Dear pro life and pro choice advocates,
I am not trying to change your position on abortion or on the value of every human life. I simply want to share some personal experiences that may give you pause and a bit of insight into some of the things real people have to deal with. The bible has many references to not taking the life of another, most notably Exodus 20:13: Thou shalt not kill. Keeping the sacred words of both the Old and New testaments in mind, read on.
Many years ago, before my birth, my brother was conceived. He would have been named for my father, William Jr. My mother found the pregnancy inconvenient and sought to terminate it at a Margaret Sanger clinic somewhere in New York City. Unfortunately, I never know my brother and was brought up as a lonely only. As a child, I found myself in the role of caring for an alcoholic mother, cleaning up her vomit, running from her wrath and helping her into bed. I often wished William had lived, giving me an older brother who could help me, bear some of the burden and tell me what to do. As I grew older and understood the tug-of-war between pro life and pro choice advocates, I stood firm with those who revered the sanctity of human life and would have let baby William live, thrive and grow to manhood.
Years passed, and eventually I became a college freshman, faced with new challenges of classes, professors, peer pressure and paying my own expenses. During this wonderful and memorable year, one event occurred that will forever be etched in my memory. Although time has passed, I remember it in stark clarity whenever I choose to recall it. A young woman in the dorm I lived in became pregnant. In those days, pregnancy out of wedlock was unacceptable; respectable young men married he young women as quickly as possible, accepting the responsibilities of husbands and fathers. Sadly, this did not happen. Instead, her boyfriend (the father of the fetus) drove her to an illegal abortionist with horrific consequences. Although the procedure seemed to go without incident, she began hemorrhaging on the way home and her frightened boyfriend took her to a hospital where, later than day, a hysterectomy was performed to save her life. The fetus was gone, as were her chances of ever conceiving a child again.
After college and grad school, I worked in secondary special education. I was in a relatively small school in a New England town. Few things happened without everyone hearing about them and most teachers knew the students, at least in passing. A popular, vivacious sixteen year old junior became pregnant, telling no one. One evening, during the second or third month of her pregnancy, she went into the bathroom with a coat hanger, locked the door, lay in the bathtub, straightened the wire and inserted it into her vagina. Her parents, downstairs watching television, assumed that she had gone to her room to study, phone a friend or listen to music. When they heard her screaming, they rushed upstairs, pushed open the door and found her bleeding in the bathtub, hanger still in hand. She had successfully terminated her pregnancy, but her life would never be the same. After surgery to repair a torn uterus she returned to school a changed girl. Now self-conscious, quiet, and abandoned by most of her friends, she became a depressed loner. Never able to come to terms with what has happened, she committed suicide at the age of seventeen.
Would these young women have been better off with counseling that might have convinced them to give birth to the child? Would it have been better for them to have had safe, legal abortions performed by qualified medical professionals? Would their lives have been very different if birth control were advocated more and made more readily available? These and many more questions remain without answers. They leave some leaning toward pro life and others toward pro choice, making valid arguments for both. Perhaps they even leave us asking ourselves what the words of Exodus 20:13 mean when they say: Thou shalt not kill.