic hit, and she became ill. She knew the fetus would be severely damaged, but abortion was illegal. My parents couldn’t afford a trip to London, where it was legal. Eight months into the pregnancy, the baby stopped moving. In her depressed state my mother refused to go to the hospital. After several days the doctor convinced her to come in to avoid a possible deadly infection. Labor was induced, and the stillborn baby emerged with half a heart, half a brain, and other serious birth defects.
When my mother died, she was a grandmother to twelve. My father still tears up when he remembers the pain they went through because a simple medical procedure was denied them.
Reading Gillian Kendall’s interview on abortion with Katha Pollitt [“It’s Her Choice,” December 2015], I thought, What bravery The Sun continues to display with its controversial choices. It’s more than just a magazine; it is a living, breathing organism. We readers are richer for being tested by it intellectually, morally, and spiritually.
It’s good to hear from someone like Katha Pollitt, who is completely honest about the controversial issue of abortion. I am a Christian who is opposed to abortion in all circumstances. I don’t oppose equality for women; I simply believe in the sacredness of human life, which is why I’m also against war and the death penalty. This debate needs more honesty on both sides.
Some years after the Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion in the U.S., I came upon Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, a book about medicinal herbs. Among the pictures and taxonomic descriptions were plants used to induce abortion. I remembered a couple of them from my mother’s flower beds. Mother didn’t know they were abortifacients but remembered them from her own mother’s flower garden. I presume that, somewhere along this matrilineal line, these plants were used for that purpose.
Birth control has been the secret province of women from the early days of humanity. The people who want to control women’s lives have tried to deny this history.
I was dismayed and angered at the pro-abortion rhetoric in your December issue. I am of the strong opinion that all lives matter. I see no justification for killing a fetus even if it is going to be born into poverty. As decent, caring human beings, we should put more resources into improving society. We need to stop bashing each other and work together to ensure a good standard of living for all mothers and their children.
I’m grateful that many Sun readers shared their stories here. We need to be reminded that abortion is common, whether or not it is legal.
To Abigail Cobb: I don’t think every interview has to be a confessional, but in Pro I discussed my mother’s illegal abortion and my great-grandmother’s death from one during the First World War. Due to space constraints these stories didn’t make it into the interview.
To Autumn Moore: I am so sorry you feel you made the wrong choice. Few women who have abortions feel the way you do, but I’m sure that’s no consolation. The fact is that people make mistakes, sometimes serious ones. But is that a reason to deny others the right to make their own decisions?
To Felicia Nimue Ackerman: I don’t think abortion is like rape at all. Besides, if one in three people does something, it doesn’t help to demonize them. As my father used to say, you can’t put the world in jail. My intent was to challenge the negative stereotypes of women who end their pregnancies. As these letters show, all kinds of women have abortions, including mothers and Sun readers.
Katha Pollitt says, “If one in three women has had an abortion, you can’t really talk about it as some rare practice indulged in only by particularly evil women.” This conflates two separate issues: rarity and evilness. Whether abortion is rare has no bearing on whether it is evil. If one in three men committed rape, would Pollitt deny that they were evil? Abortion should be defended on the basis of a woman’s right to choose, not on prevalence.
Just as I finished Gillian Kendall’s interview with Katha Pollitt, my computer screen flashed the news that a gunman had opened fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado. I felt heartsick and angry that, once again, innocent people had been terrorized and murdered.
I was surprised that Pollitt didn’t disclose a single detail of her own reproductive history. What happened to the personal as political? I guess some feel it is now too dangerous to publicly disclose such things.
I have been pregnant a total of eight times over the course of eighteen years, and twice, during searingly difficult times in my life, I chose to abort the pregnancy. I also have five children, all now leading productive adult lives, and I had a baby who died after being born at thirty-two weeks with a complication, possibly caused by my earlier abortions.
I have no regrets. Each pregnancy was more or less an accident, more or less a miracle, and certainly a journey of personal growth.
I raised my kids with help from their fathers, grandparents, and godparents; from public-school teachers; and occasionally from food stamps. At sixty-three I no longer have to grapple with such choices, but my daughters and granddaughters do, and someday their daughters and granddaughters will as well. I can’t tell those who come after me what choices they should make, but I do hope they’ll have the freedom to decide without the threat of physical violence, incarceration, or death due to lack of healthcare.
The interview with Katha Pollitt touched me deeply. When I realized I was pregnant as a teenager, I was ready to run away with the father to an unknown life. On the eve of my planned disappearance, my family gave me the strength and support I needed to end the pregnancy, even though abortion was illegal at the time.
After more than fifty years I have never regretted my decision, nor have I pined for the child that might have been. I went on to get married and have two beautiful children. I don’t know where I would be today if my mother had not stopped me from running away.